A year in the life of an Austrian winegrower

‘Living with the vines’ is the Austrian winegrowers’ motto – behind every bottle of wine lie months of work and countless manual operations. Year in and year out, winegrowers passionately devote themselves to this ongoing challenge – from pruning to harvest, from pressing the grapes to pouring their wines in the Heurige or Buschenschank (local wine taverns). The result of their labour is a unique product of unparalleled cultural value: wine from Austria.

Winter pruning – January and February 

While the vineyard is enjoying the winter sleep, the winegrowers get to work on pruning the vines, the annual cutting back of last year’s (and sometimes multiple years’) wood. Winter pruning is the first vital step to ensure the quality of the grapes in the autumn. The fruiting arms are cut back to a specific length, i.e. with a specific number of buds from which the new shoots will grow. For this, the winegrowers consider each vine individually, because no two plants are exactly the same. The vigour, age and health of the plant determine where the cut should be made and what yield can be expected as a result. Pruning usually starts in January and continues over several weeks into February.

In the cellar – January and February

There is also work to be done in the cellar in the first two months of the year. In order to keep the barrels full to the brim, winemakers need to top them up and make up for the volume lost to evaporation. Repeated tasting of each vessel is done to check the quality of the wine, its evolution and determine the precise composition required, later on, for a final blend. Certain wines are drawn off the yeast at this early stage and prepared for bottling.

Focus on the vineyard – March and April

Spring is the time to carry out the necessary improvements or repairs to the wire trellises and posts, plant new vineyards and replace dead vines.

The vegetation period begins at the end of March. Vine roots become active taking up water from the soil and causing the plants to ‘bleed’ as sap starts to seep from the cuts in the fruiting arms. Ideally, this is when the initial training is done because when the sap is flowing it is easier to bend the arms and fix them to the wire without breakage (which might happen when the wood is too dry). Training ensures even budding and a good distribution of shoots.

Now is also time to start cultivating the soil, breaking it up, loosening it and sowing plant material along the rows, between the vines. If necessary, fertiliser is applied. Eventually, rows with vegetation are mulched, i.e. after mowing, the grasses and herbs are left where they fell, protecting and adding nutrients to the soil.

Budding finally begins in April. The buds break and the green tips of the shoots emerge. This is the time when every winegrower dreads late frosts, which could damage the young, sensitive shoots. They employ a variety of methods to protect the vineyards from frost damage. If temperatures drop only slightly below zero,

Smoking, where winegrowers set fire to bales of straw in the vineyard, is an effective technique if temperatures drop only slightly below zero. The smoke prevents heat loss overnight and ensures that the shoots warm up gradually once the sun rises. Another way of shielding plants from frost is sprinkling: the sensitive parts of the vine are covered with water, which then releases heat as it freezes. Other, alternative measures are the use of helicopters to stir up the cold and warmer air or lighting “frost candles” to increase the air temperature within the vineyards’ perimeter.

Bottling and networking – March and April

In the cellar there is also work to be done. The Klassik lines, Gebietsweine (regional wines) and other fresh, fruity early-drinking wines are bottled, labelled and prepared for sale and shipping.

At this time of year, winegrowers nurture their business relationships, taking part in trade fairs, industry events and visiting export…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/sponsored/a-year-in-the-life-of-an-austrian-winegrower-488140/