Tag Archives: Austrian wines

Grüner Veltliner: The Genius Grape

18 Jul

Interested in trying a white wine that’s a little different and a lot delicious? I suggest Grüner Veltliner, the flagship wine of Austria. An under-the-radar wine, it’s not nearly as well known as it deserves to be. That’s a pity, because it complements so many foods beautifully.

Sommeliers love Grüner Veltliner because, as importer Terry Theise has written, it “answered a food prayer…. It’s the wine that will partner all the foods you thought you’d never find a wine for … artichokes …, avocado, every manner of obstreperous veggie … a really peppery salad.” It’s ideal for vegetarians. And it’s lovely with lobster, shrimp, crab, scallops, sushi, caviar, fish, poultry, veal and pork. Of course, it also complements Austrian cuisine. Theise, who partners with Michael Skurnik Wines, calls it “the world’s most flexible dry white wine at table.” It’s certainly one of them.

What are Grüner Veltliners, a.k.a. GrüVes or G.V.s or Groovys, like? They’re aromatic, usually dry, usually light to medium bodied, crisp and fairly high in acid.  “If Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc had a baby, it would be Grüner Veltliner,” writes Theise. Austrian wine importer Monika Caha suggests that if you like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, you’ll like Grüner Veltliner. Jodi Stern, manager of wine importer Winebow’s Austrian portfolio, believes that G.V.s combine qualities of Alsatian and Loire wines: They offer, she says, the “complexity, sensuality, depth and body of Alsace” and the “mineral, spark and loveliness of the Loire.”

Due to its unique character, Willi Klinger, managing director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, calls it the genius grape. Now, he may be biased, but he’s definitely onto something.

Some G.V.s are lively, simple, meant for everyday use and best drunk young; others are more complex and structured and age well. The price usually serves as a guide to which style the wine is.

Here are a couple of G.V.s to turn to regularly:

The Grooner 2012 (SRP* $12) is from the Forstreiter family, who’s been making wine in the Kremstal, along the banks of the Danube River, in the Niederösterreich region since 1868. They operate a small winery where grapes are hand harvested and  sustainable agriculture is favored.

Grooner, a Monika Caha selection, has aromas and flavors of green apples and citrus, with tropical fruit notes. It’s easy drinking, well balanced, fresh, dry, zippy, with good acidity. Grooner is a great aperitif, an ideal summertime wine. It’s recommended to accompany oysters, fried chicken, crisp pork belly, pizza, sushi, spicy cuisines from Korean to Indian, barbecue, salads, veggies and more. And it’s topped with a convenient screw cap.

Berger Grüner Veltliner 2012 (SRP $14; 1 Liter) also hails from the Kremstal subregion in Niederösterreich, the largest of Austria’s four major wine-growing areas. It represents roughly 60% of all Austria’s vineyard plantings, and produces mostly white wines.

Berger is a  perennial favorite. It’s the best-selling wine in Theise’s Austrian portfolio. It’s light, fruity, juicy, fresh, crisp and zingy, with some lime, some pear, some mineral notes. And it’s crowned with, well, a convenient crown cap.

*Wines can usually be found for less–sometimes considerably less–than the SRP (suggested retail price). Check out wine-searcher.com to get an idea of actual prices.

Wine Importers to Rely On: Terry Theise (Germany, Austria, Grower Champagnes)

16 Jul

by Sharon Kapnick

Terry Theise has brought outstanding wines from an underappreciated wine-making country and a virtually unknown wine-making country to the U.S. And then he introduced us to a collection of artisanal grower Champagnes from the most esteemed wine region of all.

Not so very long ago, when Americans thought of German wine, they thought of the lackluster Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch. Theise almost singlehandedly changed this. Influential wine critic Robert M. Parker  Jr. wrote in 1991 that “in less than 4 years, Terry Theise has done more for the image of high-quality German wines than anyone in the previous eight decades…. By beating the back roads of less renowned viticultural regions, Theise has put together a portfolio of … individualistic wines of astonishing quality…. The result is a bevy of phenomenal wines and extraordinary wine bargains.”

Then, in 1994, Theise added Austrian wines—which most U.S. wine lovers knew nothing about—to his portfolio. Grüner Veltliner, the food-friendly white that accounts for more than a third of Austrian production, is Austria’s signature wine. It was a great discovery for food-and-wine lovers because, as Theise says, Grüner Veltliner complements “all the foods that are supposedly wine killers,” including “every manner of obstreperous veggie.” It thrilled sommeliers, who educated their clientele about its virtues. Austria is also reputed for its Rieslings and sweet dessert wines, and Theise offers them too (as well as its Sekts [sparkling wines], Weissburgunders, Gelber Muskatellers, Bläufrankisches, St. Laurents, Zweigelts and more).

In 1997 Theise’s next venture uncharacteristically took him to the best-known wine region in the world. He was intrigued by a new trend in Champagne: Small growers were bottling their own wines rather than selling their grapes to the big houses. Instead of Champagne that tastes the same each year—a style the large houses strive to achieve—these grower Champagnes aim to be unique every year. “Champagne, like any other wine,” Theise said, “is fascinating to the extent it’s distinctive.” Grower Champagnes bubble up with individuality. They’re brimming with the local character that the large Champagne houses blend away.

Along the way, Theise has received much recognition from the wine press and others. In 2001 he was Wine & Spirits magazine’s Man of the Year; in 2005 Food & Wine magazine named him Importer of the Year. In 2008 he won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.

Theise’s portfolio is overwhelmingly white. “I love red wines,” he says, “but I have mined a seam of whites from a narrow latitudinal band of northern Europe”—for which many white wine lovers are very grateful.

Theise has partnered with top importer Michael Skurnik Wines. For more on Theise and his wines, visit www.skurnikwines.com. And look for his name on the bottle labels.