Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My 2013 Vinous Revelation: Grüner Veltliner

By: Eric Guido

I think back to when I had just started getting into wine and the excitement I would feel whenever I was introduced to something new. I’ve often wished that I could recapture some of those moments. It’s unfortunate, but when you taste wine nearly every day of your life, you find that you are surprised less and less often. However, sometimes a wine will revitalize those magical tasting sensors and send up fireworks. But what I didn’t expect was for an entire tasting of wines to make me feel that nostalgia. Well, that’s exactly what happened at the Wines of Austria tasting during Snooth’s “People’s Voice Wine Awards” tasting.

Vineyards along the Danube river, Austria

I will admit to being completely new to this region, having only tasted a small number of Rieslings from some of the top houses. What I had never experienced was Grüner Veltliner, and now I feel like I’ve been missing out all along. Being a fan of northern Italian and Slovenian whites, it’s no wonder that Austrian wine (or, to be more specific, Grüner Veltliner) would hit my sweet spot. The regions literally border each other; in fact, a large chunk of this part of Italy once belonged to Austria.

The tasting included wines that spanned the entire range, from easy sipping aperitifs to layered, rich top shelf bottles. As I worked through the lineup, I continued to be more and more impressed with every new wine I sampled. At first they were light and wirery with zesty acidity and mineral, peppery notes. As I went deeper, the wines gained momentum, body and depth as focused fruits and exotic floral tones began to entice the senses. Finally, with only a few wines left in front of me, the fruits ripened as the structure of the wines broadened. The aromas turned deeper, richer—sexier. With hours opened in bottle, they continued to gain complexity. It was truly an awakening for me; I love Grüner Veltliner.

Aldo Sohm gives his rundown of rocks found in
Austrian soils, along with sharing samples from his
own collection.
So what makes these wines so incredible? Honestly, there isn’t just one answer to that question. One of the main reasons (and I know you guys hear this a lot) is terroir. As was explained by our host, Aldo Sohm , is that Austria is home to soils layered with a unique mixture of mineral-laden stones and Loess, which is a windblown silt made up of clay and sand. The Loess is credited with giving many Grüners their rich creamy textures and buoyancy, as they seem so weighty yet light and refreshing, seeming to almost hover on the palate. What’s more, Austria’s climate (of which there are four different distinct microclimates within the region) allows for optimal physiological ripeness of the grapes. The result is perfect fruit with a depth of character and the ability to age for decades.

Of course, I am just skimming the surface here. The fact is that Austria is home to a large number of family, well educated, artisanal growers, making high-quality wines that only a quarter of which ever make it out of Austria. Have I piqued your interests yet? I hope so, because nothing makes me happier than sharing my excitement about wine, and I’m sure I’ll be digging deeper into Austria in the coming months. Until then, I’ve supplied my favorite wines from the Snooth P.V.A. tasting. There are a number of excellent Grüners to get you started.

2011 Graf Hardegg Grüner Veltliner Vom Schloss – The nose showed mineral laden rocks up front with saline notes, followed by green apple and floral stems. On the palate it was lush yet refined with ripe white fruits and lasting saline minerals that last through the long, fresh finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Roman Pfaffl Grüner Veltliner Austrian Pepper – The nose showed clean, pure white fruits, mineral stone, white flowers and pepper notes. On the palate, it had great presence, being surprisingly smooth yet juicy with hints of apricot, which linger through the finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Veyder-Malberg Grüner Veltliner Kreutles – The nose showed heady floral and orange notes with slate and a spicy twist. On the palate it was rich yet pure with herbal, inner floral tones and limestone minerals. The finish showed incredible depth with peach skins and a taste of flower petals. This was a very unique and pretty wine. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Sohm & Kracher Gruner Veltiner – The nose was deeply rooted in the earth with notes of wet rocks, limestone, green apple, undergrowth and the slightest hint of tropical fruit. On the palate it was fresh yet with weighty textures and a slight spritz, displaying a mineral core offset by ripe pit fruits and spice. This wines attractive presence on the palate lingered into the finish, adding a slight bitter tinge, which was a welcome addition to the juicy and vibrant close. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2009 Moric Grüner Veltliner Sankt Georgen - The nose was intense with rich, spicy floral notes , yellow fruits and herbal tones, followed by a hint of mineral laden rock. On the palate, it showed rich textures with a dense concentration of stone fruits offset by balanced acidity, which left it seeming rich, yet juicy at the same time. Spicy floral tones lingered through the long finish seductive finish. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Liebenberg – The nose was clean with steely notes of green apple, minerals, undergrowth and a hints of tropical fruit. On the palate, it was rich yet unbelievably pure and balanced with ripe, white fruits and spicy inner floral tones, which lasted beautifully through the mineral laden finish. Stunning. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Prager Grüner Veltliner Stockkultur Smaragd Achleiten – The nose was at first floral with undergrowth and limestone, leading to rich peach, which filled the senses with a slight effervecense. On the palate it was gorgeous with ripe stone fruits saturating the senses and oily textures offset by balanced acidity. The finish was long and seemed to melt from the senses revealing a beautiful refreshing character. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Bernhard Ott Grüner Veltliner Fass 4 – The nose was vibrant, showing chalky minerals, green apple and a hint of citrus. On the palate, there was an attractive clash of sweet versus tart fruit with great balance and flavors of green apple lasting through the mouth-watering finish. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Lamm # 1 - The nose was intense yet soothing, showing ripe peach, hints of citrus, wet rock and stony minerals. On the palate, it was fresh yet lush, seeming to touch on all of the senses with notes of sweet stone fruits, citrus and inner floral tones. The finish was long, turning slightly tart, tinged with green apple and minerals. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve Tradition – The nose showed peach with spicy florals tones, green apple and moist mineral stone. On the palate, it was lush yet balanced with ripe pit fruits, citrus and minerals leading to an long, long ,long finish. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Austrian Wine tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

My Vine Spot: #SnoothPVA: Wines of Austria Master Class

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: Wines of Austria

The Reverse Wine Snob: Gruner Love Featuring the Stadlmann Gruner Veltliner 2011

Jameson Fink: High Line Park and Gruner Veltliner: Contemplating Time and Space

Vindulge: So you think you know Grüner

Wine Julia: SnoothPVA: Terroir Driven Grüner Veltliners of Austria Create Food Friendly Wines with Distinctive Flavors

Vinesleuth: Gruner Veltliner: A Delicious Puzzle


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