By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 25 August 2018
If you normally drink Sauvignon Blanc as your summer tipple, you might well enjoy the Gruner Veltliner grape.
With its aromas of white pepper, celery and white blossom, sleek elegant palate with hints of spice and herbs and steely finish, Gruner (or ‘Gru-Vee’ as it is known) can be one of the most engaging summer whites.
It is Austria’s highest quality white grape, grown here since C18, now covering one third of the country’s vineyards, where it is made in a variety of styles. It is supremely fashionable as a youthful refreshing unoaked dry white in the ‘heurige’ inns around Vienna. Gruner Veltliner can also be as assertively rich textured and powerful as oaked white Burgundy, thanks to its thick skins which give the top Gruner examples such a full rich creamy mouthfeel.
The best Austrian Gruner Veltliners are found west of Vienna in the dramatic Wachau gorge grown on steep south-facing slopes overlooking the Danube (pictured right), in Kremstal north and south of the Danube home to the oldest Gruner vines now 150 years old – and north of the river up near the Kamptal tributary – all grown by Austria’s army of small family estates.
One of the best Gruner Veltliner producers is Will Brundlmayer in Langenlois in Kamptal region, who produces a range of textural styles on different soils from granite to clay and loess. “It is our most important grape in Austria”, says Brundlmayer. His superb aged Alte Reben (old vine) Gruner Veltliners show what great potential the grape has for ageing, developing richness, lush apricot fruits, hints of cloves, figs and honey (Alte Reben 2013 is £28.99 from Raeburn Wines in Edinburgh).
Markus Huber (pictured below) in Reichersdorf in Weinvertel south of the Danube is a master at crafting inexpensive crisp dry approachable styles of Gruner Veltliner. “It is a very fertile grape, so it needs careful yield control. For us it tends to grow best in deep loess soils”, he says.
The majority of Gruner’s plantings worldwide are in Austria – but it is also grown in Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and in northern Italy’s Valle Isarco region – and now it is becoming fashionable in the New World, from Oregon to Australasia.
After a long quarantine, it is now being planted in Australia and New Zealand, where it is causing quite a stir. Most Kiwi examples I have tasted have been true to the varietal, still with plenty of acidity, but zestier riper fruits and higher alcohol. One of the first growers to start planting it down-under was Austrian-born Hermann Seifried in Nelson and there are now several good examples nearby in Marlborough: Tinpot Hut, Waimea Estate, St Clair and Yealands.
The richer textured Gruner Veltliners work well alongside a range of dishes – from green asparagus, smoked trout, lightly spiced Thai dishes, seafood pasta or risotto to soft goats cheese or firmer Tomme de Savoie.
Austria: Gruner Veltliner 2017 Weingut Huber (12.5%)
A bright easy-quaffing lightly aromatic style with hints of citric fruits, grass and pepper. A very good value introduction to Gruner Veltliner made by whizz-kid Markus Huber in Weinvertel.
Austria: Gruner Veltliner Granit 2017 Domaine Wachau (12.5%) ***STAR VALUE***
Our tasters loved this deliciously zesty Gruner with its green apple fruits and sleek poised minerally finish; could be drunk on its own, with seafood or light curry. One of three new Austrian wines in Lidl’s summer range. Well done Lidl.
Austria: Gruner Veltliner Kies 2016 Weingut Angerer (12.5%)
(£12.49 Virgin Wines www.virginwines.co.uk)
Another stylish example with vivid citric notes, fresh and steely with exotic fruit notes and an interesting smoky twist. Made by Kurt Angerer on his old family-owned estate in Kamptal who grow their Gruner grown on granite terraces.
Austria: Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Weissenkirchen 2016 Domaine Wachau (12%)
(£10.99 Majestic Wine)
An approachable style of Gruner. Lightly spicy, hint of minerality – would suit those who like lighter fresher examples. From the slopes between Weissenkirchen and Joching villages on the northern banks of the Danube in the Wachau heartland.
Austria: The Society’s Exhibition Langenlois Gruner Veltliner 2017 Weingut Brundlmayer (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£13.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
A step up in richness and quality here with this beautifully textured characterful Gruner from Willi Brundlmayer’s steep Langenlois terraces. Loved its peach and citrus fruits, vivid racy acidity, sweet sour flavours, hint of spritz with a welcoming hint of creamy sweetness. Works well as a stylish aperitif, but better with charcuterie, asparagus or potted shrimps
Austria: Gruner Veltliner Federspiel 2017 Weingut Johann Donabaum (12%)
(£15 Corking Wines; Strictly Wine)
A smooth textured Gruner from Wachau; starts with fresh apply citric fruits, with minty undertones, finishing with a hint of sweet honey on the palate. ‘Federspiel’ is a Wachau term indicating a lighter style.
Austria: Gruner Veltliner Sonnhof Trocken 2016 Weingut Jurtschitsch (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£12.49 reduced from £14.99 Rude Wines www.rudewines.co.uk)
Another good spicy Langenlois Gruner Veltliner from Alwin Jurtschitsch who worked in Australasia before returning to his family estate. Lovely integrated acidity, zesty melon fruits, spicy with hints of white pepper, dry finish.
New Zealand: Gruner Veltliner 2017 Seifried Estate (12%)
(£13.50 www.winedirect.co.uk; www.henningswine.co.uk)
A sleek dry Kiwi example with gentle aromas of grapefruit and apple with ginger undertones and clean minerally finish. Grown by an Austrian family in Edens Road vineyard on the Waimea Plains in Nelson, which has stony soils to restrict Gruner’s vigour.
New Zealand: Gruner Veltliner 2016 Tinpot Hut (13.5%)
(£14.99 www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk; www.winedirect.co.uk)
Richer textures here with this aromatic fruit bomb, with its juicy apricot and melon fruit flavours, floral notes and minerally finish. Made by Fiona Turner from the Robyne and Keiran McKee’s vineyard in Blind River in Marlborough.
Join Rose’s Austria v Hungary wine tasting at The Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh on Thursday 20 September £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com