How the Gruner Stole Christmas: Austria’s White Wine is a Holiday Treat

By Melissa Pulvermacher

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to eat, drink and be merry!

When stocking up for those holiday parties, we all have our usual go-to wine selections, but with so many options, it may just be worth your while to venture out and try something new.

For this holiday, consider looking to Austria for new selections.

Austria is really hitting the world stage with quality wine production and while they may not be producing mass amounts, we are now seeing more and more in our market here in Ontario and the wine is certainly worth paying attention to.

Approximately one third of Austria’s vineyards are planted with red grape varieties including the Austrian specialty, Zweigelt and the sommelier-loved, Blaufränkisch.

If you’re not sure about these hard-to-pronounce varietals, a small amount of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is planted and produced as well.

Most of Austria’s wine production is white and while some of your recognizable varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are grown and produced, the varietal dominating the vineyards and my holiday food pairings this year is the Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

5 Fun Grüner Facts

  1. Grüner’s mother plant is Traminer.
  2. Up until the mid 1980s, Grüner was only produced as a low-quality bulk wine in large jugs nicknamed the “Doppler”
  3. Grüner’s profile typically has pepper spice and bright stone fruit including pear-drop and crisp green apple.
  4. Grüner is the most widely planted grape in all of Austria.
  5. Grüner is one of the most versatile white wines for food pairings.

When it comes to pairing with your holiday food, which wine goes best with the variety of dishes from appetizers to the vegetables and turkey?

While there may be a perfect wine for every dish, if you’re looking for something versatile to compliment the entire meal, I’ve recently discovered that Grüner might just be the perfect pairing for the occasion.

Grüner is a dry, white wine that is often clean, fresh and palate cleansing, although some sweeter representations can be found. Think Sauvignon Blanc aromatics and Pinot Gris texture.

Grüner Veltliner sets itself apart from other varietals with its ability to remain austere and fresh with added layers of texture and mouth-feel.

This “texture” gives the wine more body and allows it to stand up to a range of food.

My favourite pairing thus far has been Grüner with a classic holiday turkey. The hardiness of the turkey with the oily weight of the Grüner go incredibly well together.

Not a meat eater? Grüner matches just as well with most fish dishes and all vegetables (even the tough-to-pair asparagus dishes).

As I tested out these pairings for myself, Grüner impressed with me its versatility across the table.

Grüner also comes in a range of styles including sparkling, slightly sweet and dessert.

Even more importantly, Grüner can be found in the LCBO or on local agent portfolios at all price points.

Basic, fresh and simple Grüner for your aunt who drinks more than one bottle to 1er (Premier Cru) expressions from single vineyards recognized for producing incredibly complex and terroir-driven juice for the wine geeks and quality seekers.

Grüner Top Picks

Rabl Grüner Veltliner Spiegel, Kamptal

Available through agent in Ontario, this Rabl was my top selection for price and value. For $20, you cannot go wrong. Very soil driven with flint, smoke and depth. The Rabl Terrassen ($15.95) was also very approachable and fresh.

Laurenz V. Friendly Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal

Also available through agent in Ontario, this Laurenz V. made my top picks for its incredible freshness. For $19.95, this is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. Fruit expressive on the palate and easy drinking.

Dürnberg Falkenstein Tradition Grüner Veltliner

This lees-aged Grüner was very classic in style with a lovely palate texture and overall complexity for the price. For $18.95, if you’re going to choose only one Grüner to try, start here. Available in Vintages at the LCBO.

Nigl Gartling Grüner Veltliner

Available through the agent in Ontario, this Grüner is a beautifully made wine. Typicity and elegance. If you’re looking for something clean, fresh and simple, Nigl should be your go-to; especially for $20.

Leth Brunnthal Erst Lage Grüner Veltliner

Believe it or not, this premium 1er Grüner is only $22.95 and available through agent in Ontario. An incredibly round palate with a nutty note stemming from obvious extended lees ageing. This Grüner is for those looking for texture and depth derived from winemaking.

Huber Markus Terrassen and Alte Setzen Grüner Veltliner

Huber is one of my favourite producers as they are consistent with quality. Both of these are available through agent. Delivering on value, for only $19.95, the Terrassen is a layered wine with flint, minerality and more ripe fruit than the rest.

The Alte Setzen was my favourite Grüner of the entire lot. This 1er expression is worth every penny of its $35 price tag. Layered complexity and with a sense of terroir shining through, this one is for the wine geeks and sommeliers in your life.

If even Grüner is too far outside of your wine comfort-zone, I’ve been known to rave about Riesling as my beloved noble varietal and Austria stands as one of my favourite regions for Riesling production. The terroir-driven representations of this grape are absolutely stunning and certainly worth trying if you can find them.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of trying 2014 Domäne Wachau Smaragd Riesling ($37.24) and it of course stole the show with its elegance, balance and layered complexity of terroir and fruit.

If you aren’t gaga for Grüner yet, explore the Rieslings of the region.

Either way, continue to taste through new regions and allow your palate to expand. You certainly won’t run out of new wines from new places to explore.

Happy holidays!

 

Melissa Pulvermacher

Educated through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Melissa Pulvermacher is a Wine Writer and Personal Sommelier for her business, Pulvino Wine. Melissa also works with a local wine agency as Import and Logistics Manager and teaches WSET courses at The University of Guelph.

Inspired by the complex world of food and wine, Melissa considers herself forever in pursuit of something new to learn and experience.

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