If you think all white wines are the same, we have a surprise for you: Grüner Veltliner is not your mama’s white wine. Well, maybe it is, but that all depends on your mama. Grüner Veltliner is a rich, complex, delicious, and food friendly white wine that more people need to know about - and so we’ll tell you what the F it is, and we’ll also give you our impression of three reasonably priced wines that are worth seeking out. Grüner Veltliner is definitely a wine that needs to be on more restaurant menus, especially restaurants that serve spicy foods, because this wine is the perfect complement. The wine is mostly produced in Austria where it is highly regarded, and we are starting to see it produced in other regions of the world. It is a wine worth learning about because it is growing in reputation - and deservedly so. As an added bonus, we’ll talk about the anti-freeze scandal that hit Austrian wines in the 1980’s, and which gladly is well behind us today! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2021 Aichenberg Premium Grüner Veltliner, 2020 Domane Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Grüner Veltliner, and 2021 Pratsch Organic Grüner Veltliner.
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Episode 63: WTF is Grüner Veltliner? (Austrian wine, underrated white wine, rich and spicy white wine, great food wine, a fun wine to introduce to friends!) 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and should be easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines, and talk about wines in a way that regular people like us can understand. And we are proud to say we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine, who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining.
All right, Carmela, we are back again with our much beloved WTF episode series, known as the What the Fuck?!? series. In case you were wondering what WTF stood for. And this week, as we said in the intro, we are learning about and tasting a delicious and underrated wine from Austria called Grüner Veltliner. You have to say it correctly, Carmela. Let’s hear you say it. Just remember the umlaut over the u makes it kind of a combo of the vowel and “ooo” with your lips rounded, and the “v” sounds like an “f.”
Now, we have had Grüner Veltliner in the past, and we have liked it, but it has not quite yet become a staple for us, so today we are going to try 3 different Grüner Veltliners all from Austria to see if that will change in the near future.
And, as an extra bonus, all of the wines we are drinking today are not only under $20, they are all screw caps!!! Now, that may sound like a joke, but honestly, while I consider myself a bit of a wine snob, I am not at all a snob when it comes to screw caps. I think they are under used and underrated, but that is a topic for a different time.
So, back to not knowing much about Grüner Veltliner. I think one of the reasons that it has not quite made it into our close circle of wines is because, while it is not hard to find, and it is definitely not a wine that is very expensive, it is not a super common wine. It is not wine that immediately comes to mind for those of us in the US and many other countries. IT does not slip off of the tongue. It is a wine that is grown almost exclusively in Austria, and so, because it is not often made in other local regions, it is just less well known.
For example, because there are not a lot of Grüner Veltliner wine producers in the United States, we are just not exposed to it very much, and, because of that, we just are not that familiar with it. We don’t see it on a lot of wine lists at restaurants, and certainly not wine by the glass. There are no Austria wine sections in stores, and no Grüner Veltliner sections at most local wine shops. And, that continues to be something I keep banging the drum on - our taste in wine as a culture, and the wine we select to drink when we go to stores or restaurants, is so so so influenced by our regional and national wine markets. So, it’s not that we are offered the best wines in the world all the time, but that we are only offered a certain selection most of the time, and so that is what we know.
Which is why we love doing this podcast, and why we love love love this series. Along with its funny and outrageous name, it is a chance for us to learn about and try, and expose all of you out there in listening land, to new wines. Wines many of you have never heard of, or may have heard of but never tried. So, it’s about discovery! And learning! Which is just super exciting for us!
Plus, Austria is not exactly a place that comes to mind first when thinking about wine, and, while it is a tourist destination, is not on the same level with Italy, France, or Spain. According to our buddy ChatGPT, that I desperately hope is correct, Austria is just number 18 in terms of the countries that produce the most wine. So, we are also not flooded with Austrian wines, and we are not going on trips to Austria to taste the local cuisine like we do in other European countries like Italy and France and Spain. So, again, it is not a huge surprise that we are not super aware of Grüner Veltliner, but we are here to change that, people!
So, I think it is time that we learned a bit more about this wine, and we need to get to tasting and reviewing these wines we have chosen to share with you all . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? First, we want you to know how much we appreciate you listening to us, and we would love it if you would support our podcast by subscribing - and we want to give a huge shout out of thanks to all of you who have subscribed, we appreciate you so much! And, another great way to support us for free is to leave a nice rating and review on our website or on Apple Podcasts or other podcast service so we can continue to grow our listeners. Anything you are willing to do to show your support helps us a ton!
You can also follow us or reach out to us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or on CounterSocial and now on the Fountain app, and you can contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com - and we really do love hearing from you.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast - and we really do hope you are telling others about us, and this week we want you to tell anyone who is from, has recently been to, or is planning on going to Austria. And we want to know what they think of Grüner Veltliner
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: WTF is Grüner Veltliner? 10:14
Ok, Carmela, let’s learn a little about this wine with a great name called Grüner Veltliner. Now, most of Austria’s wine production is of white wines, which is right up your alley, and Grüner Veltliner is the most widely planted grape in the country - in fact, a third of all vineyards in Austria grow Grüner Veltliner. How about that?!?
The wines made from Grüner Veltliner tend to be dry and acidic, just like we like, and are often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The difference between Grüner Veltliner and these other wines is that it is often described as having spicy and peppery notes, with a more subtle fruit flavor and Sauv Blanc more complexity than a Pinot Gris or Grigio.
Most of the Austrian wine growing region is in the Eastern part of the country, which is where the famous city of Vienna is, and borders countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia. I will say that I have never been to Austria - but you have, right? Vienna is definitely on the list of cities I want to visit, and I would love to go to Austria. What do you remember about Austria? Anything?
Most Grüner Veltliner is grown in a few regions in this wine growing region of Austria, and the most famous is Wachau (pronounced Vah - khow), and at least one of our wines today is from that area. Wachau is a small small region in a narrow valley of the Danube, and it evidently is a sort of transition area between the Alps and the plains that lead into Hungary, and from what I read on the interwebs, and we have links to this and other information in our show notes, this unique terrain means that the nights can get cold air from the alps and warm air from the Danube.
Wachaua is considered the most prestigious wine growing area in Austria. Despite this high status, Wachau actually produces a relatively small amount of wine - only 3% of Austria’s grapes are grown in the area. And, while the majority of the wine grapes grown there are Grüner Veltliner, they also grow Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc which is known as Weissburgunder in German, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and a grape called Zweigelt which is another wine we need to do an episode on one of these days! So many wines to try!
Other well-known areas that grow Grüner Veltliner in Austria include Kremstal and Kamptal, and these are regions that are very close to Wachau. And, yes, I am pretending like I know what the hell I’m talking about! Kremstal borders Wachau to the east (and is supposed to have a bit of a warmer climate than Wachau), and Kamptal is just to the east of Kremstal,( and is a region that is even a little warmer than Kremstal, and is a place where red wine grapes are grown as well). so these areas are all right next to each other.
Grüner Veltliner tends to grow on slopes that are really steep, and evidently these slopes have very little soil, which is crazy so this wine tends to be a very minerally - and is sometimes described as “pure.” Grüner Veltliner has a reputation of being very food friendly because of its acidity, and while it is most often a still wine, they do make a bit of sparkling from it.
Even in the still versions, the wine can vary between pretty light to medium bodied. In terms of style, wines labeled "Steinfeder" or "Federspiel” are lighter and crisper wines, and "Smaragd" is a richer, more full-bodied style.
It is also believed to be a wine that dates back to the Roman times, so it’s been around for a while and it is indigenous to Austria. Although it has been around for a long time, it is only since the 1950s that it became popular in the country. And, I will tell a story in a little bit about how it has become more and more popular in more recent years.
Now this is really interesting, but its reputation has been steadily growing over the past 25 years or so, and in 2002 at a wine tasting organized by Jancis Robinson and Tim Atkin, two big names in the world of wine reviewing, Grüner Veltliner from Austria beat out several highly acclaimed Grand Crus from Burgundy - which if you don’t know would be white wines made from Chardonnay.
So, look, people. This is a wine you need to know. Ok?!?! Especially if you are a white wine lover!
Now, Carmela, there is a story about Austrian wine that I ran across while I was researching this episode, and I just have to tell the story, even though it is not specific to Grüner Veltliner. Do you want to hear it?!?
So here is the short version - in 1985, the reputation of Austrian wine took a massive hit when it was discovered that several wineries in Austria were using a substance called diethylene glycol in their wine production to increase the sweetness and body of the wine. Do you know what diethylene glycol is? Well, it is a toxic chemical, has been associated with several medication associated mass poisonings, and is an ingredient sometimes used in anti-freeze - which, I am just telling you is not something you want to drink in case you were curious - and so this came to be known as the anti-freeze scandal. And, it wasn’t super happy times for the Austrian wine industry. K?!?
After it was discovered, millions of bottles of wine were recalled, a number of people went to jail, and the Austrian wine industry collapsed. As would be expected, it took over a decade for it o recover, which, thankfully it did. Also, fortunately for the winemakers who got caught pulling this trick, it looked like the issue was discovered through testing before anyone got sick, but this could have been a real issue. Now, the only relation to this anti-freeze scandal and Grüner Veltliner is that after this happened, Austria started to focus more on dry white wines like Grüner Veltliner rather than the sweet wines that were caught up in the scandal. And so we are alive today to tell about it.
Ok, enough about all of that, let’s talk about the specific wines that we chose for this episode.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Grüner Veltliner Wines We Chose for This Episode 20:15
As usual, all the wines we have chosen for this episode are under $20, and in fact, all of them are under $15, and all of these wines are relatively easy to find and we know that because we found them all on wine.com. I have also bought Grüner Veltliner in grocery stores, and there is a very widely available Grüner Veltliner that is pretty good and comes in a 1 liter bottle called Lenz Moser. At least I think it is widely available - I have bought it in grocery stores here in Seattle, and you can find it at Total Wine as well.
And although we are not reviewing that wine today, we did review it in episode 29 which was Wines for Grilling Season, so check it out if you want to hear about that wine - which you rated an 8, Carmela, and I rated a 7, so there!
Now, one more note about Grüner Veltliner before we talk about the specific wines we are tasting. The Tasting Panel, whoever they are, says: People need to pay attention to these wonderful and reasonably priced Austrian wines. Reasonably priced and wonderful are perfect descriptors for wines we want to cover in our podcast, wouldn’t you say, Carmela?!?
The first wine we are going to review is called Aichenberg Premium Grüner Veltliner. The wine is made in an area just north of Vienna in a small area called Aichen, which the winery says makes very fruity and elegant wines. This winery is said to use sustainable farming, and is supposed to be relatively advanced in terms of technology and equipment.
This wine got a 90 rating from Wilfred Wong from wine.com, and he also gave this wine a 91 for the 2020 vintage. Other than that, however, I am not finding a ton of information about this wine. They call it premium, so let’s hope it’s premium!
The next wine we are going to try is called Domane Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Grüner Veltliner, and this one has had a lot of ratings from professional raters over time. The most recent was from the Tasting Panel who gave it a 94, but over the last 4 years, the wine was rated between 89 and 94, so this is considered a pretty good wine, and is pretty reasonably priced, too.
The winemaker says that this wine should be served well chilled, so refrigerator cold should be perfect, and that is how we are going to serve it!. The winemaker also claims that they are the big dogs in the Wachau region, and that theirs is the only winery in Wachau with wines from all of the most prestigious sites in the region.
Given the pedigree of this wine, and the area it is from, we should expect this wine to knock our full socks off.
Our last wine is called the Pratsch Organic Grüner Veltliner, and as expected the wine is made from 100% Certified Organic Grüner Veltliner grapes, and the Patsch winery have been organic since 1995, which is a long time - as long as we have been married. So, that feels like a really, really, really long time. On the wine.com website, they have description from the winemaker, and they talk a lot about not just organic wine production but also low intervention farming and production.
While I can’t tell exactly where this wine is from, it is evidently from an area in lower Austria. How that helps, I am not sure.
So, all in all, we are going to be trying wines from the most prestigious area of Austria of Wachau to a couple of areas North and South of Wachau, so we should get a pretty good range of terroir and styles and see what we think!
All right, enough of this talking - I think it’s time to get drinking! Whaddya say?!?
ARTICLES and LINKS
Grüner Veltliner Wine Pairing Tasting and Reviews 25:40
Wine: Aichenberg Premium Grüner Veltliner (Click here to buy this wine. Affiliate link)
Grapes: Grüner Veltliner
Professional Rating: WW 90
What we tasted and smelled in this Grüner Veltliner:
- On the nose: citrus, apple, stone, gasoline, sweet, tangy, lime, peach, stone fruit.
- In the mouth: spicy, flavorful, rich, spicy peach, peach pie, unfiltered spiced cider, cinnamon, medium-bodied with good mouthfeel
Food to pair with this Grüner Veltliner: spicy foods, spicy Asian foods, fried foods, could overpower fish, brie, pasta with white sauce. Feels like a fall food wine as well. Squash ravioli, mushroom ravioli.
(Here are some pairings from the interwebs: It's a great match for a wide range of cuisines, from spicy Asian dishes to traditional Austrian fare such as Wiener Schnitzel. It also pairs well with seafood, poultry, and salads.)
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and a 5 or 6 means we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 7/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Wine: Domane Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Grüner Veltliner (Click here to buy this wine. Affiliate link)
Region: Austria, Wachau
Producer: Domane Wachau
Grapes: Grüner Veltliner
Professional Rating: TP 94
What we tasted and smelled in this Grüner Veltliner:
- On the nose: Sweet, apple, citrus, some spice, stone fruit
- In the mouth: Spicy, very flavorful, good mouthfeel, some citrus bitterness, stone, peach, apricot, baking spices.
Food to pair with this Grüner Veltliner: Spicy Asian foods, pizza bianco, no red sauce, calzone, caesar salad with big croutons. A good brunch wine. Shellfish. Linguine con vongole. Steamed mussels and clams. Thanksgiving wine. A great food wine!
- Joe: 8/10
- Carmela: 8/10
Wine: Pratsch Organic Grüner Veltliner (Click here to buy this wine. Affiliate link)
Grapes: Grüner Veltliner
What we tasted and smelled in this Grüner Veltliner:
- On the nose: Very light, spice, peach, apricot, apple, stewed or baked pear, pear pastry, ripe pear.
- In the mouth: A touch effervescent, citrus, very little spice, grapefruit, juicy, some bitterness on the end, sparkling grape juice. Very acidic. More of a summer sipper. Different than the other two. Almost a wine spritzer. A wine you can put ice in.
Food to pair with this Grüner Veltliner: Fish, appetizers, light foods, not for a main meal. Nuts, fruit, chips a guacamole. A happy hour wine.
- Joe: 6/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Domane Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Grüner Veltliner
- Joe: Domane Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Grüner Veltliner
What is your impression of Grüner Veltliner?
Delicious, fun, rich, and worthy of becoming a regular choice on our wine list! A fun wine to share with people who may not know the wine and would be open to trying new wines.
Taste profiles expected from Grüner Veltliner 46:33
- Grüner Veltliner (Wine Folly)
- Yellow apple, pear, asparagus, white pepper, flint
- Some of what I read has been saying that Grüner Veltliner is starting to show less of the “peppery” notes and more lightly fruit.
- WW: aromas and flavors of dried earth and ripe apple
- Winery: shows peppery aromas supported by delicious apricot, lemon and apple flavors mark this Gruner Veltliner. A well-balanced wine with defined varietal character that ends with a mineral note under the fruit driven body.
- Domane Wachau
- TP: Classic, balanced, and stylish, with a bright mineral nose that joins citrus on the fresh and crisp palate
- Winery: The wine offers distinctive aromas of green apple, white pepper, hints of mango and delicate herbal notes, This Federspiel is a classic example of Gruner Veltliner with its medium-body crisp acidity, juicy fruits, and white spice on the finish
- Winery: On the nose, this wine is fruit forward with a touch of apple, peach and apricot with a slight spice. Fresh and tangy, fine spices, white pepper and round body
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 48:18
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