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Grüner Veltliner made its first big splash on the American wine market a decade or so ago, when inexpensive, crisp, citrus-zipped white wines made from the grape variety began popping up on wine lists and retail shelves.
Its combination of refreshing, mouthwatering acidity, bright lemon-lime flavors, and hint of herbs made it appealing to fans of Sauvignon Blanc, yet it was different enough to set it apart. Combine that with a brilliant marketing campaign from the industry overall — some producers adopted tongue-in-cheek labels, many replete with eye-catching graphics — and prices that made even well-crafted ones remarkably affordable, and the stage was set for Grüner Veltliner to make a serious splash.
What is Grüner Veltliner Wine?
Grüner Veltliner wine is made from the grape variety of the same name. It is most famously produced in Austria, where many professionals assert it reaches its peak of quality and expressiveness, but it is also grown and produced in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. In addition, Grüner Veltliner from Northern Italy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand represent unique alternatives to Austrian Grüner. And, shockingly, Pennsylvania is home to increasingly well-crafted Grüner Veltliner, too! Most Grüner Veltliner, however, is produced in Austria, and that's where the vast majority of Grüner Veltliner in the United States comes from.
Where Does Grüner Veltliner Wine Come From?
Most Grüner Veltliner wine comes from Austria, where it represents 32.5% of the total vineyard area planted in the country, or more than 36,000 acres, according to the trade organization Austrian Wine. Experts believe that it originated in Austria, likely in the Niederösterreich region, when the Traminer grape variety crossed with another grape called St. Georgen. Grüner Veltliner also can be found in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, as well as Northern Italy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand, but most Grüner Veltliner on the market is from Austria. Within Austria, Grüner Veltliner reaches its peak in the eastern part of the country, specifically the regions of Kremstal, Kamptal, Wagram, and Wachau. In that last one, there are three classifications that represent increasing levels of alcohol and therefore richness in the glass.
Why Should You Drink Grüner Veltliner Wine?
Grüner Veltliner wine offers tremendous value for the money — you don't have to spend a lot to acquire a very well-made bottle — and boasts a flavor profile that is appealing to fans of other popular grape varieties, too. Sauvignon Blanc drinkers tend to enjoy the bright citrus notes of Grüner Veltliner, as well as its occasional hints of herbaceousness. Pinot Grigio fans tend to appreciate Grüner Veltliner's bright character, energetic texture, and ability to pair with a wide range of foods.
Yet Grüner Veltliner, when planted in the right places, farmed with extreme attention to detail, and crafted with care, can also produce richer white wines of remarkable age-worthiness: Mature Grüner Veltliner from vineyards like Singerriedel and Achleiten, in the Wachau region of Austria, can evolve in the bottle for a decade or more. For all of its reputation as an inexpensive and cheerful wine, Grüner Veltliner also possesses the potential for greatness.
At the table, Grüner Veltliner works brilliantly with vegetables, light fish and seafood, and fried foods. As it ages, a sense of nuttiness emerges, which allows it to work well alongside lightly caramelized dishes, too.
What Does Grüner Veltliner Taste Like?
Grüner Veltliner generally sings with bright citrus fruit on the lemon and lime end of the spectrum, though notes of grapefruit and apricot are not uncommon. There is typically a core of minerality, as well as suggestions of herbs and peppercorn spice, particularly white peppercorn. Some tasters also find notes of lentils and warm stones in Grüner Veltliner.
When Grüner Veltliner is grown in the Wachau region of Austria, it may be classified as, in order of increasing alcohol, Steinfeder, Federspiel, or Smaragd. The great Grüner Veltliner wines of the Wachau are considered to be some of the finest in the entire country, and they are often richer and more powerful than consumers may be expecting … in the best possible sense!
Five Great Grüner Veltliner Wines
There are countless great Grüner Veltliner wines on the market today. These five producers, listed alphabetically, are a perfect way to start exploring all that Grüner Veltliner has to offer.
Abbazia di Novacella Grüner Veltliner
This is one of the most respected producers of Grüner Veltliner in the Alto Adige region of Italy. It proves that excellent, collectible Grüner Veltliner can be produced outside of Austria, too.
Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner
One of the truly great producers of Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Domäne Wachau is beloved by critics and sommeliers alike … and for consumers, it's easily found on retail shelves. Whether you're looking for everyday-priced or more expensive bottles, this is a producer worth trying.
FX Pichler Grüner Veltliner
The Grüner Veltliners produced by FX Pichler are among the very best in the country. If you see an older bottle from this standout producer on a wine list, snap it up immediately.
Illahe Grüner Veltliner
One of Oregon's most forward-thinking producers is responsible for an estate-grown Grüner Veltliner of real character and food-friendliness. The 2020 will set you back less than $20, too.
Karl Lagler Grüner Veltliner
The eponymous family has been here since the late-1700s, and they're still going strong. Their portfolio includes excellent Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc as well, but their Grüner Veltliner is a standout.