Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s Landmark Varietal

Grüner Veltliner has a rich history in Austria that dates back to the mid-1800’s. However, most American wine enthusiasts only began discovering the delightful array of wines that comes from this varietal in the early 2000’s. Back then, they were one of the best-kept secrets of the wine world.

Thanks to the large demand for Grüner Veltliner by Austrians who would seek to shake things off at their wine-grower-owned wine-taverns, the wine growers began putting more focus on this varietal. It has an exceptional ability to create depth and character, which is why today, half of the white vine acreage in Austria is devoted to it.

Grüner Veltliner is well-suited to the soils that line the Danube. Rich in minerals, it helps the grapes thrive and its cold resistance is ideal. Depending on how each wine maker interprets it, you may find yourself with a light and cheery flavor or it could be rich, dense, and heady. There’s no one that is better than another, though wine enthusiasts surely have their favorites. Much of what you’ll love depends on your palate though the possibilities for exploring the depth and variety of this varietal are seemingly endless.

Light Grüner Veltliner is much like what you’d find in the wine taverns. They often have screw caps or pop-tops. Berger, Setzer, and Hofer of the Kremstal and Weinviertal regions are some that might tickle your palate in the most authentically Austrian and lively ways.

If you’d like to try something a bit richer, there are offering from Nikolaihof, Ott, and Hiedler in the Wachau, Kamptal, and Wagram regions, respectively. For more crisp and mineral flavors, you should try Schloss Gobelsburg and Weingut Bründlmayer. As you can see, the depth of flavor from this one varietal is indeed astounding.

In the last 20 years, what’s changed about Grüner Veltliner is that winemakers are truly seeing its full potential and exploring it, thanks to the feedback Austria has been getting and its contributions to the wine world. Today’s offerings of these wines are even more complex than their counterparts with more exotic flavors reflective of the mineral-rich soil. But what makes it truly stand apart in production of Grüner Veltliner today is how well it ages, much like the better-known Riesling. It’s much more versatile when paired with food though, even more adept than Riesling and it marries tremendously well with the massive amounts of asparagus dishes that Austrians love so much and that this grape is so well suited for.

For those that have never tried Grüner Veltliner, we recommend trying different ones to see the span of flavors and aromas they each lend. Some great ones recently tasted are:

Berger Grüner Veltliner, a flinty wine that goes beautifully with white fish dishes.

Setzer Grüner Veltliner, another match made in heaven for fish dinners.

Hofer Grüner Veltliner, a bit lemony with a crisp apple finish.

Hirsch Kammern Grüner Veltliner, crisply acidic and utterly complex.

Schloss Gobelsburg Renner Grüner Veltliner, ripely fresh and intense.