Austria, home Mozart, Strauss and Schubert, Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper is also the home of a grape variety that makes some of the finest food wines in the world, Grüner Veltliner.
Grüner Veltliner makes white wine that taste like the sound of the Von Trapp family. Fresh lemon aromas and a hint of peach. They are crisp yet savoury with citrus flavours and slightly hint of minerals. It also has a streak of natural acidity, which is key because it forms the structure or skeleton of a wine on which everything else is held together.
It is the most versatile wines and when combining Grüner Veltiner with food the world is your oyster – or any other shellfish. It has the richness to accompany an array of rice dishes as well as grilled sausage with a lemony cream sauce, ‘wiener schnitzel’, typical in Austria. It is also perfect to go with salads and grilled vegetables or as an aperitif on its own.
Grüner is now quite a trendy wine to be found on the best wine lists around the world. If you like Godello or Albariño you will love Grüner Veltliner. It is also an good alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
The finest examples Grüner Veltliner come from the Wachau, hilly region with limestone and granite soils, Kremstal, where the vineyards rise above the Danube river and Kamptal, along the river Kamp. Top producers to look out for F.X. Pichler, Brundlmayer, Hirsh, Nigl also Frei Weingartner Wachau, one of the best cooperatives in Austria.
Top Austrian wines, particularly from the Wachau, do not come cheap but don’t let that put you off trying one. I recently tasted a selection of Austrian wines at Prowein, a huge wine fair held in Germany every March, I found a couple of real gems that are very good value for money.
Firstly, the wines from Weingut Zuschmann -Schofmann in the Weinviertal DAC, which means wine growing region. These are the flatlands near Vienna. Wife and Husband team of Else Zuschmann and Peter Schofmann make wines that are crisp with floral and mineral flavours, excellent value for money. Their vineyards are biodynamic as are those of Johannes Tapl of Weingut Trapl in the Carnuntum a small area 40km south east of Vienna. Here the vineyards are made up of stoney limestone, gravel, clay soil and benefit from the warm Pannonian microclimate and cool breezes from the nearby Danube river.
Finally a word about Austrian wine classification. It is similar to that in Germany where the wines are classified by degrees of ripeness or natural sugar at time of picking. Starting from Trocken (dry), Kabinett (off dry), Spatlese (slightly sweet), Auslese (sweeter) it goes on up to wonderful sweet wines known as Trockenbeerenauslese.
So add Grüner Veltliner to you list of wines that you have to try, you won’t be disappointed but choose a recommended winery.