You may have seen this popping up around town lately, the Grüner Veltliner grape. I'm seeing it on bistro wine lists (think Brava), in wine shops, and local conversation. In fact, the shop isle titled 'EU', or 'Eastern Europe', or simply 'Other' seems to be getting a lot bigger lately. Either way, it has my attention and I'm glad for it. I think this is a really exciting varietal that could have a big future here. I'd love to see a greater imported selection as more people seek it out.
On the grape...
Accounting for over 30% of Austria's annual production, it is their most widely planted varietal of all. FYI the most prominent red is Zweigelt at %15 of the total. Veltliner can produce wines all over the spectrum; light to heavy, fresh to aged. Popularized after WWII, it is thought likely to be the offspring of Gewurtztraminer with an unknown, likely extinct grape. Typical characteristics include apple, tropicals, pepper, and honey.
An old, old winemaking country, with dozens of varietals that dont make a name across the pond. Most of the wine growing takes place along the eastern border, towards Hungary and Slovakia. Rich with history, Austria is an incredible place to visit (and ski!). Some famous regions are known for massive terracing and difficult loess (that bright yellow dusty type) soils, conditions that stress the irrigation of the vines by excessive drainage. Being in-land on highly exposed slopes, and soils with low heat retention, causes high diurnal temperature variations (difference between night & day temps). The sun exposure ripens the grapes while the drastic evening coolness preserves high acidity - a key to this grapes success and aging potential.
The Stift Goettweig 2009 Messwein...
Possibly the most popular bottle I've noticed around town. This is a real crowd pleaser. At first glance it's light, clean, and fruity with really nice acids. Second glance reveals some complexity in the fruit and an elegant mid size back end. Medium bodied, it's dry, with an array of sweet fruit flavours. Notes of lemon peal, green grass, citrus, golden delicious apple, spiced honey, slightly nutty butter.
The Rabl 2009 Spiegel...
Rabl bottles about 9 different Veltliner's annually, of maybe 30 total white and reds. The region of Kamptal is known for full, complex, and age worthy whites. This bottle shows a clear shift in style when compared to the Stift; it doesn't necessarily feel fresh or clean. Its golden colour suggests more exposure during pressing. Some primary fruits are replaced by soft secondary tones, and lively nuances beat out for a richer back palate. Nevertheless, its not too extreme, acidity is balanced within the mid-full body. It has a rather fatty, viscous, mouthfeel, with a nice long finish. Notes of lemon peel, gala apple, warm cider, mineral, pan browned butter, nutmeg, crème caramel.
Personally, I like wines like this for home, without a meal, where I want something balanced but softer and not too zippy. It left a great impression with me, definitely going on the short list. I might try honey-herb glazed chicken with it, or maybe roasted macadamia/hazelnuts on vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce... now thats an ideal thought.
WineInk on 17th carries the Stift at $19.45 and the Rabl at $21.95. Dont miss out.
www.austrianwine.com is a great site with lots of digestible info.