Photo Credit: Marcus Wiesner
Grüner Veltliner... where should I start. Okay. I guess here. I first fell in love with Grüner when I realized how well it paired with intensely flavoured Caribbean food and conversation! I began to drink more of this grape and venture around Austria to understand what each region had to offer by way of Grüner Veltliner.
Nibbles about Austria
Austria has a continental climate and celebrates warm summer days and cool nights, and this climate makeup during the growing season allows the grapes to thrive. It borders Germany to the north and Italy to the south, and influence on culture can be seen from these neighbouring countries, most notably the 'Austrian German' language spoken here.
Map courtesy of Austrian Wine
There are 17 Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) in Austria, but the ones we see here in North America are:
Weinviertel - received DAC designation in 2002 and is the first DAC in Austria
Wachau - received DAC designation in 2020
Kremstal - received DAC designation in 2007
Kamptal - received DAC designation in 2008
All of the above DACs are beside each other along the Danube (Donau) River.
Though there are 24 white and 14 red grapes approved for use by law in Austra, the grapes they are most internationally known for are Riesling, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Saint Laurent, and of course Grüner Veltliner.
Back to Grüner Veltliner
Grüner Veltliner produces a dry white wine and is the most planted grape in Austria, and arguably, the most internationally known. From Austrian Grüner Veltliner, you'll find common traits of lemon, lime, grapefruit, and nectarine, and you'll even pick up white pepper, ginger, and honey in more choice expressions. Grüner is a wine high in acidity and, depending on the quality level, is a highly structured white wine.
When looking to pick up a bottle of Grüner Veltliner for a gift or meal, look for wines labeled with 'Reserve' from Kamptal and Kremstal or 'Smaragd' from Wachau. Unlike most wine regions, using the word Reserve on your label actually means something by Austrian wine law and indicates the wine must have at least 13% alcohol (ABV. These wines, in general, have a bit more complexity and weight but still give you that burst of acidity that goes so well with many foods. If your pairing dish is intensely flavoured and hot from the spices used, look for wines at 13% alcohol or lower. In Wachau, you're still in that Smaragd range. That indicates wines must be a minimum of 12.5% alcohol, but in Kamptal and Kremstal, look for wines labeled as Classic, indicating the wines are required to have a minimum of 12% alcohol.