A couple of years ago, I sat at a large table. The Owner and Proprietor of the winery was at the head, his darling wife next to him, a few of my coworkers and our Winemaker filled the rest of the table. We were engaged in a “blending session,” where we were tasting all of the new vintages of our wines, creating blends of the wines and sampling juice that was for sale on the bulk market to add to our collection.
The blending session is always one of my favorite things to do. It’s the time of year wineries get to be creative and strategic. Not only do they construct what ultimately goes in the bottle, but they plan out the year ahead. For the juice they purchase, they build a wish list of wines they would like to have in their portfolio. Then on the day of the blending session, they get to try them. It’s like Christmas day for adults!
At this particular blending session, one unexpected varietal was poured for us to try: Grüner Veltliner. Our Marketing Director and I immediately perked up. Grüner Veltliner is known as an Austrian varietal. It is one of the largest grown grapes in Austria and that region of the world, but is lesser known elsewhere. We were about to try Grüner Veltliner grown in California. Things just got interesting!
Our glasses were filled and slowly, sounds of delight echoed around the table. While Austrian Grüner Veltliners are usually crisp and taste primarily of minerals and spices, this one was bolder. As with most California wines, fruit was the dominant feature. It tasted of grapefruit and green apples with just a hint of minerals and white pepper in the finish. It was delicious!
At the time, our owner was concerned it might not sell. While the wine was fantastic, the varietal was not well known. Customers usually want to buy what they know. However, we all assured him selling the Grüner Veltliner would be easy. The wine was so delectable, we were certain with one taste, people would love it. With the added mystique that only 20 acres of that varietal were planted in California, and there were only a total of 30 acres in the entire United States, we knew we had something unique and desirable. Sure enough, we sold out of the wine within a few months.
Before this experience, Grüner Veltliner was always one of my favorite “go to” wines if I could find it on a wine list. The crispness of the wine makes it the perfect wine for food. It goes well with almost anything. It’s fantastic with shellfish and seafood. The acidity of the wine complements most cheeses. Of course, it is the ultimate companion wine for sausages, Schnitzel and goulash – the traditional food eaten in Austria.
While I’m not sure where you can find a California grown Grüner Veltliner at this time, Austrian grown Grüner Veltliners are fairly accessible. There were several at my local wine shop, priced from $10 to $20.
I picked up a 2014 Grüner Veltliner Langenlois Kamptal by Loimer for $20. The wine has a golden hue. It has the slightest scents of chalk and honey. There is a natural effervescence you can see in the glass. While the California Grüner Veltliner tasted like grapefruit, this Austrian Grüner Veltliner has a light sweetness to it, but it mostly tastes like minerals, spice and chalk, with pepper on the finish. The acidity of this wine is fantastic! I would pair this wine with oysters, pungent cheeses, and even barbecue or ribs.
Whether it is grown in California or its native Austria, Grüner Veltliner is one of my favorite wines to drink with food. It complements the meal rather than standing out on its own. I highly recommend it.