A groovy wine: Berger Gruner Veltliner
Have you ever had a wine from Austria?
No, I didn’t forget any letters near the end of that word, such as “ala”. A “la” is a note to follow “so” in the country we’re referring to here...and we’re about to learn about one of “My Favorite Things” from Austria: Gruner Veltliner.
Gruner Veltliner (GROO-ner VELT-lee-ner) is not a German dogfighting plane, nor is it the name of one of Governor Schwarzenegger’s aides, nor a villain from a Popeye cartoon. Rather, it is a grape -- the most popularly planted vine in Austria, in fact. Since very little Austrian wine ships out to the US, you’ve probably never heard of it. But it is a wine well worth trying.
The very best Gruner Veltliner wines have distinctive, pungent aromatics, an exotic array of fruit, herb and spice flavors, attractive mineral undertones, mouthpuckering acidity, and run anywhere from $25 to $50. Relatively unfamiliar winery (weingut) names such as Willi Brundlmayer, Rudi Pichler, Emmerich Knoll, Nikolaihof and Schloss Gobelsburg adorn the labels on these bottles, often misplaced among the “Alsatian Wines” or “German Wines” at your local wine shop.
Luckily, you don’t have to spend that much, nor twist your tongue, to get your first taste of this “GruVey” grape variety.
Berger Gruner Veltliner is easy to say, easy on your wallet, and easy to drink. Even if you’re new to the world of wine, you’ve probably had a pinot grigio -- and you probably enjoyed it. Fresh, clean, light citrus fruit flavor, refreshing acidity, with floral and mineral hints. Not overpowering, simple enough to enjoy without heavy contemplation, an overall fun and friendly wine. Well guess what? Berger GruVe fits the same description -- so if you like pinot grigio, you’ll probably like this Austrian wine as well. And it gets better: one of the most popular pinot grigios -- Santa Something or other -- runs about $12 to $13 for a HALF-bottle (375ml), yet this just-as-tasty and ever-so-groovy wine goes for three dollars less, and comes in a party-friendly one-liter bottle!
For me, the very best wines are those that match well with food, and with Gruner Veltliner it is hard to find a food that it DOESN’T go with. Asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, turnips, and yes, even scrambled eggs are hardly a challenge to the fresh and friendly GruVe. This particular one from Berger has ample fruit and mild acidity -- and almost a sweetness to it -- and therefore is perfect for spicy hot foods, simply prepared white fish (poached, steamed or broiled, without a heavy butter or cream sauce), salads, or as a pre-meal aperitif. Perfect flavor and size for a barbecue, picnic or party...and you can have fun teaching people how to pronounce it.
When you’ve graduated from this “entry-level” GruVe, or if you’re a borderline cork dork and don’t find this wine particularly interesting, I strongly suggest you seek out some of the higher-level (and therefore more expensive) Gruner Veltliners. They are truly wonderful, engaging and interesting wines -- much unlike the smattering of over-oaked chardonnays and sauvignon blancs flooding the market. There are excellent examples in the $12-20 range, and downright stunning GruVes costing less than $30. Of course, with all that German-looking nomenclature on the labels, it can be difficult to understand what’s what (and what’s good). My favorites have come from the aforementioned Weinguts, but if you can’t find those names, look for “Terry Theise” somewhere on the label, as it is on this Berger GruVe. Few people are as passionate about Austrian wines as Mr. Theise, and you can usually trust his hand-picked “selections” (his name on label was the sole reason I picked this Berger from the bin at my local wine shop). If you don’t see Theise, try the bottle anyway -- what’s the worst that can happen? Regardless of the name, it’ll be a groovy wine that’s guaranteed to match with anything!
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