Austria loves its own wine. And it loves none more than the white Grüner Veltliner. Never heard of it? Little wonder. It is virtually an Austrian original, made from a grape almost no other wine-producing country grows. In Austria, however, it is the signature wine and the most widely planted grape, covering more than a third of the country’s vineyards. I would not be surprised if other wine regions begin to pay attention. It is, after all, one of the most versatile and flavorful of grapes, producing wines that range from fresh and simple to rich and complex. Grüner Veltliner is worth discovering.
Nearly all of Austria’s wine districts grow Grüner Veltliner: The best vintages come from the northeastern part of the country, notably Wachau, Kamptel-Donauland and Kremstal.
For an introduction to Grüner Veltliner, I recommend Loimer “Lois” 2002 ($12). Pale in color, it has an aroma of freshly cut grapefruit and lime, and, in the mouth, a lively acidity and sprightly, fresh fruity flavors. The name “Lois,” is short for Langenlois, the town in Kamptel where the Loimer winery is located.
At the other end of the range, I suggest the full-bodied, rich, spicy, complex and vibrant Leth Grüner Veltliner Steinagrund 2002 Reserve ($15) from Wagram, Donauland. It is a wine of exquisite clarity.
Fuchs Grüner Veltliner 2002 ($18), from Burgenland in east Austria, is also full-bodied and supple, with a nose reminiscent of pear among other fruits and a taste dense with fruits, spice and white pepper.
The Wachau district has created its own quality categories: Steinfeder for its lightest wines, Federspiel for higher quality and Smaragd for its finest wines.Two good examples from the Domaïne Wachau winery are its crisp Grüner Veltliner Federspiel 2002 ($13), with a hint of pear in the aroma and strong accents of fruit flavors in the taste; and Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 2002 ($24), with its ripe pear nose, voluptuous body and an intense interplay of spice and pepper.
Austrians say that when they are depressed, they go to a Heurige (wine tavern), where the music and Gemütlichkeit take care of all problems.
A glass of Grüner Veltliner helps too.
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