Got Gruner?

By Lenn Thompson

It might not be as easy to pronounce as chardonnay or pinot grigio, but as the weather warms and the first spring vegetables show up at farmers markets, it’s impossible not to love gruner veltliner.

Not nearly enough wine shops stock gruner, the most famous grape (and wine) from Austria … and that’s a shame. From $10 bottlings that are often 1-liter, pop-top bottles to more expensive, more serious renditions, this white-wine grape typically leads to dry wines that are medium-bodied and lightly citrus-fruity with peppery spice, minerality and awesome acidity that begs for food. Some even have sauvignon blanc-esque grassy nature and floral scents of viognier.

Because gruner vines are relatively cold-resistant, it surprises me that wineries in the Northern U.S. haven’t done much with this grape yet. In fact, I’m not aware of any American gruner.

So gruner is obviously a refreshing spring/summer sipper, but why did I mention vegetables when introducing this grape? Well, it just might be the most versatile white wine when it comes to food — even typically challenging pairings such as artichokes and asparagus.

The wine that inspired this post is Nigl 2004 Gruner Veltliner Kremser Freiheit ($15). Brilliant pale yellow in the glass, the nose is filled with fresh basil, flowers and cut grass sprinkled with white pepper. It’s light-to-medium bodied, super fresh and peppery with salty-stony mineral character and tart, underripe plum on the finish. Nigl is a well-known and well-respected gruner producer, so you’re safe picking up any of their different bottlings.

If you don’t got gruner, get gruner.

** Note: As you may remember, next Friday marks the beginning of the Wine Sediments 50 in 50 project, and we’ll begin our vino-tour of the United States with a trip to New England. Check back next week to find out where and what we’re drinking.

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Reader Comments

One word: choucrute. My oh my, is it gorgeous with gruner!! (Though please note, I don’t know if I spelled my one word correctly…)