Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"G" is for Grüner Veltliner

It’s been a long time since I’ve written an alphabetical post. “G” offers so many choices of topics: grenache, gewürztraminer, gamay, and Germany just to name a few.

Ultimately, I chose grüner veltliner because it’s getting pretty warm here in South Carolina and my thoughts are turning to white wines. Grüner is also a hot-topic wine right now, so you’ll be seeing more on the shelves at your local wine stores.

There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with this Austrian native. Grüner is grown almost exclusively in Austria, and has become the country's best known grape by far.

Grüner (grüner = green) veltliner is one of several varieties of veltliner, although it’s the only one you’re likely to find around town. Thanks the increasing popularity of grüner and some slick packaging, you’re likely to bump into a case stack on your next wine buying trip.

Several merchants in my area are featuring 2005 Graf Koenigsegg ‘Velt. 1’ Grüner Veltliner ($9), which is hard to miss because of its neon-lime label. Velt. 1 even has a hipster-ish Web site where you can post photos of you and your pals sipping (or guzzling) Velt. 1.

Another grüner that’s hard to miss because of a Day-Glo label is 2005 Loimer Kamptal ‘Lois’ Grüner Veltliner ($9). It’s a nice bit of marketing to put these wines in eye-catching packages, give them simple, easy-to-remember (and pronounce) nicknames, and top them off with screw cap enclosures.

Both of the wines I mentioned are light, simple versions of grüner. They are bursting with fresh apple, lemon and herbaceous flavors. With its low alcohol and zippy acidity, grüner is very food-friendly. It’s also perfect for sipping (or guzzling) with friends.

Inexpensive grüner comes mostly from low elevation vineyards, while the pricier, more complex wines come from the steep, hillside vineyards. The higher quality grüners are renowned for their aging potential and are gaining notoriety as some of the world’s best white wines.

I found an interesting article in the LA Times from April about grüner that included some more recommendations. The Lois is the only one I recognize on the list, but with the temperature climbing ever higher here in the South, you can be sure I’ll be sampling more grüners very soon.

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