Grüner Veltliner: The wine you should drink all summer
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One of the wine varietals that has been making its presence known the last few years on U.S. shelves, wine lists, and the like is Grüner Veltliner. This is a white grape that's predominately grown in Austria. It's a grape that often produces crisp, aromatic wines that are particularly well suited to pair with a wide array of foods. Depending on the style in which it is made, as well as the provenance of the grape source, the wine can also have the propensity to age quite well. Other wines from Austria are starting to find more room on our shelves too. On the red side of things, Blaufränkisch is a noteworthy varietal that we should be seeing more and more of, as time goes on. Grüner Veltliner, though, is the entrée for many wine lovers into the joys and complexities of Austrian wine. Today I'll look at three examples that provide excellent quality, and value, and a cross section of Grüner Veltliner styles.
First up is the Grooner 2009 Grüner Veltliner. This wine aims to bridge the gap for U.S. consumers who like it, but are confused by the name. Importer Monika Caha, based on her experiences when she poured Grüner Veltliner for American wine drinkers, developed the brand. She enlisted winemaker Meinhard Forstreiter to create a selection specifically for the U.S. market. The result is Grooner, which leads with the phonetic spelling for ease. The 2009 Grooner, produced using grapes from the Krenstal region of Austria, is 100 percent Grüner Veltliner. This wine is finished with a screw top. It has a suggested retail price of $12, but can often be found selling for under $10.
Meyer lemon, hints of tangerine and vanilla are all present in the nose of the 2009 Grooner. The citrus continues in the palate where lemon ice and hints of orange play a strong role, along with wisps of mango and a subtle hint of guava. Green apple plays a supporting role as it underscores the mid-palate. Spice, vanilla and continued citrus notes are all part of the generous finish.
Grooner was created to help alert the average American wine drinker to the existence of Grüner Veltliner. It does its job and more. This is a very accessible wine that will be an excellent introduction to those unfamiliar with the grape. It's also available at what I consider a bargain price for the quality it delivers. Having had two straight vintages of Grooner, I can say that it's been quite consistent in that time.
The second wine is the 2008 GV produced by Reinhard Waldschütz. Grapes for this release were sourced in the Kamptal region of Austria. This wine was fermented in stainless steel and was aged for three to five weeks on the lees. It was put in 1-liter bottles and finished in a screw top. The suggested retail price for this wine is $12.
This wine caught my eye immediately due in part to the 1-liter bottle. The label has a catchy look as well, but the bottle's size was noteworthy to me. While it's fairly common in Austria, we don't see this size much in the U.S. Lemon and grapefruit zest aromas, along with hints of green apple, fill the nose of this 2008 Grüner Veltliner. The apple theme continues through the palate where it's joined by subtle hints of kiwi and vanilla; the range of citrus flavors expands to include lime as well. A generous helping of white pepper leads a crisp, dry and refreshing finish of this wine.
The 2008 GV strikes me as a textbook example of Grüner Veltliner. The key varietal characteristics are in play and help make this a nice wine to pair with light foods, or to drink on its own. Due to the overall value and the one-liter size, it's a natural choice to bring to a party or BBQ; certainly a solid white wine choice for Memorial Day (which is around the corner).
The third wine is the Fritsch 2008 Grüner Veltliner Steinberg. This wine was produced from a single vineyard located in the Wagram (formerly Donauland) region of Austria. The vines in the Steinberg Vineyard are farmed using Biodynamics, and they are 48 years old. This wine was fermented in stainless steel. It is finished in a screw top, and the suggested retail price is $18.
A host of citrus aromas, particularly grapefruit, wafts invitingly from the nose of the Fritsch Grüner Veltliner. The citrus part continues through the palate along with a nice dollop of ginger and white pepper. The palate is quite layered and complex. Subtle flavors emerge as the wine reveals itself. The finish reveals a combination of sour fruit and savory spice, and mineral notes that make for a lengthy and complex close to the wine.
Amongst these wines, the Fritsch has the most complexity, as well as ability to age. While it is delicious and ready to enjoy now, a few years in your wine cellar will allow it to develop and display some of its hidden charms. Tasted alongside either of the other Grüner Veltliners above, you will be able to see the intensity of flavors imparted by the older, single vineyard vines.
The three Grüner Veltliners I've written about here are good introductions into the charms of this grape. They each represent good varietal character and solid value. However, these wines are the tip of the iceberg for this exceptional grape. There are many more varied styles, quality levels and flavor profiles. That's not to say every Grüner Veltliner on the shelf is great, or that each person is even going to like them all (that's rarely ever the case with any grape). But what I am saying is to try as many different ones that you can -- you may find the results to be far more pleasant and diverse than you anticipated.