Grüner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria. It produces excellent white wines, and has now become very fashionable in many key markets worldwide. So much so that it is now being planted all over the New World and even in places like France. This mouthwatering dry white, with its lovely toothsome pear fruits is a perfect summer wine; light, a mere 12% in alcohol, and refreshing and very reasonably priced too.
Posts Tagged Gruner Veltliner
The Austrians came to town in force a few weeks ago. No less than 50 producers, some already represented in Ireland and others seeking an importer, showed their wares. It was a reminder that the overall standard of Austrian winemaking is incredibly high.They may not have much to offer at under €10 (nothing, in fact), but I came across very few dud wines at this tasting. It helps that I like Austrian wines generally, but the current generation of winemakers seem to have the technical know-how to make something very drinkable whatever the vintage. In addition to their array of superb wines, white, red and sweet, they have now turned their attentions to sparkling wines.
The tasting was organised by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Set up 30 years ago as part of a complete overhaul of the country’s wine from the bottom up, the board has been a key part of the revolution, transforming the fortunes of Austrian wines at home and on the international market, where they now occupy a small but profitable niche.
In 1986, Austria exported some three million litres of wine at a value of €3 million. Three decades on, the volumes have increased to 50 million litres. The value has increased as well, making Austrian wine producers the envy of many other producer countries.A levy of 2.2 cents for every litre of wine sold goes to the board. If a grower sells his grapes or wine to a négociant, each pays 1.1 cents. It means the the board is very well funded and able to put on impressive tastings and other events, both in Austria and abroad.
Austrian wine has always been popular in neighbouring Germany, but other markets took a little more time. The US and UK are showing huge growth, with Grüner Veltliner providing the spearhead. Ireland has lagged behind other countries but still shows reasonable growth. In 2006 we bought 8,000 litres (or 10,500 bottles) of Austrian wine. By 2014, this had risen to 37,000 litres (almost 50,000 bottles), an impressive increase, but only the start of the wine board’s ambitions.
As a consumer country, Austria was one of the earliest movers to organic food, and there has been a big effort to increase sustainable viticulture over last decade. Ten per cent of vineyards are now organic.The Austrians have a certification tool for sustainable production – a more holistic approach, with tough criteria covering the whole operation, from vineyard to the consumer. You don’t have to be organic, but it gives you a lot of points in the certification system.
As for the wine, Grüner Veltliner has been to key to Austria’s success. A native grape that is still grown almost exclusively in Austria, it ranges in style from light and crisp to textured and rich. Either way, it is rarely aged in new oak and usually clocks in at 12.5-13.5 per cent alcohol.Like Rías Baixas from Spain, Grüner has become a more fashionable alternative for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. That is being a little unfair to Grüner, as the wines can be quite spectacular in the right hands, but it does share certain similarities in style. The other advantage is its great versatility with food. It matches up nicely with most European-style fish and shellfish, as well as chicken and pork. It is one of the best partners for all sorts of Asian cuisine, including Japanese, Indian, and Thai.
So if you are ever asked to choose a wine for a group of people ordering very different foods in a restaurant, Grüner Veltliner is a good option. I did exactly that over lunch in Fallon & Byrne with the new Irish Times food and drink team a few weeks back. I list three different styles of Grüner, at three different prices. Lucas Pichler is one of the country’s greatest winemakers, with prices to match.
Graf Josef Grüner Veltliner 2013, Kremstal, 12.5%, €14.99
Light and refreshing with peaches and grapefruit zest, finishing bone dry.
Stockists: Donnybrook Fair; Gibneys; Hole in the Wall; Market 57; No.21 Off-licences; Coopers: Shannon Knights.
F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Loibner Loibenberg 2014, Wachau,13.5%, €50
Magnificent, powerful, opulent wine with intense peaches, ginger and a hint of smoke.
Stockists: Redmond’s, Ranelagh; 64wine, Glasthule.
Available from Donnybrook Fair; Gibneys, Malahide; Hole in the Wall, D7; Market 57, Westport; No.21 Off licences; Coopers, Cahir; Shannon Knights, Limerick.
Light and refreshing with peaches and grapefruit zest, finishing bone dry. Great on its own or with fish and lighter white meats.
I was a little concerned by the vintage when I received this sample; however, the Graf Josef was showing no signs of fading away. In fact, I tried the 2009 vintage at a recent tasting and t was still very much together. This is, I think, the least expensive Grüner Veltliner on the market, and in most vintages, it offers great value.
Light, fresh, clean, lean green apple fruits with a touch of spice. Michael Malat suggests it as a breakfast wine; I would say lunch. Perfect sipped solo or with shellfish. There is a series of Crazy Creatures labels, signifying the fun ‘pop and go’ nature of the wines.
The Austrians were in town last week, and I tasted a fantastic array of scintillating white and red wines. The Austrians don’t really do cheap, but they don’t really do bad wine either; there was hardly a dud in the entire tasting. Grüner Veltliner is the national specialty; it ranges in style from crisp and dry to rich and textured. Either way, the wines are great to sip on their own, and are one of the most food-friendly wines of all.
I went to a wine dinner in Greenacres, Wexford last Friday, featuring the wines of the two producers above. It was a great night, with very good food, very good company, and some fantastic wines.
I am more used to meeting Thomas Klinger at the Bründlmayer stand at various trade wine fairs. At these he manages to pour an endless stream of wines to half a dozen clients while imparting a huge amount of information, all without missing a beat. Thomas is hugely knowledgeable and full of enthusiasm. It helps that he works for Bründlmayer, one of Austria’s greatest winemakers.
Willi Bründlmayer produces a large number of wines, mainly white, from his vineyards on the terraced slopes of the Kamptal. Over the last five years, I have come to prefer the wines of this region compared to those of the neighbouring Wachau, which has a higher reputation. Wachau wines tend to be rich and powerful, those from the Kamptal more elegant. The Bründlmayer reds are delicate and refined; the whites are always good and often profound. Thomas showed three wines before dinner, including the stunning rich Grüner Veltliner Kaferberg 2013 (€40). With dinner the stars were the delicious Grüner Veltliner Ried Loiserberg 2011 (€20) and the amazing Gelber Muskateller TBA 2002, transported over by Thomas from Austria but sadly unavailable commercially. In addition to the above wines, I am huge fan of the Bründlmayer Rieslings; my value pick from Greenacres would probably be the 2013 Riesling Kamptaler Terrassen for €17.50.
Dorli Muhr attends the same wine fairs, but is a very different presence with far fewer wines. She runs one of the leading PR agencies in Austria, representing many of the wine producers. However, she is also very involved in her own winery. Having bought a vineyard in Tuscany some years ago, she met Dirk Niepoort of the eponymous Port house. They fell in love and she moved to the Douro. However, when the relationship ended, they collaborated on a project in Austria, where the cooler climate allowed them to produce more elegant refined wines, the style that Muhr herself preferred. Until recently the wines were made by South African Irishman, Craig Hawkins who worked with Eben Sadie and now makes wine at Lammershoek. The vineyards are on the Spitzerberg in Carnuntum. Muhr has planted a mix of grape varieties on the limestone soils, but the star is Blaufränkisch, Central Europe’s native red grape that is now attracting interest worldwide.
Before dinner, we tasted Cuvée Vom Berg, a very decent Cabernet, Merlot, Blaufränkisch blend, the Samt & Seide below and the wonderful Liebkind Blaufränkisch 2012. At €25 this is very good value and a great expression of Blaufränkisch (made from very young vines), a svelte fresh wine with piquant dark fruits. Over dinner, we tried a very good Merlot, Rote Erde 2012 (€22.50), but the conversation switched to Syrah, and Muhr called for a bottle of her 100% Syrah Sydhang 2011, the surprise of the night for me. I am tired of producers telling me how their Syrah is ‘just like the Northern Rhône’, when it clearly isn’t, but the Sydhang certainly had some resemblance, along with a lovely character all of its own. Great value at €22.50 too.
Dorli & Thomas try out Irish cheese
Wines to buy
All of the wines below are available from Greenacres in Wexford. You may also find the Muhr van der Niepoort wines in a few independent wine shops around the country as well. Greenacres have a wide range of both producer’s wines. I have yet to come across a dud from either.
Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner 2013 Kamptaler Terrassen
Delicious light fresh crisp dry wine with hints of ginger spice and subtle green fruits.
Muhr van der Niepoort Samt & Seide 2012
Superb silky soft wine with blue fruits, balanced acidity and an easy finish. Pinotesque in style, a restrained and elegant wine.
However, if I were wandering around Greenacres, I would certainly be sorely tempted to buy a few bottles of the Bründlmayer Rieslings and the Sydhang Syrah too.
A lovely racy acidity that is the hallmark of the 2014’s, but countered nicely by some classic Grüner spice and plump melon fruits, finishing dry. Lovely clean refreshing wine. Drink by itself, with seafood, or herby salads.
Michael Malat, like his father before him, makes a bewildering number of wines, most very good, and a few excellent, from a huge number of grape varieties. The sparkling wines are very fine,but it is his Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners that stand out for me. I am delighted to see they are now available in Ireland. If you fancy really treating yourself, the Alte Reben Höhlgraben for €32 is superb.
Available from Searsons, Monkstown.