By Ted Scheffler
February 25, 2015
If you've never tasted Austria's signature white wine, Grüner Veltliner, you're in for a treat. For starters, it's a relative bargain in European white wines.
Grüner Veltliner is a late-ripening grape variety that produces dry, crisp, bright-tasting wines of light to medium body. They tend to be greenish yellow in color with ripe flavors of apple, apricot, peach, lime, and a hint of white pepper. Jay McInerney has described Grüner Veltliner as “a theoretical blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.” That’s not a bad way to think about it. There’s a mineral background in Grüner Veltliner along with crisp acidity and a unique wildflower element on the palate.
Grüner Veltliner is an uncommonly versatile food wine. It works well with white meats like pork and chicken, seafood, vegetables, light pasta dishes, goat cheese, smoked trout – about the only thing I wouldn't want Grüner Veltliner for would be grilled or roasted lamb, and red meat dishes. And although I don't really understand the science involved, Grüner Veltliner is especially delicious with vegetables – something you can’t say about most wines. It seems to belly up to notoriously wine-proof foods like asparagus, fava beans, nettles and artichokes with ease. I've taken to drinking Grüner Veltliner with lightly salted edamame, but it also works wonders with seafood, especially shellfish like crab and lobster. It's equally hard to beat as a partner for hearty potato leek soup and bouillabaisse.
One of the most dependable, benchmark examples of Grüner is Hopler Grüner Veltliner ($13.73). Hopler Grüner Veltliner is a solid introduction to the varietal, with yummy ripe peach, apricot, and green apple flavors. It’s nicely balanced with mineral notes, a hint of almonds, and a long creamy finish.