June 7, 2023

Great Grüner Veltliners from Austria | David Williams

on Feb 19, 2023

Show caption Spring awakening: Austria’s much-loved Grüner Veltliner grape is alive with verdant energy. Photograph: Alfred Schauhuber/Alamy

David Williams's wines of the week

There is more than a hint of spring in Austria’s famous grape variety. Here are three bottles to set your pulse racing

Birgit Einchinger Grüner Veltliner Strass, Kamptal, Austria 2020 (from £12, hic-winemerchants.com; justerinis.com) It’s spring, the sap is rising and the world is alive with green. And at this most uplifting and promising time of the year, what could be more fitting than a wine style that itself seems to draw on the same abundant verdant energy? For many of us that might mean sauvignon blanc. But in a year in which the variety has been harder to source than it has been for many years (thanks to small harvests in its heartlands in both New Zealand and the Loire), I’m thinking of a wine whose very name evokes the colour green: Austria’s very own grüner veltliner. The green grape from the village of Veltlin, to give the name its full translation, has become the country’s most widely planted white grape variety, and is capable of providing wines in a range of styles. But even at its richest there’s always a hint of the forest, and, as in Birgit Eiginger’s supremely vibrant example, a distinctive salt-and-pepper spiciness.

E H Booth Grüner Veltliner, Drunstein, Wachau, Austria 2019 (£10.50, Booths) Although riesling thrives in Austria (and is perhaps responsible for the lion’s share of the country’s very finest wines), Austrian grüner veltliner is much easier to find in the UK’s bigger wine shops: indeed, in what might be called the vinous mainstream, it’s become all-but synonymous with Austrian white wine. That’s not so much of a problem given that supermarket grüner veltliner is often superb value, generally in a lighter, aromatic, zestily drinkable style that is very good at matching leafy salads including – if the wine comes, as Aldi’s Specially Selected Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterrich 2020 (£6.99) does, with a dash of sugar othe cusp between dry and off-dry – spicy, herby Vietnamese style salads. But supermarket grüner is capable of offering rather more than that, especially when its production comes courtesy of a really top-level producer such as Domâne Wachau, the super-co-operative in the eponymous (and beautiful) wine region on the Danube, responsisble for Booths’ rippling, gorgeous, perfectly ripe own-label grüner bottling.

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Langenlois, Kamptal, Austria 2020 (£21.50, standrewswines.co.uk) Austria is still sometimes presented as a kind of rising star in the world of wine, as if wine production in the country was something new and not something deeply ingrained in the culture, with roots going back at least as far as Roman times. All of which might come to seem even more absurd when you consider the history of one of the country’s finest producers, Schloss Gobelsburg, which can trace its first vineyard back to the Cistercian monks of the 12th century. Still, the estate’s modern progress is similar to that of Austrian wine as a whole: both have been through a renaissance over the past three decades, with Gobelsburg able to trace its revival specifically to 1996, when the current estate manager, Michael Moosbrugger, took up the reins. Gobelsburg makes numerous brilliant single-vineyard wines with both grüner and riesling, while the Langenlois, a blend of vines from the eponymous village, beautifully captures a classically grüner combination of stone-fruited fleshiness and celery-salted savouriness.

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