Monday, August 16, 2010

The Top Ten Reasons to Drink Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner is the most widely planted grape variety in Austria covering about 40,000 acres of land. Each year Austria makes about 20 million cases of Grüner which accounts for around 1/3 of the country's entire wine production.

Austria is a small player producing only 1% of the world's total wine. This is one of the reasons why we don't see a lot of Austrian wines on the retail shelf, well this and the fact that they consume a lot of their own juice. Over the past 5 years however, domestic consumption in Austria has been decreasing and exports have been increasing so we are seeing more and more Grüner in the US. Here are the top ten reasons you should pick up one of those bottles.

1. It's meant to be consumed young.
In the today's wine market about 90% of the juice produced is meant to be consumed within 3 years of vintage (the year on the bottle). As a consumer this can be really confusing and frustrating. Nobody wants to drink a bottle too late when the quality has decreased and the same goes for drinking it too early, we want to have it in it's prime. But with a large percentage of the wines produced worldwide only lasting a few years how can a consumer tell when they get one that is suppose to age?

Austrian Grüner takes all of the guess work out of aging, it almost always needs to be consumed within 3 years of vintage. If you see a Grüner in a retail store or on a wine list that is over 3 years old ask your clerk or waiter what's up? Maybe it fits in to that very small percentage of Grüner's that can age for a decade. Odds are they just haven't been able to move it and they are stuck with an old vintage.

2. Austria has perfected it.
Grüner is a delightful little taste of Austria. While small plantings of the grape existing in Hungary, the Czech Republic and the United States it is Austian Grüner we see on the shelves and for good reason, they make a lot of it, and recently they make a lot of it well. Very few grapes varieties produce such consistent quality and are not picked up and planted around the world. Grüner is to Austria what little pocket knives and holey cheese is to the Swiss, a little taste of that countries culture.

3. It tastes great.
Grüner Veltliner is delicious. It's racy acidity and astonishing minerality make it refreshing to drink. The grape's stereotypical profile descriptor is white pepper but it is so much more than that. It's citrus and stone fruit flavors coupled with lychee and spice make it a real treat to enjoy all on its own.

4. It was adulterated with "antifreeze".
While this may sound like a bad thing let me explain. In 1985 a few of Austria's producers used diethylene glycol to sweeten their wines artificially. The media, for fear of NOT having a headline, screamed from the mountain top that Austria puts antifreeze into their wines. Unfortunately the media was able to manipulate chemistry without anyone noticing. You see antifreeze is ethylene glycol NOT diethylene glycol. Diethylene glycol is actually less toxic than alcohol. So in short they were making their wines less poisonous.

Since the embarrassing scandal Austria has tightened up their laws and are now an open book to the world hiding nothing. Their production methods have since changed and their wines are better than ever. This scandal, while not good, resulted in a new era of scrumptious Austrian Grüner.

5. It's flexible.
Grüner is an incredibly versatile grape. It's used to make still, sparkling, dry, and sweet wines. No matter the form, if a producer does their job well Grüner's wonderful minerality shines through resulting in a pleasantly refreshing experience.

6. It doesn't go by any crazy synonyms.
While Grüner has a number of synonyms nobody uses them, at least not here in the states. So most bottles produced say Grüner Veltliner right on the label. Not a region like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chianti or Rioja or not some crazy grape name like Spätburgunder in Germany (Pinot Noir), Steen in South Africa (Chenin Blanc), or Shiraz in Australia (Syrah) to name a few. When a white wine from Austria says Grüner Veltliner on the label you know the grape used to make the wine is Grüner Veltliner and the style is crisp and medium bodied.

7. It pairs well with asparagus.
Grüner is said to be one of the very few wines that pairs well with wine's arch nemesis, asparagus. It's vegetal qualities are said to mirror those of asparagus. But beyond asparagus Grüner is multifaceted. It pairs well with seafood and pork. Also with sushi and spicy Thai. I does well with cheeses and fried food, salad and bacon. It can pair with sweetbreads and schnitzel or mushrooms and pasta. It can even stand up to veal! All around it's a versatile food wine and has the acidity to compliment tough to pair foods. A great "go-to" wine.

8. Lenz Moser is a little piece of wine innovation.
Without getting all "cork dork" on you, in Austria in the early 1900's Dr. Lenz Moser developed a vine training system that changed the way Austrians, and most of Europe, plant their grapes. The vine training system is liked by many because it grows grapes in a manner that are easier to harvest in turn decreasing labor. It also trains the leaves in such a way that they shade the berries from the hot sun. Today over 85% of the country's vines are planted to the Lenz Moser vine training system. In addition Dr. Moser was a wine producer. Today Lenz Moser Winery is the largest wine producer in the country and his son carries on the tradition.

9. It's fun to say.
While this may seem like a lame reason to drink a bottle of wine it's true, Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner VELT-lean-er) is fun to say, it sounds wicked Austrian. Really ham it up if you order it, you'll see what I mean. Wine is fun, saying words we aren't familiar with is a part of the fun.

10. It's different.
The truth is 8 grapes make up about 90% of America's wine sales. I have deemed them "The Great 8" (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah). Many consumers in the states are beginning to step outside their comfort zones to try new, unique wines. Grüner is a great example of a unique wine. It allows consumers to try something new without having to venture too far. Its profile loosely lands it somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. So the next time you reach for a bottle of wine, try an Austrian Grüner.

Well there you have it. There are the top 10 reasons to drink Grüner Veltliner. While they may seem like a stretch the long and short of it all is that the wines made from the Grüner Veltliner grapes are distinctive and delicious. Hopefully this inspires a wave of Grüner sales and a wave of very satisfied consumers.

As always thanks for reading and if you liked this article, please pass it along to a friend. Until next time.

Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director

1 comment:

Wine Gift Membership said...

This is one of the most informative information I've read. It really helps a lot. Thanks for sharing this and teaching some of your Idea's