Grüner veltliner, arguably the original hipster wine, has grown up and become a standard in the classical pantheon of top white wines. Along the way it was revealed that in Austria, grüner is often a simple table wine, served in crown-capped liter bottles and not the subject of fawning terms of endearment. Yes, grüner veltliner is capable of remarkable things, but it’s also a table top stalwart, and frankly therein lies its beauty. It has a flexibility few grapes can match.
It’s not surprising, then, that producers outside of Austria want to cash in on the grüner phenomenon. Having worked hard to establish grüner veltliner as a grape for everyone, the Austrians must now be a little concerned, as wineries from as far away as New Zealand and California try to capitalize on these renowned grapes. While the wines I tasted were pretty good, again attesting to the brilliance and potential of grüner veltliner the grape, I would say that for the most part the Austrians have little to fear as of yet.
What New World winemakers are able to produce are wines that certainly capture the essence of the grape, but they also reveal their warmer climates and perhaps richer soils with their rounded textures and riper fruit profiles. They are attractive wines for sure, but they will generally appeal to a different audience than the typical Austrian grüner veltliner, which shows a leaner, tauter style with bright fruit flavors and often the profound minerality the grape can exhibit.
Still, that’s not to say that disruptive forces are not at work. Consider for example, that grüner veltliner represents 50 percent of the new varieties planted in New Zealand in 2010 and 2011, and while plantings in California remain tiny, about 50 acres, the growth from the first planting of a third of an acre back in 2006 at the Von Strasser winery in Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain up through today has been swift and has attracted lots of attention. One can only imagine what might happen in places like Oregon and New York’s Finger Lakes districts, where the climate seems ideally suited for grüner.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of grüner with so many developments on the horizon, but at least for the time being Austria has little to be concerned about. If you want to learn more about Austrian grüner veltliner, make sure you check out the reports published last week by our friends who attended Snooth’s PVA Wine Writer’s Symposium this past March. We had an amazing tasting hosted and led by Aldo Sohm, who brought the terroir and styles of Austrian grüner to life and inspired some exceptional articles.