SnoothPVA: Terroir Driven Grüner Veltliners of Austria Create Food Friendly Wines with Distinctive Flavors
My first experience with Austria’s signature wine, Grüner Veltliner, was not actually one that was grown and produced in Austria, but in Oregon. Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, located in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, produces an outstanding Grüner Veltliner; in fact, owner Steve Reustle was the first to plant Grüner Veltliner in Oregon. At my very first swirl and sip, I became a huge fan of this alluring white wine with notable aromas and flavors of pineapple, white peach, herbs, white pepper and spice. The solid acidic backbone, mineral core and super focused and fresh characteristics were simply divine. From that point on, the white wine of my choice has been and continues to be Grüner Veltliner. Imagine my excitement when I found out that one of the Master Classes I’d be attending during the Snooth People’s Voice Wine Awards was with famed award-winning Austrian Sommelier, Aldo Sohm, who would focus solely on different style Austrian Grüner Veltliners.
Our group of wine writers gathered in Soho’s hip and trendy space for meetings and small gatherings called Meet at the Apartment, where Sommelier Aldo started our class with the topic of terroir. Much like in Oregon, Austrian wines are very terroir driven and take on characteristics that are unique to the region’s environment where the fruit is grown. Grüner Veltliners can range from being bone dry to sweet or super light and fruity to rich, bold and complex. Common aromas and flavors often include tropical fruits, yellow fruits, stone fruit, green grass, green apple, lemon and white pepper. Another similarity that Austria has with Oregon is that both regions are very green minded. Most vineyards are organically farmed, while many vineyard owners farm biodynamically and follow the strict guidelines of Demeter – a comprehensive farming system. I was enamored with Aldo’s enthusiasm for his country and the Austrian wines, his presentation about the terroir and soils of the wine regions in Austria was outstanding. Aldo’s passion for the geology of Austria’s wine country shone.
Before tasting an array of Grüner Veltliners that were being poured into our glasses, we began the class with a welcome glass of Austrian Pepper – Pfaffl 2011 Brut ($13.99). A perfect appertif, this Grüner Veltliner sparkling wine had many of the classic Grüner aromas: white pepper, pears and loads of spicy notes. With a silky mouthfeel and a shot of lemon zest on the finish, this Brut makes for a very friendly food wine. With an immediate craving for my favorite Oregon made Gorgonzola cheese, Oregonzola, I knew I’d need to seek out a bottle of this once I got back home.
Other than Aldo’s enthusiasm, I was completely captivated by the diversified characteristics found in each of the Grüner Veltliners. Although they all displayed some of the commonly found attributes like white pepper and light fruit; individually, each showed unique qualities that truly made all of the wines stand out from one another. These outward elements and traits had me craving foods with each an every sip – I love it when a wine can conjure up images of steamed clams, smoked salmon and a Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich, to name a few.
Stadlmann 2011 Grüner Veltliner ($16): Juicy apples and clean minerality were the core of this wine. It was crisp, fresh and offered a bright, zesty acidic finish. This would be the ultimate wine on a hot summer day with a bucket of steamed clams.
Obere Steigan-Huber 2011 Grüner Veltliner ($22): In my notes, I have streamlined in all capital letters. With loads of minerality, this was vibrant and very focused while offering up-front stone fruit flavors that were enhanced by a hint of white pepper and a long, smooth finish. I immediately thought about a salad I made last summer: Chop Salad with Corn, Snap Peas and Bacon.
Birthal – Ebner Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner 2011 ($19): When Aldo described this one as rustic, I couldn’t agree more. It didn’t display the streamlined and clean qualities as the first two; however, it was equally delicious in it’s own unique way. Green grass, grapefruit and pepper were followed by floral notes that ended with a shot of lemon zest. This would be excellent with a charcuterie platter; especially one with fresh salami from my favorite salumeria in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Fino In Fondo.
Vom Schloss – Graf Hardegg Grüner Veltliner 2011 ($18): Intense and alluring tropical fruit aromas and flavors were followed by a super zesty, spicy finish. The mouthfeel was rich and exuberant and the finish really lingered. I know asparagus is a hard food to pair wine with, but this one made me think of one of my very popular dishes I make at home that even my kids love: Best-Ever Asparagus Ham Rolls.
Kreutles – Veyder Malberg Grüner Veltliner 2011 ($30): This was one of my favorites from the tasting because it had intense, powerful flavors but managed to hold on to a unique finesse and elegance. Exuberant aromas of pineapple, mango and white pepper folded into savory characteristics on the palate. Great depth of character and solid acidity created a super spicy finish that was long lasting, and I loved its distinctively unique qualities. The savory characteristics made me immediately think this would pair wonderfully with a well-known but hard to catch fish here in Oregon, which is also known as freshwater salmon: Steelhead. Smoked Steelhead would be divine with this wine.
Sohm & Kracher Grüner Veltliner 2011 ($38): This wine took on a life all its own, and although it’s a young wine, it had characteristics that made it appear to be aged. What really popped in aromas and flavors were wet stone, lemon pudding and delicate minerality – powerful flavors behind delicate textures. It’s elegance and delicacy reminded me of an appetizer I had recently tried at a friends house: Tea Smoked Chicken – which had loads of flavors from ingredients like Szechuan peppercorns, five spice powder and Asian chili sauce, but the presentation was delicate and simply lovely.
Moric St. Georgener Grüner Veltliner 2009 ($49): Wet stone and lemon pudding were highlighted by rich pineapple, pear and golden apples. Much like the first three we sampled, this was very clean and streamlined, but the acid was super intense on the finish (which I love) ending with a long, tangy, palate pleasing finish. Being a fan of Sushi, I thought California Rolls would pair perfectly with the intense finish on this one.
Dürnsteiner Liebenberg Smaragd – FX Pichler Grüner Veltliner 2011 ($72): Aromas of baked apples, spices and yellow fruits along with streamlined acidity and a burst of lemon-lime zest on the mid palate, this one finished with a long, silky, spicy, luscious finish – wow. A perfect pairing would be with my favorite California BLT recipe.
Stockkultur – Prager Grüner Veltliner 2011 ($90): Buttered toast, ripe pears, fresh tobacco and hints of caramel on the nose flowed onto the palate in waves. Gripping acidity on the finish leaves the palate refreshed. Again, bacon came to mind as a good pairing, and I thought Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a delicious Quiche Lorraine would be heavenly with this wine.
Tradition – Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2010 ($50): The aromas on this one were captivating and pronounced – honey crisp apples, peaches and wet stones. Flavors mimicked the aromas and the mouth feel was truly luxurious. The finish was lush, juicy and simply divine. At first sip, I was craving Asian food, and I remembered one of my favorite Asian Shrimp Salad recipes – the two would be an unbeatable match.
Snooth PVA: Wines of Austria (Benito’s Wine Reviews)
Gruner Veltliner: A Delicious Puzzle (VineSleuth Uncorked)
So You Think You Know Grüner (Vindulge)
Grüner Love Featuring the Stadlmann Grüner Veltliner 2011 (The Reverse Wine Snob)
#Snooth PVA: Wines of Austria Master Class (My Vine Spot)
My 2013 Vinous Revelation: Grüner Veltliner (The V.I.P. Table)
Lingering Flavors, Lingering Questions: Tasting Grüner Veltliner with Aldo Sohm (Meg Maker for Palate Press)