Although European varietals like Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot have found much fertile ground worldwide, little-known grapes flourish among smaller, insular populations. Local growers have been perfecting their craft for centuries, and every so often, they are noticed.
An exemplary “fruit” of this painstaking fieldwork is Grüner Veltliner. Tiny Austria regards this grape with nearly the same national esteem accorded to the edelweiss. And, stateside, the influential Culinary Institute of America has called it an “Emerging Wine of Europe,” citing its food-friendly aspects.
Typically characterized by its pronounced mineral flavors and herbaceous aromas, it’s not as austere or stony as some of the more prominent Sauvignon Blancs. And it’s perhaps more versatile than the widely available Pinot Grigio.
Many Grüner Veltliners have a strong, citrusy character; fruitier offerings are so versatile they can swing from shellfish to roast pork and on to spicier Asian dishes.
A great example is the Meinklang from the Neusiedlersee region of Austria. It’s available at Cellar Rat Wine Shop in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood for $13.
“The producer is a biodynamic grower, and Demeter-certified,” says Cellar Rat’s owner, Dean Schlabowske. “The wine is crisp and bright with Grüner’s classic citrus, floral and white pepper accents.”
Another option is the Domane Wachau Grüner Veltliner, which is harvested from vineyards on plains adjacent to the storied Danube River. It’s the quintessential white all the way around, from the aroma of pears, to a crisp, tart and citrusy flavor. The apparent contrast matches the many different flavors in a classic preparation of Choucroute Garni.
Still another delicious Grüner is the Lois that comes from Fred Loimer. It’s a dry white, with lots of minerality. The acidity and pronounced flavor of tart apples and a hint of spice is a nice foil to the saltiness in cured meats and sausages. Really fresh and tasty – have before dinner, too.
For more information about Grüner Veltliner, plus recipes, click here to read this article from The Nibble.