Friday, October 8, 2010
Greet the Grape ~ Grüner Veltliner
…although a respected colleague labels her litre wine Grooner, pronouncing the actual first syllable of Grüner Veltliner is a bit more involved—the vowel is halfway between oo and sometimes-y—the groove that you hit, and the grin that you grin where the wine goes in.
that’s what the titties on top of the ü are about… The German language has more vowels than does the American or even the British. Let’s try this: gewurztraminer has no ü in French, but Gewürztraminer does in German. So try, perhaps, saying Grüner with a French u… as in Muscadet sur lie…
but surely that’s the only tedious thing about this remarkable grape—also known as Weissgipfler because of the white tipping on the leaves. Either way, it’s just as much the national treasure of Austria as poor Mister Mozart—and much more so than Familie Trapp, or the Spanische Hofreitschule…
at the basic level when GV comes out of the spigot in a tavern in Grinzing (Vienna 19) it’s sort of like pinot grigio with an imagination. At the exalted heights of Högl or the unrelated Pichlers, it can scare the hell out of a great white burgundy—my wine-snob friends in Los Angeles will not allow me to bring Bründlmayer or Gritsch to dinner when we are drinking their Ramonet or Coche-Dury.
one thing that various members of the GV tribe have in common is their aromaticity and spice—the simpler versions attract attention by means of a peppery snap, while the more luxuriant expressions trade this for an entire orchard of tropical fruit-tones and a vibrant acidity that is not so obvious as that of the noble Riesling. My take on the vintage variability of some of these wines is that the skin phenolics are greatly influenced by exposure to sunlight, so each year is bound to be different, depending on sunshine and leaf-work done by the Winzer. GV prefers warm autumns so it may ripen patiently and evenly, but is happy growing in many different kinds of soil.
it’s an interesting grape variety at nearly every point in the spectrum. Litre GV is so charming and resilient that one can even drink a good one after the great Smaragd-level wines from the Wachau. Federspiel and comparably-weighted wines from the Traisen, Kamp and Krems are among the most versatile bottles that will ever sit on your dinner-table. But cheap GV will give you a belly-ache like no other wine. Promise. The Austrian word for heartburn is Sodbrennen.
we Americans associate GV primarily with the famous wine-growing districts of Lower Austria—Wachau, Kremstal, Traisental, Kamptal—but there’s so much of it in the Weinviertel that a good chunk of real estate carries the subtag “Veltlinerland.” And we have known for a long time that Traminer was one of the parents of this remarkable critter, but only recently has the other been discovered—a hitherto unknown variety in St Georgen, in the Leithagebirge on the west side of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland. Where GV is widely planted. (NB. Roland Velich’s rare Moric GV from this district changes spots for stripes with a new vintage: sometimes it comes across like Château Laville Haut-Brion, in other vintages more Cortoncharliesque...)
as far as food-matching goes, there’s not all that much that GV can’t handle. Sauvignon blanc is better with tomatoes. I like guzzling litre GV with a gyro—between what the fruit does with the tzatziki sauce and how the acid digs its talons into the mystery-meat... And then I recently drank an extraordinary half-bottle of Schloss Gobelsburg’s 2008 Ried Lamm in the restaurant Rote Bar at Hotel Sacher in Vienna after the Staatsoper performance of Tannhäuser early last month. It paired most handsomely alongside an Almo-Ochsen Tartare served with mustard-grape ice-cream, but then equally well with Beuscherl—a rather gratifyingly hearty concoction made from a calf’s pulmonary apparatus and ticker simmered in Riesling. Visitors to Vienna should not miss the GV selection at the Asian restaurant Kim Kocht out by the other opera house on the Gürtel, where Sohyi Kim’s remarkable, sometimes fiery cookery provides the variety with some very interesting challenges.
Foto: © ÖWM/ Faber