Four refreshing spring wines from Austria

There is something inherently spring-like about Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s native white grape. By the time this column appears, hopefully the weather will have improved and we can start looking forward to lighter, fresher white wines.

Grüner Veltliner is a kind of grape chameleon, changing in style depending on the climate and soils in which it is grown. High quality Grüner grown in warmer sites can be rich and textured with succulent stone fruit. It can also have quite high alcohol levels.

The most famous and sought-after wines come from the Wachau, a scenic and historic region a short drive or boat ride from Vienna. Here, the wines, all dry, are classified according to their degree of alcohol. Steinfeder will be 11.5% or less, Federspiel 12.5% ​​or less (as with Knoll wine here) or Smaragd, which will be at least 12.5% ​​but usually more. Smaragd wines, which tend to be the most expensive and critically acclaimed, are full-bodied and ripe. I like them, especially with heartier foods, but the lighter Grüner Veltliner can be very appealing, so this week, four aromatic and refreshing spring wines.

In addition to Wachau, the neighboring Kamptal (and a third neighboring region Kremstal), has some of the best producers and more delicate wines, sometimes subtle but just as good. All three regions benefit from warm days and cold nights, providing ideal growing conditions for wines with an enticing balance of ripe fruit and fresh acidity. In each, Grüner Veltliner vies with Riesling for vineyard space and the biggest applause. Both varieties can be spectacularly good.

Fortunately, Grüner Veltliner is one of the most versatile wines of all.

Austria is a small producer and there is huge demand locally and in neighboring Germany, so wines are rarely cheap. However, the overall quality is very high, so you are unlikely to find a failed wine, red or white, and the best ones can match those produced elsewhere.

Those on a budget will look to the Weinviertel in Austria’s northeast corner. It is one of the largest wine regions in the country and produces large quantities of Grüner Veltliner. These wines are bright and fresh with crisp green apple fruit, sometimes with a hint of ginger spice. Part of the production is destined for Sekt, an Austrian sparkling wine, a category that is improving rapidly.

Fortunately, Grüner Veltliner is one of the most versatile wines of all. It pairs well with many Asian dishes, including Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, sushi, sashimi, as well as smoked fish and pork. Richer styles are best with chicken, pork and one of the local specialties, schnitzel. In a few weeks, Austrians will be enjoying copious amounts of white asparagus served with Hollandaise sauce and a glass or two of Grüner Veltliner.

Zull Lust & Laune Grüner Veltliner 2020, Oberösterreich
11.5%, €13.95 (instead of €15.95)
Light, crisp, refreshing Granny Smiths and racy, zesty lemon. Alone or with oysters.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.fr.

Grüner Veltliner Weinland, Arndorfer
11.5%, €19 for a liter bottle
Elderflower, tender pears and citrus peel. Light and refreshing. The essence of spring. To be enjoyed on its own or with a creamy goat cheese salad.
From The Cheesemakers of Sheridan, D2, Kells, Co Meath, sheridanscheesemongers.com; Margadh, Howth, margadhfoodandwine.ie; Lennox Street Grocer, D8, lennoxstreet.ie; The Fumbally, D8; the fumbally.ie; Epicurean elm, D4, elmepicurean.ie; Know How, Westport.

Loibner Grüner Veltliner Federspiel 2020, Weingut Knoll, Wachau
12%, 29€
Light with a nice intensity of rich nectarine in the mid-palate and lots of refreshing lemon zest. A wine that grows on you with every sip. A prawn salad with dill.
From 64wine, Glastule, 64wine.fr; siyps.com; Greenacres, Wexford, greenacres.fr; Wines of the World, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie.

Loimer Ried Loiserberg Erste Lage Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2020 Biodynamic
€35.99, 12.5%
From one of the best wine-growing sites in Kamptal, this is an elegant and understated grüner veltliner, with orchard fruits and subtle hints of honey and ginger. The finish is long and dry. Try it with new season sashimi, sushi or asparagus.
From Vine juice, Portmarnock, jusdevine.fr; Ely Wine Shop, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Le Vintry, D6, vintry.ie; wineonline.ie.

About Michael Brafford

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