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Fabulously Food Friendly and Ageworthy Grüner

2013 March 31

October 2012 051

Ever need a wine that will pair especially well with healthy food choices—grilled vegetables, salads, light chicken and fish dishes? Could you use a fully versatile wine that goes not only with lighter appetizers and your vegetarian spouse’s dishes but even, for a white wine, surprisingly well with red meat? Do you sometimes enjoy vegetables, like asparagus or artichoke, that don’t seem to pair with wine at all?

The wine that can manage all that is made from Austria’s most widely planted grape—Grüner Veltliner, or “GruVee,” as some in the U.S. and Britain have begun calling it.

Several years back, sommeliers who are always looking for better food pairing wines and preferably something exotic started putting Grüners on their lists and recommending them to patrons. While many of those early proponents have since moved on to other white wine discoveries, Grüner remains one of the most versatile and food friendly wines around. And excellent examples can be found for $20 and under.

Snooth, the U.S.’s most heavily trafficked wine website, organized a series of seminars for wine writers and bloggers in New York City that I attended this past weekend. They invited Aldo Sohm, “Chef Sommelier” at Le Bernardin and 2008’s “Best Sommelier in the World,” to talk to us about Austrian Grüner, and to walk us through a tasting of a dozen Grüners from different parts of Austria, made in different styles, at all price points.

Aldo Sohm at Snooth Grüner seminar

Aldo Sohm at Snooth Grüner seminar

Besides being extremely knowledgeable about Austrian wines and winemakers, Aldo is also making dry Grüner in partnership with Austrian sweet wine specialist Gerhard Kracher. One of their wines was among the dozen we sampled.

Aldo explained that Austrian Grüner is made in a range of styles, from light and fairly low alcohol, mainly from high yielding vineyards planted on low lying flatland; to very dry, showing white pepper and minerality; to ripe and rich; and even to sweet versions. He also drew parallels between Austrian Grüner and Chardonnay grown in France’s Burgundy region.

For one thing, Austrian Grüner is grown at the same latitude, between 47 and 48 degrees north, as Burgundy. A well publicized series of blindtastings of top white Burgundies and Austrian Grüners in the last several years surprised the assembled critics when several Grüners placing higher than grand cru white Burgundies.

Like the best Chardonnay from cooler climates, Grüner too is capable of long aging, putting on “tertiary” flavors after 15 years or so of age, and ultimately capable of going 20 to 30 years. Unlike much Chardonnay, Austrian Grüner is usually produced with little or no new oak, although some have experimented with aging at least part of the wines in new French barriques.

Thanks to DNA typing we now know that Grüner is the offspring of Traminer and a grape of which only one vine is known, discovered in 2000 in an overgrown pasture land where no grapes had been cultivated for more than a century. Because this vine was found in the village of St. Georgen, it has benn dubbed St. Georgener-Rebe (“St. Georgen vine”).

Grüner Veltliner (image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

According to Aldo, Grüner is different from Riesling, the other great white grape of Austria, in that it likes deep soils, prefers plenty of moisture and excels on midslopes as opposed to the less rich soils of hilltops. In other words, Grüner is a grape that likes to “luxuriate,” as opposed to Riesling, which does best when it is “made to suffer.”

Aldo also prefers Grüner from the 1980s to the early 1990s, and from the last several years, since 2004. He explained there was a trend of including botrytised grapes—grapes shriveled by “noble rot,” and therefore with more concentrated sugar—from 1997 to 2004 in Austria that made those wines take on more tropical fruit flavors and honeyed richness than is typical of most dry versions of the grape.

Snooth Grüner seminar

Snooth Grüner seminar

Listed below are 55 Grüners from recent vintages I’ve sampled, with prices and tasting notes, including the dozen we tried with Aldo last weekend. Most of the others I’ve sampled at trade tastings organized by Terry Theise with WineWise and The Vienna Wine Company. Terry is the leading importer of Austrian wines to the U.S.

One of the wines on my list is actually a Grüner from Italy’s northern Alto Adige district, which was part of Austria until 1918, and where a substantial amount of Grüner is still grown. Grüner has also long been grown in Austria’s neighbors Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and there are increasing plantings in New Zealand, South Australia and the U.S.

The two most recent vintages are a real contrast, in that 2010 was a very cool growing season in Austria, resulting in some relatively austere wines with very high acidities, while 2011 had quite warm temperatures from July on, leading to very ripe, full bodied wines.

Consistently, vintage after vintage, the greatest producers of Grüner in Austria based on my tastings over the years are Hiedler, Hirsch, Nigl, Nikolaihof, Schloss Gobelsburg and Willi Bründlmayer. I’ve also been impressed with Grüners from Bernhard Ott, Ebner-Ebnauer, Graf Hardegg, Sohm & Kracher and Veyder-Malberg.

Nikolaus Saahs of Nikolaihof

Nikolaus Saahs of Nikolaihof

The greatest values among my recommendations below, with delicious examples available for $20 or less, are the 2011 Nigl Privat Seftenberger Pellingen Erste Lage (93+ points; averaging $18), 2011 Ebner-Ebenauer Weinviertel DAC Birthal (91+ points; $18), 2011 Graf Hardegg Vom Schloss (91+ points; $18), and 2011 Hiedler Löss (91+ points; $18). There are also a lot of great Grüners, including some from famous old vineyards, priced much higher than this, from $25 to $80, the great majority of which are purchased and consumed domestically in Austria.

Highly Recommended

Schloss Gobelsburgs

Schloss Gobelsburgs

  • 2011 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben
    Pale green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, white pepper nose; tasty, white pepper, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (selling for average of $40)

  • 2011 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Privat Seftenberger Pellingen Erste Lage
    Very light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, white pepper, tart lime nose savory, charcoal, pepper palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points ($18)

  • 2010 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Thal
    Light green-tinged yellow color; lovely, savory, tart pear, mineral nose; tasty, complex as usual, mineral, tart green fruit, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 93 points ($27, widely available)

  • 2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Lamm # 1
    Light green-tinged yellow color; complex, pepper, tart green fruit, tarragon nose; delicious, complex, pepper, tart green fruit, tarragon palate; medium-plus finish 93 points (2011 available for $62)

  • 2011 Bernhard Ott Grüner Veltliner Fass 4
    Very light yellow color; ripe lemon, white jasmine nose; delicate, ripe lemon, tart pear, mineral palate with good texture and balancing acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points ($26)

  • 2011 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Lamm
    Light green-tinged yellow color; savory, celery seed, tart citrus nose; savory, celery seed, tart citrus, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points ($58)

  • 2009 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Im Weingebirge
    Light yellow color; focused, tart citrus, light pepper nose; tasty, tart pepper, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (1.5 yrs in cask) 92 points ($70)

  • 2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Renner
    Light yellow color with spritz; tart citrus, light pepper nose; tight, light pepper, tart citrus, lime palate; medium-plus finish 92 points ($36)

  • 2011 Veyder-Malberg Grüner Veltliner Kreutles
    Very light yellow color; appealing, refined, mineral, lime, white grapefruit nose; tasty, regined, medium bodied, delicate, mineral, white grapefruit palate with good texture and definition; medium-plus finish 92 points (2010 available for $29)

  • 2011 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Spiegel
    Light yellow color; mineral, celery broth, savory nose; tasty, light celery, mineral, light pepper palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points ($67)

  • 2011 Ebner-Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel DAC Birthal
    Very light yellow color; appealing, lifted, ripe grapefruit, white pepper, orange blossom nose; tasty, bright, mineral, ripe grapefruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($18)

  • 2011 Graf Hardegg Grüner Veltliner Vom Schloss
    Light yellow color; savory, white pepper, ripe grapefruit, lime and rock salt nose; very tasty, lime, mineral, rock salt, light white pepper palate with near medium acidity (reminiscent of a good Margarita); medium-plus finish 91+ points ($18)

  • 2011 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Löss
    Very light green-tinged yellow color; lovely, focused, mineral, ethereal, tart citrus nose; tasty, focused, mineral, tart citrus palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($18)

  • 2011 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner November Kittmannsberg
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart lime, chalk nose; tasty, tart lime, chalk, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($30)

  • 2011 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Thal
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart green pear nose; tart green pear, lime palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($24)

  • 2011 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, celery seed, light pepper, mineral nose; tasty, celery seed, light pepper, tart grapefruit, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($24)

  • 2010 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Herzstück vom Kirchenberg
    Light green-tinged yellow color; savory, light pepper, mineral nose; tasty, savory, light pepper, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($47)

  • 2010 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug”
    Light yellow color; focused, tart citrus, mineral nose; focused, mineral, lightly savory palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (widely available, $26)

  • 2010 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Im Weingebirge
    Light yellow color; tart citrus, mineral nose; tasty, tart citrus, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($33)

  • 2011 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Kammerner Lamm
    Light yellow color; appealing, lifted, ripe pear, white jasmine, light vanilla nose; tasty, focused, rich but poised, ripe pear, white jasmine, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($62)

  • 2011 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Renner
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, tart lime, mineral nose; tasty, poised, creamy textured, tart lime, mineral, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points ($33)

  • 2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Steinsetz
    Light yellow color; refined, mineral, tart citrus, light pepper nose; delicious, mineral, tart citrus, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (widely available, $30)

  • 2011 Sohm & Kracher Grüner Veltliner
    Very light yellow color; floral, ripe lime, orange sherbet, lime sherbet, tart pear nose; rich, lime sherbet, fresh lime palate with a little bitterness and fresh lime on finish; long finish (14 mos on lees) 91+ points ($38)

Recommended

Grüners

Grüners

  • 2010 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Lamm
    Light green-tinged yellow color; light pepper, tart citrus nose; tasty, tart citrus, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 91 points ($53)

  • 2011 Weingut Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner Obere Steigen
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, light peach, apple, floral nose; tasty, medium bodied, tart pear, tart peach, mineral, Chablis-like palate with medium acidity and showing some reduction; medium-plus finish 91 points ($20 for 2010)

  • 2010 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Im Weingebirge
    Light yellow color; aromatic, lime, celery seed nose; tasty, focused, tart lime, celery seed palate; medium-plus finish 91 points ($79)

  • 2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Tradition
    Light yellow color; intriguing, celery salt, dill, lime nose; firm, dill, celery seed, mineral, tart yellow fruit, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 91 points ($46)

  • 2011 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Ried Lamm
    Light green-tinged yellow color; celery, lightly smoky, ripe lime nose; tasty, tart lime, mineral, ripe green fruit palate; medium-plus finish 91 points (not available yet)

  • 2010 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Kamptaler Terrassen
    Very light yellow color; tart grapefruit, tart apple nose; tasty, tart green fruit, mineral, tart citrus palate; medium-plus finish 91 points ($23)

  • 2011 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner #1
    Very light green-tinged yellow color; savory, celery seed nose; savory, celery seed, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (widely available, $17)

  • 2009 Moric Grüner Veltliner Sankt Georgen
    Light yellow color; appealing, savory, bitter lemon, light white jasmine nose; medium bodied, tangy, tart lemon, mineral palate with a little bitterness; could use 2 years to fully integrate the oak and resolve; medium-plus finish (more reminiscent of a white Burgundy than most Gruners I’ve tasted) 90+ points ($49)

  • 2011 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Senftenberger Piri
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart lime, mineral nose; tart lime, mineral, light white pepper palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points ($26)

  • 2011 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Im Weingebirge
    Light yellow color; mineral, celery seed nose; mineral, celery seed, tart citrus palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points ($33)

  • 2011 Prager Grüner Veltliner Stockkultur Achleiten
    Light yellow color; mango, tropical fruit, papaya nose; ripe mango, ripe lime, tart green apple, mineral palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (4 grams RS) 90+ points ($74)

  • 2011 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Steinsetz
    Light yellow color; aromatic, tart lime nose; tasty, tart lime, palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points ($26)

  • 2011 Stadlmann Grüner Veltliner
    Light yellow color; appealing, ripe peach, apricot, ripe pear nose; tasty, clean, tart pear, mineral, pepper, light graphite, smoke palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points ($14)

  • 2010 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart citrus, lime nose; tasty, tart lime, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90 points ($30)

  • 2011 Bio-Weingut H. u. M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Freiberg
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, tart lime, mineral nose; tart lime, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90 points ($20)

  • 2010 Martin Arndorfer Grüner Veltliner Strasser Weinberge
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart lime, mineral nose; tasty, tart lime, mineral, stony palate; medium-plus finish 90 points ($21)

  • 2011 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Freiheit
    Light yellow color with spritz; intriguing, tart green fruit, wintergreen nose; tasty, tart green fruit, light pepper, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90 points (widely available, $20)

  • 2011 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug”
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, celery seed green fruit nose; celery seed, green fruit, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90 points (widely available, $26)

  • 2011 Bio-Weingut H. u. M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Von Den Rieden
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, tart citrus, light pepper nose; tart citrus, light pepper palate with medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points ($18)

  • 2011 Martin Arndorfer Grüner Veltliner Reserve Strasser Weinberge
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, lime essence, mineral, celery nose; tart green pear, mineral, ripe lime palate; medium finish 89 points ($21)

  • 2008 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Ried Lamm
    Light yellow color; aromatic, caraway seed, petrol nose; mature, ripe citrus, mineral, petrol, celery extract palate; medium-plus finish 89 points ($81)

Others

  • 2011 Ecker Grüner Veltliner
    Light green-tinged yellow color; focused, tart lime nose; very dry, tart lime, mineral, tart green fruit palate; medium finish 88+ points ($14)

  • 2011 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Liebenberg
    Light yellow color; focused, tart peach, sweet green herb nose; lean, tart peach, mineral, yellow fruit palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points ($69)

  • 2011 Weingut Glatzer Grüner Veltliner Dornenvogel
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, wet meadow, lime nose; tasty, crisp, tart lime, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points ($17)

  • 2010 Weingut Klaus Lentsch Valle Isarco – Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige
    Light medium yellow color; aromatic, tart green fruit, mineral nose; tart green fruit, mineral palate; medium finish 88+ points ($28)

  • 2011 Roman Pfaffl Grüner Veltliner Austrian Pepper
    Light lemon yellow color; white pepper, lemon rind, tart peach nose; tart peach, lemon rind, mineral, white pepper palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 88+ points ($15)

  • 2010 Bio-Weingut H. u. M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Freiberg
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart green apple, citrus nose; tart green apple, citrus palate; medium finish 88 points ($20)

  • 2011 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Gobelsburger
    Light yellow color; tart grapefruit, mineral nose; tart grapefruit, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 88 points (widely available, $15)

  • 2010 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner #1
    Light yellow color; tart green fruit, light pepper nose; tart green fruit, lime palate; medium-plus finish 87 points ($18)

  • 2010 Schwarzböck Grüner Veltliner
    Light green-tinged yellow color; smoky, tart citrus nose; tart citrus, mineral palate; medium finish 87 points ($15)

  • 2010 Schwarzböck Grüner Veltliner Kirchberg
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart green apple, citrus nose; tart green apple, citrus palate; medium finish 86 points ($16)

  • 2011 Weingut Glatzer Grüner Veltliner
    Light yellow color; tart citrus nose; tart citrus, light pepper palate; medium finish 85 points ($14)

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. March 31, 2013

    Nice article Richard. This tasting was very moving for me and truly showed what Gruner is capable of. I enjoyed it immensely. It was great reading your notes, quite a collection. I’m now on a mission to discover more of these wines.

    PS: It was great meeting you and I look forward to future tastings.

    • Richard Jennings permalink*
      March 31, 2013

      Eric,
      It was terrific getting to know you last weekend. Thank you for the kind words on the piece.
      All the best,
      Richard

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