I have a new wine crush. Gorgeous, gabby and quite gifted, Gruner Veltliner (pronounced “GROO ner VELT leaner”) is a tall, cool Austrian pour with plenty of perk and personality. This erstwhile known as “ski country” region devotes 1/3 of its grape crop to making this white varietal, and Gruner is fast becoming my desert island pour. Others grow this cold climate lover – Germany, New Zealand and Australia – but none have perfected the groovy wine the way the charming Austrians have.
One of the wineries leading the introduction of Gruner to the United States (where its notable nickname is GruVee) is Laurenz V. You really want to pronounce the V as “vee” but it stands for “five,” as in fifth generation winemaker, Laurenz “Lenz” Moser. He launched this wine label in 2005, however his family traces winemaking back into 1200s (that’s a lot of generations, folks). Personable Lenz is as perky as his Gruner and calls winemaking “the salt of my life… essential. ” His winery only makes Gruner so he is uniquely positioned to know this grape intimately — he’s even witnessed global warming affecting Austrian vineyards. For years, in order to achieve a certain level of alcohol, wineries had to add sugar to the grape must – called chaptalization – but since the mid-90s, the sun and heat bathe the fruit with enough warmth that ripeness is becoming something to monitor during harvest. (What’s next? German Cabernet Sauvignons? Stay tuned. )
Gruner Veltliner has been a darling of sommeliers and wine geeks like me for a while but these aromatic beauties weren’t easy to find. Consumers were loath to release their obsession with beloved Chardonnay, and groovy, high acid Gruner is basically the antithesis of that ripe, oft buttery wine. Gruner reflects a bigger affinity towards a Pinot Grigio/Albarino/Riesling cross-dresser, but wearing fashionable Steve Maddens. Think hip yet fun, flirty and foodie. Gruner is naturally high in minerality – the ever elusive stone flavor found in grapes grown in rocky soils – with citrusy, brilliant acidity and a floral, perfume-y aroma that should attract a following if people let the sun shine in.
Because of its food-friendliness, Gruner is beginning to show up on wine lists across the country. I hope people are thirsty for alternatives to the fast-becoming-mundane Sauvignon Blanc and the less-than-refreshing Chardonnay. With a slight edge of sweetness and a tangy finish, it can hang with all sorts of food, from lemon-drenched seafood to stalwart cheeses. It also offers low alcohol comfort as you drink to the last lemon-y drop.
Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal = main wine regions
Weingut = vineyard or estate
Trocken = dry wine
Qualitätswein = quality wine meeting government approval
If you want to geek out, www.WinesFromAustria.com is an excellent resource.
Laurenz V 2011 “Singing” Gruner Veltliner Kremstal
Zippy acids, refreshing lime zest and lemon. Medium-bodied, layered and as it opens up, the acids grow softer. Sports a lively, mineral finish. Sw=1. $13- $16. Alcohol= 12%. Website
Laurenz V 2010 “Charming” Gruner Veltliner Kamptal
Coming from a warmer vintage, this wine has a flowery aroma and tastes of juicy peaches, citrus and minerals. The acids are more supple and softer. Sw=1. $24- $30. Alcohol = 13%. Website
Huber 2010 Gruner Veltliner Traisental
Pear, red apple and tart, sassy acidity define this groovy Gruner. Finishes with a steely flavor and earthy chamomile. Sw= 1. $12- $16. Alcohol = 12%. Find it on Wine-Searcher.