Some years ago, at a WSET wine course, I opened a mature bottle of Laurenz V’s ‘Charming’ Grüner Veltliner. The class fell silent in its appreciation. Since then, I’ve been trying to age a few bottles from good vintages (like 2015 and 2013 – ’memorable’ age-worthy vintages) for future enjoyment.When young, Grüner Veltliner is appreciated for its leafy flavours (fennel, endive, chard), red apple and white pepper notes, alongside mineral and subtle grapefruit. Aged, the wines become much rounder, richer in flavour and mouthfeel, with biscuit and bready notes.
At London’s Groucho Club in October 2002, 30 of Austria’s best wines, including Grüner Veltliners, were blind-tasted against the same number of the world’s leading Chardonnays. Austrian wines took 7 out of the top 10 positions, and 4 of these were Grüner Veltliner.
Furthermore, as Willi Klinger, head of The Austrian Wine Marketing Board, pointed out, if you compare the prices of the top wines, Austrian Grüner represents the best value by far. Grüner Veltliner can never be cheap, given the scale of production. While €15-20 Grüner Veltliner has its following among restaurateurs and wine shop owners, above this level, according to John Wilson, is where Austria offers incredible value for money, especially against Burgundy.
Leading food and wine experts cite Grüner Veltliner as being one of the most food-friendly wines you can find on a wine list. More so than many white wines, it pairs well with a wider variety of ethnic cuisine. I enjoyed three-year old Gru-V recently with sushi. I find youthful Grüner pairs really well with leafy dishes, asparagus, salads and shellfish, especially scallops. With some bottle age, I’d rustle up some crispy roast pork and apple, baked hake and fennel or poached trout.
While Austrian vineyards are at the same latitude as Reims – Dijon, ripening is aided by warm winds from the Pannonian Plain to the east. Loess, which is created from solidified rock dust during the Ice age, seems to create a richer, more opulent style of Grüner. Loess can be found largely in the Wachau region, on steep terraces close to the Danube, where some of the most long-lived Grüner is created. Kremstal has similar loess sites, east of Krems. In Wagram, north of the Danube lies deposits of loess, delivering hearty, rich wines. Kamptal has more mixed soils, together with a warm and cold wind combination that delivers a more taut, electric Grüner.
Furthermore, Grüner is very expressive of terroir, and single vineyard Grüner shows this well – look for the word ‘Ried’ on the label which indicates it’s a legally-defined vineyard site.
In Ireland, Bründlmayer is brought in by Greenacres, Birgit Eichinger is in Wines on the Green (Celtic whiskey Shop), Domaene Wachau is with Cassidys. F.X. Pichler and Schloss Gobelsburg are both available through Winemason, Türk is with Whelehans Wines, Winzer Krems is with Karwigs.