Grüner Veltliner: The Reason Why Austrian Wines are Among the Best

In Austria, Grüner Veltliner has been growing and thriving since the mid-1800s. It hasn’t been until more recent times though that Americans and other wine enthusiasts have begun discovering Austrian Grüner Veltliner for the hidden gem it is. While the world has seemingly only had this varietal on its radar since the early 2000s, Austrians have been enjoying it for much longer.

It became in high demand by Austrians themselves. Many began growing their own and serving them at their own wine taverns. Grüner Veltliner has the impeccable distinction of depth and character, the reason that it accounts for half of Austria’s white vines. It’s also ideally-suited to the soils found all along the Danube. The terroir is rich in minerals, perfect for growing thriving vines.

Each wine maker has their own interpretation of this varietal though, and this is exactly what makes it such a delight to try. Some are light and cheerful while others are dense and rich. You may find you prefer one over another, or perhaps enjoy all of them at different occasions.

Light Grüner Veltliner is the most commonly found variety. This is what your likely to be served in the wine taverns around the country. Much of them hail from the Kremstal and Weinviertal regions and bring a very Austrian authenticity to them, known for being lively on the palate. Richer Grüner Veltliner come from the Wagram, Kamptal, and Wachau regions.

Grüner Veltliner
Grüner Veltliner

While Grüner Veltliner has been made for ages now, over the last 20 years, winemakers are fully exploring the potential of this grape. After becoming intensely popular with the rest of the world, they’re daring to take a walk on the wild side, going more complex and honing in on the mineral-rich soils that give it that exotic depth. Additionally, it’s a wine that can age even better than Riesling, and is even more versatile when paired with meals.

Grüner Veltliner and Food

World-renowned Austrian chef, Wolfgang Puck, has said that wiener schnitzel and a glass of Grüner Veltliner is his idea of a perfect meal, however, it’s so versatile you can find countless ways to enjoy it in good company over a delightful meal. Everything from veal and chicken to snapper and halibut is sublime. Caviar, mussels, and clams are also intensely enjoyable with it.

Prefer cheese? Try it with a soft, rich and creamy cheese. And if you’re feeling like going meatless, asparagus, artichokes, or even a salad of endives, radishes, and spinach will be a beautiful match. No matter what you’re serving with your Grüner Veltliner though, you should know that spicy is a perfect companion. Because of its natural crispness, it makes for a perfect palate cleanser.  

Choose Your Austrian Grüner Veltliner Style

As mentioned, there are two basic styles to this wine. You might prefer one over the other, or you may fall in love with both. It’s ideal to try each of them.

  • Light Austrian Grüner Veltliner

Known for being light and zesty, this is the most commonly imported style into the US. Bottles tend to be dark green while the wine contained within is more of a pale green. This style is ideal for drinking young and has lovely tiny bubbles that tickle your palate. The acidity is delightfully strong and it features hints of lime zest, an ideal choice served up icy-cold on hot days.

Your best choices are to find one that is less than 2 years of age and contains below 12.5% ABV. Don’t be alarmed that they commonly come with screw tops. That is how they are bottled. If you see “Steinfeder” or “Federspiel” on the label, it comes from Wachau.

  • Rich Austrian Grüner Veltliner

For a different take on this grape, this richer style is nutty and has a nice, tingly, acidic finish. It feels like textures of flavors from lemon and honey to nuts with a slight touch of creaminess. You will usually see “Reserve” on the labels and they’re best to seek out ones that are 3 to 6 years post-vintage date. You’ll want to look for those that contain over 12.5% ABV. They’re much more expensive than the lighter varieties but incredibly worth the experience.

If you have yet to try Grüner Veltliner, it’s a most exciting time. Trying new wines allows you to broaden your palate. One sip and you’ll see why Austria’s wine country has earned a spot on the map. Because both styles are so different, we encourage you to try each one and enjoy the range of flavors and aromas you’ll experience.

There are many splendid options, however we’ll leave you with three choices that will make any wine lover looking to explore Austrian Grüner Veltliner happy.

Nikolaihof Weingebirge Federspiel Grüner Veltliner

For a light Austrian Grüner Veltliner, you will enjoy the earthy yet juicy pear-like aroma. It spreads for a savory taste along the palate with vivid notes of apple. It’s complex and gives way to a very zesty, lemony, crisp and clean finish.

Schloss Gobelsburg Ried Renner Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal)

For the rich style, this one brings a mossy aroma on the nose while delivering citrusy freshness across the palate. It tingles with a touch of pepper while balancing out with fruits and citrus. It’s rich and sublime.

Alzinger Ried Steinertal Smaragd Grüner Veltliner (Wachau)

And finally, we’ll end with one that pays off best when it ages. It features a fleshy, fruity nose as for the palate too though turns a bit salty and savory. Discover the Austrian secret that has finally been unveiled and try Austrian Grüner Veltliner the next time you shop for wine!