Here it is—a one-word answer to solve your white wine dilemmas. OK, it’s actually two words:
Gruner Veltliner. This yet-to-be-commercialized grape has the ability to charm wine novices, while intriguing the wine geeks. Wines made from Gruner are svelte, chiseled, and cutting-edge. Sommeliers have been recommending them for years, but this sought-after wine has only begun to penetrate the consumer psyche. Best part about Gruner ... it drinks expensively! That is, it costs less than it tastes.
Read on to start your Gru-V adventure:
What to Expect
Currently, Gruner Veltliner is almost exclusive to Austria. I’ve seen less than a handful of non-Austrian bottlings, but wouldn’t be surprised to see other replicas soon. Growing regions with hot days and cool nights allow for a harmony of crispness and opulence in the vines’ fruit, amounting to balance and splendor on the palate. Factor in Gruner’s varietal characteristics, including white pepper aromas, mineral flavors, and a “pop” of mouthwatering acidity, and you have an equation that shakes out much differently than for the familiar Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios that you may have grown bored with.
The Somms’ Darling
Gruner’s acidity, weight, and varietal elegance all contribute to its being a rock star when it comes to food-pairings; this wine is so versatile that it goes with salmon, venison, and sweetbreads. Think Austrian schnitzels and goulashes, as well as Asian-style flavorings for even more refined Gru-V pairings. The current vintages of ’09 and ’10 were both stellar in the growing regions of eastern Austria, but don’t worry about older vintages, either. Like Riesling, these whites age very well.
The Progressive Approach.
Austria is ahead of the wine production curve in terms of innovations. Screwcaps and glass stoppers are common closures, cutting down on the risk of flawed bottles of cork-closed Gruner. And although organic farming is an ancient tradition, many farmers worldwide are now going back to ancestral practices. Austria leads the pack percentage-wise in organic farming. GMOs are forbidden nationwide in Austria, and about three-quarters of all Austrian wineries participate in a minimum-intervention program supported by the government and the EU.
Bang for Your Buck
Gruner spans the range pricewise, starting at about $12 per bottle, often in a one-liter size. I consistently find that its quality to price ratio is exceptional. Because of the impeccable balance inherent to the varietal, these wines provide a complete package of foundation, fruit, and depth, which adds up to total satisfaction. What’s more, as they move up in pedigree, they far out-class other similarly-priced regional counterparts around the globe. Want to drink a $30 bottle of wine? Buy a $20 bottle of Gruner.
The following are just a few of my favorite Gruner values from all over Austria, most of which are single-vineyard bottlings:
- ’09 Etz “Gruner” 1-Liter, Kamptal, $13
- ’09 Schmid Gruner Veltliner Satzen, Kremstal, $14
- ’09 Leth Gruner Veltliner Steinagrund, Wagram, $15
- ’09 Jager Gruner Veltliner Federspiel, Wachau, $22
- ’08 Rudi Pichler Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Hochrain, Wachau, $40