Eschewing fads, Austrian whites remain a summer pleasure
Pinot Grigio may enjoy universal name recognition, but don't overlook Austria's Grüner Veltliner whites for refreshing, deliciously crisp, summer thirst quenchers.
If you're asking “Grüner what?,” you're not alone.
Grüner Veltliner (pronounced groon-er felt-leener ) enjoyed a turn in the American spotlight back in the late 1990s. Hot-shot sommeliers — always looking to “discover” the next “it” trend — briefly embraced the wines. As with most fads, other wines quickly grabbed attention. Grüner Veltliner slipped back without firmly penetrating American consumers' consciousness.
Austrian winemakers remain unfazed and continue producing. Exports actually play a relatively minor role, so the vicissitudes of international demand do not undermine Grüner Veltliner 's firm place in Austria's domestic wine culture.
Many producers operate taverns at their wineries and in Vienna, where Austrians and tourists enjoy local delicacies such as schnitzel and sausages with unpretentious, young Grüner Veltliners by the pitcher. Frivolity and pleasure reign supreme, sentiments no doubt blessed by great Bacchus himself.
So pay no heed to feckless sommeliers. Rather, focus on discovering and enjoying dedicated Austrian producers' Grüner Veltliners.
You'll recognize the wines from the easy-to-open metal screwcaps vividly branded with the red-and-white Austrian colors. Serve the wines well-chilled either as aperitifs or with all manner of picnic fare for a little summer time pleasure of your own.
Winegrowers Sylvia and Martin Hugl's 2012 Hugl Weine Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria (Luxury 46425; $13.99 for 1 liter) comes from vines in the Niederösterreich region just north of Vienna. The estate's southwest-facing, sloped vineyards feature loamy soils rich in minerals, a trait that promotes Grüner Veltliner's crisp, fresh fruitiness. To ensure quality grapes, the Hugls limit yields by thinning the crop with green harvesting.
Fermentation under temperature control frames the fruit's terrific aromas and flavors. Aging before bottling on the lees, i.e., spent yeast cells, in tanks and older, large barrels adds creaminess without imparting intrusive woody traits.
The pale-yellow color offers quince and white-pepper aromas. Quince and apple flavors balance with zesty acidity through a creamy, dry finish. Recommended.
One of Austria's top young winemakers, Johannes Hirsch, offers the 2011 Hirsch “Veltliner No.1” Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria (Luxury 46443; $20.99). In German, “hirsch” means “stag.” Johannes flashes whimsical Austrian wine humor with a bottle label depicting a cartoon stag blowing a horn. The savvy marketing also helped boost sales abroad.
Hirsch cultivates vineyards in the Kamptal, a highly regarded subregion of the Niederösterreich. The vineyards' south-facing slopes provide outstanding sun exposure and drainage, while the loess soils — fine yellowish brown silt with plentiful mineral particles — lend steely acidity and mineral notes.
To capture the fruit's innate complex aromas and flavors, Hirsch follows biodynamic principles that eschew treating the vines chemically. Natural compost applications and good, old-fashion physical work in the vineyards prevail. For this “introductory” Grüner Veltliner, Hirsch incorporates fruit grown by a fellow winemaker using similar vineyard practices.
In the winery, Hirsch avoids new oak barrel aging again to highlight the fruit's terrific natural traits. The pale-yellow color with subtle green hints unfolds quince and apple aromas. Grapefruit and quince flavors with creamy notes balance with brisk acidity through the fruit, dry finish. Recommended.
With the 2012 Hielder Grüner Veltliner “Löss,” Niederösterreich, Austria (Luxury 46442; $20.99), veteran winemaker Ludwig Hielder favors a ripe and voluptuous, yet beautifully balanced, style.
Hielder takes full advantage of his well-placed vineyards in Kamptal by allowing the grapes to ripen fully over an extended growing season. Like his colleague Hirsch, Hielder favors a “sustainable” approach with natural composts and integrated pest management. The efforts succeed by placing Grüner Veltliner's authentic personality on full display.
In the winery, Hielder's use of natural yeasts allows the fruit to sing without distortion. The wine then rests on the lees which Hielder stirs regularly to add extra creamy layers.
The wine's light-gold color offers forward grapefruit, apple and peach aromas with intriguing peppery hints. Ripe citrus, apple and white-pepper flavors balance with rich acidity, mouthwatering mineral notes and pleasing creaminess. The fruity, yet dry, finish lingers nicely. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers running back blunt about focusing on football
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- Pirates down Cardinals, inch closer in wild-card chase
- Steelers are on fast track in NFL
- Why Steelers will — or won’t — snap out of their funk
- Previewing Week 1 high school football matchups
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- I-79 paving to close ramps in Collier, Robinson
- Inbound Liberty Tunnel closed
- Penguins GM insists coach Johnston was no afterthought
- For Steelers outside linebacker Jones, size is not an obstacle