Breaking into our consciousness during the last ten to fifteen years, Grüner Veltliner continues to excite and grow in popularity. This is Austria’s most planted grape. Considering how much superb wine is made there, perhaps they are telling us something?
Grüner Veltliner deserves all the praise that it has been given. Not only is it a versatile grape in terms of style but it has tremendous ageing capability, allowing for some tremendous stylistic variations brought on through maturity.
Grüner Veltliner is a very food-friendly wine with a spicy, peppery nose and flavours of lime, peach, quince and honey. It is a grape that ages well and the depth of flavour intensifies with each passing year. Sweet wines and sparkling wines are also produced to great effect. Grüner Veltliner is a welcome partner to many foods that you would not immediately expect to match with a white - it is arguably one of the world's most flexible grapes at the table. Try it with foods you would have considered traditional red wine territory, and heavy reds at that, like Duck Confit or a Beef Roast.
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.
The serious versions challenge other lofty white wines very effectively, winning at blind and trade tastings and in the hearts and cellars of sommeliers.
So what is Grüner Veltliner like? It is often described as being spicy, with aromas/flavours which include green and yellow apples, freshly ground white pepper, meadow flowers, underripe melon, green vegetables, (green beans and freshly broken pea pods spring to mind), newly mown grass, a flinty minerality and undefined citrussy notes, sort of halfway between lime and grapefruit. Lentils, mustard, and cress are commonly cited. Fruitier examples may show rhubarb and strawberry aromas. Depending on where it's grown, there may also be tropical and stone fruit (peaches, apricots), an earthiness and a mossy/herby/undergrowth smell.