Unsettled times, rising prices, a rattling of consumer confidence both at home and abroad – it pays to be in a good position when entering the fray - currently the case for the majority of Austrian winegrowers.
Quality: Not a Cause for Concern
2021 was a heaven-sent vintage. Wine producers in Lower Austria have in their cellars some of the best quality Grüner Veltliner ever seen since the turn of the millennium. Styrian and Burgenland winemakers are also justifiably delighted about the 2021 white wine vintage. This is the source of first class base wines used for the increasingly popular bottle fermented sparkling wine production.
While it is still a bit too early to seriously assess the quality of the red wines, there is little reason to assume that the 2021 reds could fall significantly short of the whites.
Harvest Quantity: Just about Enough...
It was a mixed vintage in terms of volume which came in overall at 2.46 million hectolitres – just above long-term average levels. In terms of white wines, the five-year average was even exceeded by 6%, but the quantity of red wine produced fell slightly short of the average (by 2%). This can be attributed to Burgenland, which reported a slightly smaller harvest overall (582,000 hl), while Lower Austria (1.63 million hectolitres; +6% compared to the five-year average) fared much better. In Styria (223,000 hl), vintners harvested 5% more than the five-year average, but 7% less than in 2020, which is just enough to make up a yield of 46.7 hl/ha. Enough to hit targets.
In terms of yield per hectare, the leading wine area is Weinviertel (69.8 hl/ha), followed by Kremstal (68.9 hl/ha) and then Wachau (64.3 hl/ha). Wine producers in the notoriously frost- and hail-prone areas of Thermenregion (34.1 hl/ha), Eisenberg (33.2 hl/ha) and Vienna (40.6 hl/ha) can once again look on with some envy at their fellow wine makers. This was also the case for Leithaberg (40.4 hl/ha) in 2021.
Mood Forecast: Clear to Cloudy
Accordingly, the mood among vintners at VieVinum could be summarized as "warm to cloudy". Rising costs have led to some uncertainty. Added to that is concern about the 2022/2023 winter season being dominated by the Corona virus, a spectre that led to frenetic trading in the domestic food retail sector this year. Here, a whole series of established businesses, who would usually see their volume business driven by winter tourism, surpassing targets through the use of pricing promotions.
In any case the Austrian food retail sector is becoming increasingly important for domestic producer sales. In 2021, a new all-time high was reached: 57.3 million litres enabled €315.8 million to flow into winemakers’ coffers. By comparison, in 2012 the figure was 34.1 million litres which was worth €166.6 million. The market share of domestic wines sales is 76.6%.
Export: Record Revenue
The alternative to supplying the food retail sector is to export. Records were broken in terms of sales not only in domestic food retailing but also in export. Revenues went from €29.5 million to €216.8 million (+15.7%) in 2021, the highest growth ever in terms of value. The €200 million mark was thus exceeded for the first time.
Export volumes grew to 70.2 million litres (+3.8%), and the average value rose again to over €3 per litre (€3.09/l). "The 2021 export figures are a huge success for the entire Austrian wine industry," rejoices Chris Yorke, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (ÖWM). "It is particularly important that we have been able to achieve such a high increase in value - increasing revenue is the designated goal in all our efforts."
'Landwein' on the Rise
The main export drivers were quality white wines (+22% in value) followed by other white wine categories ('Landwein' etc.; +18%) the latter of which provide a remarkable side note: they are significantly higher in average export price than 'Qualitätsweine' (€3.75 /l vs. €3.34 /l), a fact which adds fuel to the fire of the long-simmering discussion about quality wine testing. If a growing number of artisanal winemakers turn their backs on 'Qualitätswein' and bottle their wines as table wines, the marketing of wines of origin will be in vain.
"You have to motivate young customers for wine. ... And show the origin: Where does the wine come from, what's the story, who produces it and how is it produced, be it organic, sustainable, biodynamic."
Chris Yorke of Austria Wine Marketing (ÖWM) calls for transparency in terms of origin and production methods. "People want to know what it's all about."
Watch his full statement in German here.