Monday, 2 March 2015

Get Your Groove On: 3 Great Grüner Veltliners

The hills are alive, with the sound of Grüner!

Whilst I’m currently having visions of myself gleefully spinning round, arms outstretched, in a field with the Alps behind me, I’m here to chat Grüner Veltliner; Austria’s signature grape.

Thinking of Austrian whites, much attention gets paid to Riesling; it’s the wine that was out of fashion for far too long, but in recent years, it’s rightfully climbed the ranks, giving it hot stuff status! The same could be said to be happening with Grüner Veltliner. Although it’s the most produced grape over there – on average one vine in every three is Grüner Veltliner – you would have been hard pushed to find it in UK stores, probably thanks to Austria’s domestic market, aka the lucky locals, who snap up all the good stuff to drink at home with their Spaetzle, Schnitzel and Strudels. But the word’s got out; Grü-Vee (*cringe* - we’ll just stick to GV) is gaining lots more friends, and even the big supermarkets are stocking a variety of bottles.

GV’s popularity may be due to our constant quest to try something new – you’ve noticed lots more unusual grape varieties in the shops haven’t you? I hold my hands up; I’ll rarely buy the same wine twice! But it may also be due to the current demand for dry, unoaked whites which contain crisp acidity and give you citrus fruit flavours to savour... And one’s which aren’t just Sav Blancs.

In general GV is a very pale, easy-going, refreshing white wine that has a thirst-quenching tang and an air of refinement. Spicy white pepper is its defining character, whilst grapefruit and lemon-peel bulk out the juiciness and mighty minerality leaves you craving more. Most are drank young which can give you ‘green’ flavours and floral notes, but an aged GV is said to bear a close resemblance to white Burgundy in terms of richness and texture. Sounding pretty good, right?

GV is one of those ‘say it how it is’ grapes; they have the talent of translating the soil in which they’re grown through the minerality in the wine. From the vineyards of the Danube west of Vienna, which are so steep that they barely contain any soil, the grapes produce very pure, mineral wines intended for laying down. In the deeper clay soils in the plains of the Weinviertel to the northeast of Vienna, peachy stone fruit flavours are more apparent, though still with the typical pepper spice and sometimes even tobacco.

Generally fermented in stainless steel and aged either in tanks or very old, large casks, you won’t get any big new oak flavours. So, light and simple, the GV’s you’ll find in the shops can be great as an aperitif, but they also have the complexity to pair with food, a variety of food at that; meat fish, and even tricky veg like asparagus!

So what three wines have I picked up this month?

From the Niederösterreich region, this GV is bright with lots of lively lemon flavours. There’s minerality here, but is succumbed by a creamy peach-melba elegance, and after much debate, I'd say you get a whiff of dandelion and burdock too. This is safe in style; a good, quaffable introduction to the grape variety, and at a great price too. I’d happily drink it on its own on a sunny day, though with food, it’d best suit fish dishes with a rich buttery sauce.

Produced in Kamptal, northwest of Vienna, this GV has a gorgeous summertime scent of apple and elderflower. It sends your tongue wild with crisp acidity; flavours of grapefruit and tangerine take control with quite a full bodied texture. There’s a deliciously long finish, reminiscent of rhubarb and Fruit Salad sweets, and as a result, a cold glass of this fruit-forward vino would be good enough alone. It does have the capability to cut through lots of dishes too; fish, chicken, and herby Italian foods – perhaps a simple risotto – would certainly work in its favour.

Again from Kamptal, situated close to the forest on a gentle hillside, this GV’s a bit pricier than your average supermarket wine, but it offers a “true expression on the terroir”. It’s vibrant, with tiny bubbles apparent in the glass, and there are distinctive green-but-creamy aromas leaping out at you. More refined apple/pear orchard fruits take the lead, offering a silky texture, before revealing the white pepper and dry minerality. It’s ripe and juicy, with a subtle oakiness that could stand up to salty foods.

Out of the three, the favourite was the most expensive; it seemed in a different league to the two sub-tenner GV’s. That said, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, and I’d recommend any of them to someone stuck in a bit of a wine-rut.

So as the weather takes a turn for the better – fingers crossed – and we move from big, bold reds to lighter whites, why not try an Austrian Grüner Veltliner... Then go all Sound of Music on us, and yodel to your heart’s content.

1 comment:

  1. Had no idea you could get a good Gruner for as little as £7.50! Very excited to hear that, I'll definitely try it now.