What’s the best way to learn all about a grape? Why not invite your friends over and tell them each to bring one wine of that varietal. I have been hearing about Gruner’s popularity these days and felt it was high time that I tried them for myself. The premise was simple: 4 friends, 4 Gruners, dissect.
The first wine that came out of the woodworks was the 2010 Laurenz V Friendly Gruner Veltliner. This is the perfect starting point for a Gruner rookie! Light gold in colour with a rich fruit nose reminiscent of a ripe Riesling. The wine opened up in the glass and mandarin became the dominant flavour on the nose. The wine had strong acidity, a round mouth feel, ripe lemon and lime flavours, with a stony, mineral, light spice finish. The wine tasted like an alcohol soaked mandarin. While it was originally not served cold enough, the wine did open up to show the most fruit forward expression of Gruner on the night.
The second wine was the only entry of the night not from Austria, this being the 2010 Forrest Doctors Gruner Veltliner. This offering from New Zealand was a pale lemon colour with a lime sorbet nose with a quick whiff of petrol that quickly dissipated. On the pallet this wine was far more mineral, had the highest acidity of the bunch with sharp citrus flavours and a white pepper finish. The memory of this wine lasted a bit longer than the first and the sharp citrus flavours were balanced with a noticeable sweetness; this wine had the highest residual sugar of the group (8.7g/l). Cool to see this grape from another region that is just started to explore with Gruner.
The third wine was the 2010 Domaene Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner. Rich gold in the glass with a noticeable peach and ripe apple nose, this wine was the most textured, think oily mouth, of the group with orange and peach flavours topped off with the familiar white pepper. There was a light floral component to this wine. This was the only wine of the bunch that I had tasted before and I felt that while it had the simplest fruit profile, there was a richness to it that makes it a beautiful wine.
Lastly, we dove into the 2007 Loimer Gruner Veltliner. This wine was the most expensive of the group and definitely delivered on it’s expectations. It was light gold in colour with an intense caramelized green apple nose underlain with rubber. There was some residual sugar, but it was beautifully balanced with high acidity and a peach, mango sorbet pallet. The finish had pepper that was white-borderline-black pepper – grey pepper as I have dubbed it! The depth of flavour was the defining factor for this wine. The best comment was that this wine knows exactly what it is and gives us exactly that.
After our mouths were tingling from all the whites, we do what every Austrian apparently does, turn straight to the only Austrian red we can easily find in this market, Zweigelt. The 2009 Domaene Gobelsburg Zweigelt was a medium ruby colour and showing a meaty, coffee, wet lanolin nose with a hit of black pepper. The pallet showed marginal tannins on a medium body, light red fruit, and a sharp finish. I felt like I was drinking bitter coffee out of a tin cup. We decided we would enjoy this wine with a cigar and let the sun set behind the swirls of our smoke.
Our goal of finding a way to define Gruner Veltliner as a grape was enjoyable. Gruner did prove itself worthy to be drunk at my table! The richness, ripe flavours, a shake of white pepper, and high but balanced acidity defines this grape for me. I can see why so many people feel like this is the perfect wine to pair with spicy Asian cuisine or sushi. It would be an excellent compliment to a white fish or light pork dish as well. Next time you are in the mood for a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc with a twist, I urge you to turn towards Gruner!