Grüner Veltliner - what's it all about?
Having written a couple of posts about Austrian Food, we now need something to wash it all down with. So, what better way to start than by introducing Austria’s signature grape variety – Grüner Veltliner. If you want to taste Austrian wine with me in person, then check out my Vienna Woods Wine Tour…
Grüner Veltliner on Tinder...
Hi, I’m Grüner Veltliner, but you can call me Grüner ;-). I am a white wine grape, and I am originally from Austria. If I had to describe some of my key character traits, then I guess I’d say that I have a dry and crisp sense of humour, while also being able to make people’s mouths water! When I was in my twenties and still a little naive, ex-girlfriend’s would often describe me as somewhat “fruity” and perhaps even a little “green“, but always “refreshing”. Now that I am older and have matured somewhat, I’ve definitely become more self-assured and bold. My ideal match? Well, just read on to find out more 😉
What does Grüner Veltliner need?
Grüner Veltliner is thought to be indigenous to Austria, so, no surprise, it grows best in the relatively flat parts of north eastern Austria. Opulent and rich GVs flourish along the Danube valley loess belt stretching east of Krems, while it is also planted on primary rock in regions including the Wachau, to produce a leaner, meaner, more mineralic style. Loess, by the way, is a deep soil composed of tiny wind-blown silt and clay particles which accumulate over many years. Loess retains water relatively well.
Wine Regions of Grüner Veltliner
Niederösterreich (that’s Lower Austria to you and I) is the spiritual home of GV, and in the relatively flat north east of Austria, it enjoys DAC status in several distinct regions, including the Wachau, the Kremstal, the Kamptal (all river valleys), Wagram, and the rather modestly named Weinviertel (which literally translates to the ‘Wine Quarter’). Agreed… anywhere that has wine in its name clearly has no regard for managing expectations.
Aside from Austria, it can also be found in small quantities in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy and Australia. I’m sure that several wineries are experimenting with Grüner in various other parts of the world too, as its reputation is growing rapidly.
What might I expect Austrian Grüner Veltliner to smell/taste like?
When young, GV is bursting with acidity, with notes of green apples, lemon, lime, celery and a spiciness most akin to white pepper (think radish). When older, it becomes opulent, creamy and powerful which makes it a match for all but a few of Austria’s most hearty dishes.
Austrian Grüner Veltliner pairs well with a variety of foods, including:
- Austrian cuisine – no great surprise here really. Austrians eat the most meat per capita in the whole of the EU, and yes, it’s mostly pork dishes like Schnitzel, Pork Stelze, Kümmelbraten (pork belly)
- Asian cuisine: (fragrant Thai & spicy Indian)
- Grilled or roasted vegetables: green beans, asparagus, brussel sprouts, courgettes
- Seafood (grilled fish and shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops)
- Summer salads with vinaigrette dressings (don’t be scared of bitter greenery with GV i.e. kale, rocket, cucumber)
Three dishes to eat/cook with Austrian Grüner Veltliner…
- Roasted pork belly with dumplings and sauerkraut
- Grilled asparagus
- Thai green curry
Give it a go with pork or pretty much anything vegetarian and you’re on the right track.
When should I drink Grüner Veltliner?
This depends on what style of wine the vintner has gone for…
Option 1) young, aromatic, fresh and fruity wines which are best drunk early (i.e straight after its release up to 2 years). These wines will typically be lighter in alcohol, be very fruity on the nose, and relatively easy to drink.
2) later harvested GV grapes make for bolder, higher alcohol wines with more complex flavours developing after a longer period of maturation either in oak or stainless steel and then in the bottle. The high acidity of GV means that it ages well, as over time the balance between acidity, tannins and sugar balance each other out to produce complex and very interesting flavours. Often evolving into pineapples and cream, older GV’s have a distinct baroque feel to them. Yes, I know, describing a wine using the word baroque goes against all my instincts, but once you’ve tried a high quality aged GV hopefully you’ll know what I mean. It has almost a regal, imperial flavour to it, which (kind of!) makes sense considering that Austria was also the home of the Hapsburg empire for so long.
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