Gruner Veltliner is one of my favorite grape varieties and one of the great European grape varieties. It’s also very fun to say (groo-ner velt-lai-nr). Once I saw that First Bottle was bringing in some Rudi Pichler, one of the elite producers of the variety in the world, I had to write about it. This grape is super unique and can easily pair with a lot of different vegetables, can handle some spice, and also drinks quite well as an aperitif or a porch pounder! Vegetables are the hardest food to pair wines with and something I struggle with because I eat a lot of vegetables. My suggestion, pour yourself a glass of Gruner, whip up your favorite vegetable dish and see for yourself. Additionally, try Gruner with classic Austrian dishes like Weiner Schnitzel, or experiment with Thai or Indian cuisine to see the versatility of this grape with different cuisines.
Gruner Veltliner is a cross between Traminer and what is to be believed to be a century-old variety called St. Georgen from Burgenland, Austria. It is believed that this variety existed back during Roman times, but its name first appeared in a historical document back in 1855. This variety has no connection to other Veltliner like Roter or Fruhroter. Gruner Veltliner is the most planted variety in Austria and over 75% of wines come from this region. It is also grown in the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand and is sparsely planted in the United States. It’s a mid-season ripener with white wooly hair around the shoot tips and the underside of the leaves. The variety requires special attention to its yields and grows especially well in moist, deep loess soils. It is especially sensitive to vine diseases like Peronospora (also known as downy mildew) and chlorosis (yellowing of leaves that can cause fruit issues). Gruner Veltliner pairs so well with vegetables because of its profile.
How about does it taste? It is known to have notes of spice, citrus zest, white pepper, and herbaceous qualities (think watercress or lemon thyme) with singing acidity and often some earthy minerality. The variety is very close in profile to a dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc but a little more exotic.
For the most part, plan on drinking Gruner between 1-3 years old, ice cold. Gruner Veltliner is a great everyday drinker and can range in price from $10-$20 but there are styles that are age-worthy and complex and those can cost you $50+ that are quite age-worthy and highly coveted. Check out the new bottles that we just brought of Rudi Pichler and Hiller! I promise you won’t be disappointed in drinking this fantastic wine.
Fun Fact: On bottles of Wachau wines, you might find the term “Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd” and each term represents the specific alcohol content or ripeness classification. “Steinfeder” is the term used to describe a light white wine with up to 11.5% abv. It’s also named for the feathery grass in the region. “Federspiel” is the classic category with the alcohol content of 11.5-12.5%. This is also the ancient term from falconry. Lastly, my favorite, “Smaragd” which contains an alcohol minimum of 12.5%. This term also refers to an emerald colored lizard that sunbathes on the stone terraces near the Danube River or you can find it scurrying in the vineyards. You will find these terms or images on the labels of wines from this region.