My last day in Manhattan for Snooth’s People Voice Wine Awards started off with a 'Wines of Austria Master Class.' This event, dubbed “The Many Faces of Grüner Veltliner,” was led by Master Sommelier Aldo Sohm, who also had a wine in the tasting lineup. It was still mid-morning, but a vibrant and refreshing variety like Grüner Veltliner, in my opinion, was a good way to kick-start the day. Besides, I was very interested in getting to know Grüner’s many faces and styles a bit better.
Wines of Austria Master Class
Grüner Veltliner is Austria's flagship (indigenous) white grape variety and the nation's most widely planted wine grape (red or white). Some Grüner Veltliner, however, is being replaced by Zweigelt – Austria’s most widely planted red grape variety that produces fairly light-bodied, red fruit-filled wines with soft tannins. Austria is located in central Europe and borders Germany. Unlike Germany, however, the region generally produces wines that are drier in style and has a climate that can be likened to Burgundy (warmer than Germany). This bodes well for some of Austria’s fuller-bodied red grape varieties (e.g., Blaufränkisch) that ripen late and require the warmth and longer growing season to fully develop ripe and complex flavors.
All ready to go!
Up until this tasting, I was largely familiar with one-to-two faces of Grüner Veltliner – namely examples that are fresh and sleek with a range of tree, citrus, and stone-fruit aromas and flavors, brisk acidity, and a distinct underlying spicy character (particularly white pepper). Selections like these are typically under $15 and I’ve found them in the past at a few nearby wine shops. The first two wines we started off the tasting with -- a 2011 Pfaffl Austrian Pepper (SRP $13.99) and 2011 Stadlmann (SRP $15.99) -- were both delightful and resembled the style of Grüner Veltliner I was more accustomed to – with the latter having a pleasant mineral edge.
Enjoying 'The Many Faces of Grüner Veltliner'
Before the tasting started, there was one question I had after reviewing the tasting sheet. I was curious to find out the difference between, let’s say a $10 Grüner Veltliner versus an example that’s $30 or more (besides $20 or so dollars). Unlike Chardonnay, for example, with Grüner Veltliner you can typically remove expense factors like pricey new French oak barrels from the final equation. The more I sniffed and sipped my way through the wines, the answer to my question (which I hadn’t asked yet) was becoming quite apparent. Austria has a wide variety of soil types, including mineral-rich, rocky soils – as conveyed to us in detail by Master Sommelier Aldo Sohm. Clearly, these rock-based soil types in particular, seem to bring out a more interesting, more mineral-driven – even a (fairly) rich -- rendition of Grüner Veltliner (though the richness may have more to do with the wine-making). Additionally, many vineyards are trending organic and biodynamic with minimal intervention in the cellar in a quest to craft terroir-driven wines that reflect the land and vintage.
Master Sommelier Aldo Sohm
Some wines of note were Aldo’s interesting and tasty (limited production) 2011 Sohm and Kracher (SRP $38), which was delicate with a lovely texture, boasting lime, citrus peel, hay, and a touch of spice with a firm mineral acidity. A different side of Grüner Veltliner came through in a bottle of 2011 Prager Stockkultur (SRP $90). This selection shows expressive and ripe tropical and stone-fruit aromas/flavors with a (fairly mouth-filling) richness that’s balanced with fresh acidity and a touch of sweetness in the lengthy finish. Even a little more unique, yet quite enjoyable, was the 2011Veyder Marlberg Kreutles (SRP $30), which offers a pleasant tropical core followed by nuances of spice, fennel seed, and a pretty floral perfume component with an agreeable citrus based, yet mineral laced, refreshing acidity. Another nice example came by way of a bottle of 2011 F.X. Pichler Smaragd Dürnsteiner Liebenberg. This wine is well-balanced with (focused) tree fruit and sweet floral tones alongside citrus hints, (exotic) spice and mineral notes with a beautiful texture, good depth of flavor, and a crisp, medium-length stony finish.
Primary rock is abundant
In closing, I did discover several very likeable -- and even age-worthy -- (new) faces of Grüner Veltliner that I was not completely familiar with that I plan on revisiting in the near future. With warmer weather ahead, don’t pass up on a versatile, food-friendly, and (generally) pocket-friendly wine like Grüner Veltliner to satisfy your spring and summertime sipping needs. Cheers!
Read what other wine bloggers are saying about the Wines of Austria:
Snooth writes "AUSTRIAN GRUNER VELTLINER"
Benito's Wine writes "Snooth PVA: Wines of Austria"
VineSleuth writes "Gruner Veltliner: A Delicious Puzzle"
The Reverse Wine Snob writes "Gruner Love Featuring the Stadlmann"
Jameson Fink writes "High Line Park and Gruner Veltliner"
Vindulge writes "So you think you know Grüner"
Wine Julia writes "SnoothPVA: Terroir Driven Grüner ..."
V.I.P Table writes "My 2013 Vinous Revelation: Grüner Veltliner"
Meg Houston Maker writes "Lingering Flavors, Lingering Questions"
Backyard Feathered Friends: The American Goldfinch
Have a question about this post? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at email@example.com or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Stay tuned ...more to come. Happy Sipping, my friends! Disclosure: This trip was provided by Snooth. Thoughts are my own.
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