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This is Austria’s most planted grape. At every price point it can deliver really tasty, interesting wines. The serious versions challenge other lofty white wines, winning at blind and trade tastings and in the hearts and cellars of sommeliers.
Grüner Veltliner deserves all the praise that it has been given. Not only is it a versatile grape but it has tremendous ageing capability. It ages well and the depth of flavour intensifies with each passing year. Even the entry level wines age well, so it is rather sad that the Austrians tend to want to drink if young. Their loss, our gain.
Grüner Veltliner is a very food-friendly wine - it is arguably one of the world's most flexible grapes at the table. It works with many foods that you would not immediately expect to match with a white. Try it with Duck Confit or a Beef Roast. It's also grape that works well with foods that are difficult to pair like eggs and asparagus.
So what is Grüner Veltliner like?
It is often described as being spicy, with aromas/flavours which include green and yellow apples, yellow plum, freshly ground pepper (white or black depending on regional style), meadow flowers, green vegetables (green beans and pea shoots), mown grass, a flinty minerality and undefined citrussy notes, sort of halfway between lime and grapefruit. Lentils, mustard, and cress are commonly cited but I don't usually find them (my brain goes more to meaty umami connections and radishes). Less often: rhubarb and strawberry aromas, tropical and stone fruit (peaches, apricots), an earthiness and a mossy/herby/undergrowth smell.
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The rest of the world is starting to catch on to Grüner Veltliner with fresh plantings in the New World in the last ten years or so. There are other eastern European countries with a decent amount growing, but Austria still grows twice as much as the rest put together.
When yields are kept low (Grüner Veltliner will produce high yields unless cultivated otherwise) the grape can produce spicy, refreshing wines of high quality. Favourable comparisons to white Burgundy have often been made.
Grüner Veltliner is a cross between Savagnin (Traminer) and an ultra-rare grape named St. Georgener. It is related to Pinot through Savagnin and is not a member of the Veltliner family despite sharing the name.