When Jennifer  told me she was going to be providing an introduction to Grüner wine in today's guest blog I was thrilled. I was introduced to Grüner wines a couple of years ago by a family friend who spent time living in Austria, and it delightfully fulfilled my desire for a refreshing, smooth, and crisp drier white wine.
Since that time, I've introduced almost everyone with whom I've shared a glass of wine, to this famous white grape. It's an understatement saying that it's a crowd pleaser. Not one person, after giving it a taste for the first time, has turned it away. Now that the warmer days of spring have arrived, this will be my go-to wine. If you haven't given it a try, I have a feeling you may have just been introduced to your new best friend.
Easter candy and spring decorations are out in stores and I’m getting notices for warm weather cookbooks. Spring has sprung! And as the seasons change, so do our tastes in wine. The recent warm weather has made me think of a few spring-like wines I recently tasted with another Master of Wine, Christy Canterbury. Christy is an Austrian wine fanatic and we tasted through white wines made from Austria’s famous white grape, Grüner Veltliner.
Grüner Veltliner (pronounced Groo-ner Velt-leaner) is known for making crisp white wines with citrus and stone fruit flavors such as grapefruit and nectarines. It can be light-bodied in some versions or more concentrated and rich, such as the Steinfeder or Smaragd style in Wachau respectively. However, most of the time it is middle of the road in terms of weight, which makes it a very crowd-pleasing wine.
It’s also unique as a white because Grüner Veltliner has a spice to it—white pepper. I don’t mean to say that white pepper spice is added in the wine making process. It’s a distinct flavor characteristic of the grape itself. If you don’t know what white pepper smells like, pick some up at the supermarket, and give it a sniff. Then take some Grüner Veltliner and smell it. Notice the scent now?
Some people in the trade have told me that it also smells of lentils. Personally, I don’t smell this in Grüner Veltliner, but for those of you out there who love lentils, you may notice a hint of it in the wine.
The grapes origins are in Austria, but more recently we’ve seen it in other places around the world. Though we don’t see a lot of it in the States yet, after tasting some new varieties from New Zealand, I’d say this little grape has promise there.
In the trade, it’s simply known as Grüner and I’ve heard many people call it Gru-Vee (sounds like “groovy”). Whatever it’s called, over the last decade, Grüner has become a little darling of sommeliers because of its crowd-pleasing qualities, crowd-pleasing price, and versatility with food pairing.
If you haven’t had this wine, you should put it on your list for spring. Below are a few crowd-pleasing Grüner suggestions as well as food and wine pairings for Grüner in general.
2010 Berger Grüner Veltliner ($14) - Aromas of stone and a hint of citrus fruit. Mineral notes and white pepper spice come through on the nose and palate as does a light floral scent. Refreshing acidity with medium body and finesse through the finish.
2009 HirschGrüner Veltliner Kamptal ($13) - Citrus fruit aromas with a slight hint of stone fruit. Shows some old world restraint with notes of minerals. A light bodied and crisp white wine with notes of white pepper on the finish.
2011 Cooper’s Creek “The Groover”, Gisborne, New Zealand ($16) - Ripe citrus and nectarine aromas with notes of white flowers, white pepper and slight lentil note. On the palate it has medium body with refreshing acidity and nice fruit concentration.
“Grüner's zesty, peppery character pairs brilliantly with the first veggies of spring, as well as the lighter dishes we all start to eat in earnest as we're looking to shape up for summer weather. I particularly like the lighter, crisper wine style with white asparagus shoots.” —Christy Cantebury MW
One of the best pairings I’ve had with Grüner (now don’t laugh) is Wiener Schnitzel, a breaded and fried veal cutlet that’s pounded thin. The pairing works not only because it too is Austrian but also because there is balance and contrast. The veal balances with the wine in weight, meaning that it doesn’t over power the wine, and the wine’s crisp acidity cuts through the richness of the fried breading. Additionally, the contrast of the flavor of the veal makes the fruit of the wine pop. How to use this in the everyday for you and me? It would also work with fried chicken cutlets!
Signing Off Gratified by Grüner,
Renee, Jennifer, & Christy
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is a Master of Wine and Certified Spirits Expert. @JediWineMaster  on Twitter, she is quickly rising as one of media’s most-featured experts on wine and spirits. Jennifer has trained thousands in the industry, hosts two series with The Great Courses, and is the author of two upcoming books in 2012.