ing half dry; or lieblich,
meaning quite sweet but
not as sweet as süss.
Finally, top rung produc-
ers with premier sites may in-
dicate on their labels a “first
growth”—the number “1”
followed by a grape cluster
in superscript. These are dry,
age-worthy wines from some of
Austria’s best sites.
With these Grüner Velt-
liner building blocks, you can
navigate the Austria’s plethora
of distinctive Grüner Velt-
liners. Just vary the region,
producer, quality level and
vintage to create a diversity
of styles for your store shelf or
wine list. Consider that if you
only choose one or two, they
will seem lost in the maze of
more familiar options and pos-
sibly end up in a back corner
to be forgotten. And, as Sil-
ver suggests, consider creating
a special section for Grüner
Veltliner or for Austria rather
than grouping it with German
wines (they certainly are not
the same) or in an “Other Va-
rieties” section.
Grüner At A Glance
Grüner means “green,” and
it is common to find dill and
cut grass notes in its wines.
(Veltliner means “from the
town of Veltliner” in Tyrol.)
Other frequently found aro-
matic highlights are grapefruit
and lentils. Grüner can thank
one parent, Traminer, aka
Gewürztraminer, for its dis-
tinctive white pepper notes.
On the palate, acidity levels
range from zippy to medium,
depending on the wine’s ripe-
ness. At higher harvest sugar
levels, Grüner often acquires a
mouth-coating layer of extract,
making its wines feel richer.
Grüner is a copious
cropper. I worked the 2012
harvest in Kamptal and Wien,
and some clusters were as
large as my head! Luckily,
Grüner produces rather
interesting flavors even at
fairly high yields.
Grüner may appear in base
wine blends for sekt, typically
a tank-fermented sparkling
wine. Granted, not much is
produced; bubbly comprised
only about 2.5% of Austria’s
total export volume in 2011.
Some producers also use
Grüner for méthode champe-
noise sparkling wines. Grüner
also can be harvested late for
sweet wines, or even left on
the vine in hopes of becom-
ing ice wine.
As for still table wine,
Grüner usually goes it alone,
except in Gemischter Satz, or
field blends. Grüner can be
easy-going and light-bodied
with citrusy fruit flavors or
super-charged with alcohol
and dried apricot character
with suspicions of residual
sugar. Typically vinified in
neutral vessels, producers
are now experimenting with
barriques, too.
While Grüner Veltliner’s origin is hazy,
the variety has been around since
Roman times and has been grown in
Austria since the 18
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