Fri. Nov 25th, 2022

 

Austrian wine has made its definitive statement with Grüner Veltliner. The common cliché is that Grüner is a refreshing white with aromas and flavors of citrus and white pepper. However, in the right hands, Grüner transcends the character of the terroir and the winemaker’s personality. It’s little wonder it has long been Austria’s signature white variety.

In the 1950s, it became the country’s most widely planted grape, for the most part, thanks to Lenz Moser’s development of the hochkultur (high culture) training system, which allows easy maintenance with the use of machinery. Grüner is a somewhat finicky grape known to overproduce, affecting quality. Because of this and its sensitivity to dryness and certain fungal diseases, Austrians often view it as quite “needy.”

Grüner is grown primarily in the northeastern country and reaches its quality zenith in appellations along the Danube. However, there are examples from Burgenland and Weinviertel that can also impress. Grüner is pretty neutral in taste, allowing the soil and microclimate in which it’s grown to be reflected by the wine.

Its performance in loess soil is unquestionable. This soil provides the perfect conditions for Grüner and results in ripe and full-bodied wines. Grüner doesn’t like to struggle. So, wherever there is good water retention, it can grow successfully. Expressions from limestone soils, especially Burgenland, can be world-class, making elegant and precise examples that let the mineral elements shine through.

Though it may have declined in popularity in the past 20 years, Grüner is still Austria’s most important grape and unique contribution to the world of wine.

Weingut Knoll Ried Kreutles Loibner Grüner Veltliner SmaragdImage Courtesy of Vivino

Weingut Knoll 2019 Grüner Veltliner Ried Kreuties Loibner Smaragd (Wachau); $58, 97 Points. This is a brilliant expression of classic Wachau. Fabulous aromas and flavors of pineapple, ruby grapefruit, and mineral turn to honey and vanilla spice midpalate, with an exquisite harmony that echos throughout. Viscous and round, yet vibrant and full of energy, this is impressive now, but if you show some patience, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable wine. Best from 2025 through 2045. —Aleks Zecevic

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Prager Wachstum Bodenstein Grüner VeltlinerImage Courtesy of Vivino

Prager 2020 Grüner Veltliner Wachstum Bodenstein Smaragd (Wachau); $90, 95 Points. This is crafted with laser precision, delivering inviting aromas that draw you into the glass, where flavors of dragon fruit, papaya, quince, and lemon dance harmoniously. Velvet and silk come to mind its texture, while the wet stone and quinine notes embrace the lasting finish. Best from 2024–2035. Cellar Selection. —A.Z.

BUY ON VIVINO Rudi Pichler Wösendorfer Hochrain Grüner Veltliner SmaragdImage Courtesy of Vivino

Rudi Piechler 2020 Grüner Veltliner Ried Hochrain Smaragd (Wachau); $65, 92 Points. This starts out fragrant and pungent, yet it is delicate, offering typical legume and white pepper notes, but then lily and quince flavors are introduced. The seductive texture puts a bow around it, making it an interesting expression of the classic. Drink now through 2032. —A.Z.

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hristophe Hoch NV Grüner Veltliner HollenburgerImage Courtesy of Naturalista

Christophe Hoch NV Grüner Veltliner Hollenburger (Weinland Österreich); $18, 92 Points. This redefines what a Kamptal Grüner is, starting with a hint of a matchstick that signals soft reduction but once blown off, there is an electric offering of melon, Meyer lemon, sage, and lily that all sing in harmony. Then you notice the captivating texture, wrapping up the experience. —A.Z.

FIND AT WINE-SEARCHER Leindl Ried Eichelberg Gruner VeltlinerImage Courtesy of Vivino

Leindl 2020 Ried Eichelberg Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal); $36, 91 Points. Vibrant and pure white, this offers ripe flavors of tropical fruit and durian. It is fleshy but nicely balanced, ending in a long, mouthwatering mix of citrus and mineral. Drink now through 2030. —A.Z.

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Matthias Hager – Grüner Veltliner VielfaltImage Courtesy of Natural Wine Dealers

Hager Matthias 2018 Viefalt Grüner Veltliner (Niederösterreich); $29, 91 Points. This beats to its drum with a cloudy appearance and a slight grip on the palate. It exhibits notes of ripe apricot, tangerine, and sage honey, with good complexity and a finish that invites you for another sip. It is a wine that makes you think. —A.Z.

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Weingut Stadt Krems Stein Reserve Grüner VeltlinerImage Courtesy of Vivino

Stadt Krems 2020 Stein Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal); $20, 90 Points. Subtle aromas of elderflower are overtaken by an expressive palate, which features notes of white peach, Jonagold apple, and yuzu. It’s almost velvety in feel, with medium to full body, but the mouth-watering acidity keeps it intact. —A.Z.

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David Harm Silberbichl Gruner VeltlinerImage Courtesy of Wine Searcher

Harm 2020 Ried Silberbichl Grüner Veltliner (Wachau); $24, 90 Points. This shows some reduction hints, but that adds to the overall experience, complementing white pepper, cardamom, and yuzu details on the palate. It reveals more with some air and offers a lingering finish. —A.Z.

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