My wine studies began independently, through whatever information and books I could find on the subject. At the top of my list, recommended by many a winemaker and industry professional alike, was Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. While eager to dive in, at the time I was still a middle-school teacher with a nearly one-hour drive to and from work.
As one eager to learn, but lacking the time, my attention turned to podcasts and audiobooks to increase my knowledge. First in a long and enjoyable line of wine-based books was Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson, which speaks extensively on lesser-known and generally less popular grapes used in wine.
Grüner Veltliner definitely falls into the category of one such lesser-known variety, though in the last two decades has become more prevalent. According to Jancis Robinson, this grape constitutes one-third of vines in its native Austria, but it has a vastly different flavor profile than more popular white grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.
Following the crowd and diving into what others raved over has never been my thing; therefore, I felt an instant attraction to this grape and wanted to try it as soon as I could.
Wine Folly calls GV “lean, herbaceous, and peppery wines with mouth-watering acidity” (2019). While there are fruit notes, non-wine drinkers might have an attraction to this variety because fruit tends to take a graceful backseat.
Before going into tonight’s wine, some applicable points:
- Acidity — tartness or tanginess of a grape, which makes your mouth water more as levels increase. Growers have a tricky job in determining when to harvest their grapes, because the longer the crop hangs on the vine, acidity drops while sugar levels rise. There are ways to manage acidity after picking, but doing so depends just as much on the laws governing winemaking in a particular region as it does the philosophy of the producer.
- Dryness — how much residual sugar is detectable on the palate. “Dry” and “sweet” are polar opposite terms when it comes to wine. Without stepping onto a big soapbox about this (as I’m often guilty of doing), take care when describing wines that you don’t confuse “sweet” with “fruity,” or “dry” with “tannic.” You can taste wonderful notes of fruit in a wine without it being sugary, and while tannins in red wine actually dry out your mouth, that has nothing to do with dryness in a wine.
- Body — a somewhat complicated term, referring to how the liquid of a wine feels as it sits on your tongue. You could also say it means the wine’s weight, in a sense. A great tip from Zraly’s book is to consider a wine’s body in terms of types of milk. Skim milk is watery and offers no resistance when you move your tongue through it (light body); whole milk has more weight and resistance (medium body); and cream has the most weight and body of the three. Both residual sugars and alcohol levels can contribute to the body of a wine.
*Disclaimer — I’m not at home and therefore not using my usual set of glassware. Vacation at last, after a year in isolation, baby!
Wine Challenge, Week 4: Schlosskekkerei Gobelsburg Kamptal Grüner Veltliner
Unfortunately, my local liquor store had few options on offer with regards to GV. Not wanting to spend too much when I was about to spirit myself away on vacation, I took the recommended entry-level option and packed it carefully for car travel. This bottle cost me about $17.
Producer: Schlosskellerei Gobelsburg
Region: Österreich, Austria
Style: Dry white
Grape: Grüner Veltliner
This wine is a clear, pale straw, with no visual signs of impurities or faults.
Nose is clean, offering medium (-) aromas of lemon, lime, wet stones, and some apple. This is a simple wine.
The wine is dry, with clean flavors of medium intensity including lime, apple, white peach, and white pepper. Acid is less than expected at medium (+) rather than high, with medium alcohol and a light body. The finish is short, but very clean and zesty.
Based on the roaring acidity overpowering all, but with that same element bringing the wine to a refreshing finish, I can forgive the lack of balance and lack of intensity in both aromas and flavors. Combined with a short finish and the wine’s overall simplicity, I would consider it an acceptable example of Grüner Veltliner.
Pair wines at this level with big flavors to clear the palate, or between courses. It would work well with cheese courses or as an aperitif, too.
My personal opinion is that I wouldn’t drink this wine again, simply because it lacks the distinct flavors and complexity that I personally enjoy. Many others would appreciate these very elements, and I wish them the best of it. In all honesty, I wish I had purchased a wine at the next tier so that I could get a better experience.