Faces of Grüner

 

In my view Grüner Veltliner is a very underrated grape variety that in right conditions can produce one of the best wines in the world.

 

Home for Grüner is Austria. Close to 15 000 hectares makes it the most widely planted grape variety in the country. His parents are Traminer and St Georgener-Rebe. Grüner is quite flexible and tolerates many different types of climates but does not like dry soils. No doubt that the grape thrives on loess soils which in Lower Austria is in abundance. The grape gives a biggish crop and it is relatively easy to grow and to manage in the vineyard. In its skin there is a „magic” chemical component called Rotundone that gives the wine a characteristic aromas of white pepper. Due to its thick skin often Grüner develops some phenolic qualities. When the must is macerated on the skins the final wine normally has some phenolic bitterness which adds to the texture of the wine.

 

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View at the vineyards of Traisental. Photo by Adam Pawłowski MS

 

Gru-Ve comes in 3 styles. All 3 are delicious but very different. First one is rather light, easy fresh with high acidity, citrus fruit and herbal/vegetal note. You can find this style in all of the subregions of Lower Austria but it seems to be signature for the Weinviertel. Second one is more textural with aromas of apples and stone fruit. Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal specialise in this style. The third one is rich, round and full-bodied with some tropical fruit, ripe apples and honey like quality. Relatively high acidity, generous alcohol, complexity of aromas and rich texture gives them very big capacity for ageing. I had a pleasure to taste some of the old Grüners which were rich, complex yet fresh. For this style of wine go to Wagram or Wachau (Smaragd). What all 3 styles have in common is the aroma and flavour of white pepper along with some herbal/vegetal characteristics. It is a relatively aromatic grape and it does not take oak very well.
Almost 20 years ago the most renowned British wine critic Jancis Robinson MW has put together a tasting of some of the top Grüners which were tasted with some of the best in the world Chardonnays chosen by Jancis herself. The wines were tasted blind by many top wine experts. The results were very surprising.

1st place – Grüner Veltliner Ried Lamm, Bründlmayer, Kamptal, 1997.
2nd place – Grüner Veltliner Spiegel Alte Reben, Loimer, Kamptal, 1995.
3rd place – Byron Chardonnay, Nielson Vineyards, Mondavi, California, 1998.
At the end 6 Grüners got to the top 10 which means that it is a truly noble grape variety and can compete with any top wines in the world.

Grüner is a „Sommelier’s wine” because it is something off the beaten track and it is very food friendly. It Copes well with many products that are difficult to match like artichokes, asparagus and herbs. It is a perfect choice for most kinds of fish, poultry, schnitzel and mild cheese. My favourite pairing with Grüner would be „artichokes with ricotta, lime and honey dressing”. The wine is also consumer-friendly as it provides a great value for money.

 

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Some top Grüners from Wagram Region. Photo by Adam Pawłowski MS

 

Here is what the only Austrian Master Sommelier Alex Koblinger says about the grape: The Grüner Veltliner grape of Austria delivers some highly fascinating wines, ranging from a light, crisp stile with a nique pepperiness up to full bodied creamy yellow fruit driven wines which are always lifted up from an exciting acidity and minerality – The Grüner Veltliner is THE signature grape of Austria and loved by Sommeliers worldwide for its food pairing ability.

 

Adam Pawłowski MS

 

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