This month’s blog post comes from Kathleen Donnelly, a member of the Balanced Tribe who’s not sorry to see winter in the rearview. I’ll see you here next month. –Stephanie
I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s a long slog between the dimming of the last holiday lights and the emergence of the first crocus. Then one morning in March it happens: the clouds part, or at least rise up off the top of our heads, and it seems as if the lights have snapped on again.
See ya, brooding red wines of winter. Hello, Grüner Veltliner!
One of the signature grapes of Austria, Grüner Veltliner produces a dry, food-friendly white wine that’s known for its high acidity, which gives it a snap that seems to sizzle on your tongue. Speaking very generally, Grüner Veltliners come in two broad flavor categories, citrusy and zesty and nutty and spicy, and it’s that acidity that makes Grüner Veltliner a match for two springtime foods that are notoriously hard to pair with wine: artichokes and asparagus.
In other words, if you’re in the Balanced Tribe—those of us who love citrus and salads—it’s time to rejoice. (Unsure of your Tribe? Take our extremely entertaining quiz and start getting personalized wine recommendations today.)
Feelin’ groovy: the lineup
Before we get to our tasting results, let’s get the obvious question out of the way: What’s with the umlaut? German might look daunting, but French isn’t exactly a breeze and you’ve mastered saying Cabernet Sauvignon, right? So, don’t be shy, say it “GRU-ner VELT-lee-ner.” Or you could go with the nickname I saw a couple of times while putting together this tasting: GruVe, pronounced “groovy.”
Far out. Now let’s get down to tasting. Here’s our lineup:
- Berger 2015 Grüner Veltliner (Austria). $13 (1 liter). Like many wineries in the region, Berger puts this Grüner Veltliner in 1-liter bottles, the better for sharing with a happy crowd.
- Pratsch 2016 Grüner Veltliner (Austria). $14 (1 liter). Made with organic grapes, this wine comes from a family-run winery in lower Austria.
- WT Vintners 2014 Grüner Veltliner (Washington State). $20. The only new world wine in our tasting, the grapes for WT Vintners well-reviewed GruVe come from the Columbia Gorge AVA.
- Nigl 2015 Grüner Veltliner Freiheit (Austria). $22. This wine from an established producer of GruVe’s and Rieslings achieved a rating of 89 points from Wine Enthusiast.
The results: springtime in a glass
Grüner Veltliners can stand up to aging, but for this tasting, we included bottles that are drinkable right now. In fact, the relatively low alcohol levels of the Austrian wines—between 11.5 and 12 percent—along with their affordable prices, their ability to pair with food and their easy-open screw top caps, make them delicious candidates for porch pounders. The Washington state wine comes in at 13 percent alcohol, which to my mind puts it over the line for “all day” drinking. It was an outlier (in a good way) in other departments as well. More about that below.
Balanced Tribe members were in heaven with this tasting overall, but if we had to pick a favorite, it’d be the Nigl. With scents of lemongrass and wet stone and a very slight effervescent quality, the wine lived up to Grüner Veltliner’s reputation as “springtime in a glass.” Tasters picked out flavors of peppery greens as well as a slight floral sweetness, and on tasting with food, maybe even a hint of bubblegum. The Developed Tribe liked this one, too, ranking it first overall in a tight contest.
The Developed Tribe’s close second went to the Pratsch organic wine. They enjoyed the peachy scents and flavors and liked it better with food than on its own.
The night’s most intriguing glass
The most interesting wine of the evening for this group of tasters was our entrant from Washington State. Nearly everyone found this wine intriguing, especially when paired with Stilton cheese studded with apricots, which sent its vanilla, caramel, and fig flavors soaring and changed several opinions from “OK” to “fabulous.” Those trending toward the Complex Tribe picked this one tops over all, and it was certainly the most complex pour of the night. On its own, our group smelled and tasted a mix of vanilla, citrus, and plastic, and our responses were muted. But pair it with food, and its relatively rich flavors make it a winner.
That leaves the Berger wine—and the Accessible Tribe. On the whole, our group liked Berger’s wine, identifying strong notes of grapefruit and white pepper both in its scent and on tasting it. We just didn’t like it quite as well as our other selections. It seems to me that Accessible Tribe members, with your more delicate palates, might like this one the best. Unfortunately, we had no Accessible members among us. Next time, Accessibles?
Until then, here’s to springtime and long, light-filled evenings with groovy friends. Cheers!