It's been a busy few months for me. Almost all of June I spent on the road, or at events in London. So to ease myself back into blogging I thought I write about a nice little wine, nothing extraordinarily expensive or with a long and complicated backstory. There is, after all, a place for those wines that are there just to be enjoyed.
When I unscrewed Gerhard Klein's Grüner Veltliner I hoped it would be one of those quiet, enjoyable companions. And it was. With a little twist...
2013 has now begun in earnest, and for the Wine Rambler that means it is time to start regular service again and write about wine. With our focus on Germany you would naturally expect the first bottle of the year to be of Teutonic origin - but, behold!, it is not. Geographically and linguistically Austria may not be far away, but even if some see the Austrians as Bavarians with charm, the Austrians themselves insist on their independence. Every single screw cap or capsule of Austrian wine says so in proud colours.
So why not pick a German wine as the first in 2013 on this (mostly) German wine blog? Well, first of all because we are not *that* German, but more importantly because of: tradition, quality and availability.
One of the glories of being a wine amateur without an ounce of professionalism is the childish pleasure you can take in things that more knowledgeable folk take for granted. Recently for instance, I rediscovered decanting. Now, of course I do know what pouring a wine into a larger carafe for greater air exposure does in theory, but somehow, I had let the habit slip. After all, there isn't always time for these kitchen rituals. But the exceptionally rewarding Grüner Veltliner on review today showed me what I may have been missing, as decanting did it a world of good.
The first swigs of this very young wine straight out of the bottle were not promising: A heavy, awkward and withdrawn wine. After two hours in the wide-bottom decanter, out on the cool balcony, we found something very different indeed:
I have committed my fair share of sins, but now I have to confess the first one committed on Christmas Eve. It was not strictly a religious sin, more a wine sin - although for some Austrians, I suspect, it would be the same. I had Grüner Veltliner for dinner. Grüner Veltliner - from Australia! Even worse, this is the second time I have sinned against the Austrian prerogative of making Grüner Veltliner: recently I tasted a sample from New Zealand - with the Austrian national dish Wiener Schnitzel.
Well, oops, I did it again...
Grüner Veltliner is an Austrian success story. Increasingly popular, well, fashionable - cool actually -, it stands for the renaissance of Austrian winemaking after the scandal of the 1980s. Leaving fashionability aside, the consistent quality of the Grüner ending up in my glass never fails to amaze me, and if you delve deeper into the subject you also learn how well these wines can age and how much substance they can have. So yet another Grüner to be reviewed on the Wine Rambler, you may say? Yes, but this one is different - it comes from New Zealand.
Never having tried a NZ Grüner before, I was very curious when I saw it in my favourite Battersea wine shop and took a bottle home with me to do some research - with Wiener Schnitzel, of course, and potato salad. Does New Zealand deliver?
Among the trusted recommendations you will get when asking for a wine to go with Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal escalope) and potato salad is Grüner Veltliner, Austria's signature white wine. A little while ago I was browsing the wine selection in one of Munich's more upmarket department stores, looking for a wine to bring to a Schnitzel dinner, when something green got my attention.
Green, with a clean and minimalistic design, the Grüner Veltliner "Green" seemed to promise exactly what I was looking for - a clean, minimalistic but very fresh wine.
Grüner Veltliner, also known as GruVe and often pronounced "Grooner" by Anglo-Saxons, is certainly hot property these days. Austria's signature white grape has won much critical acclaim and is now seen as cool and trendy. Most of it is consumed in Austria, and - even though Grüner can age very well - traditionally as a young, fresh wine that does not need much ageworthy complexity. Potato salad and Wiener Schnitzel (a breaded veal escalope) is one of the dishes the Austrians serve with it.
Some Grüner is made in a different style though, creating complex wines of beauty. Complexity and substance can be a good thing, but did the Jurtschitsch winery go a step too far by creating a Reserve Grüner with astonishing 15% abv?
This wine is fake. Well, a little. If you understand German, that is - otherwise you wouldn't know that "Fass 4" stands for "Barrel 4". Years ago, wines sold under this label were indeed matured in large wooden barrels, but these times are gone at the Ott winery, and now it is all steel tanks for "Barrel 4".
And out of the tanks at Wagram comes a Grüner Veltliner, Austria's signature white wine, and Bernhard Ott's speciality. Does the wine also taste "fake" - or let's rather call it "historical homage"?
I love it when a plan comes together. Seriously, I do. Not only because I used to watch way too much A-Team in the late '80s and early '90s, but also because I do love making plans. One of them is to regularly hunt for aged wine (although I do actually prefer the term 'matured wine'), and so far I have not been disappointed with the results. Quite the opposite, in fact, the good ol' boys have been the source of much pleasure. The wine I am reporting about today is no exception, in fact, it is a pure delight. You may have heard of Austria's signature white variety Grüner Veltliner, you may have tasted some, but - like me until very recently - you may not have had the change to see what a really nicely matured Grüner can be like. This baby here is 16 years old, which is the age by which most white wines have passed the zombie stage and hang between decomposition and vinegar. A few, notably Riesling or perhaps Chenin Blanc, make it to or beyond that age. But what about Grüner?
In my quest to find interesting German and Austrian wines in UK supermarkets, I recently came across an excellent Austrian Grüner Veltliner, sold in Sainsbury's 'taste the difference' range. I love Grüner, especially with food, and this wine had the added benefit of being made by a well known Austrian winemaker, Markus Huber. When I saw that the 2009 vintage hit the shelves, I had to grab a bottle to see if it would be as good as the 2008.
After several not overly successful ventures into UK supermarket wine I have let my investigation into what is available on the mass market slip. The other day though in Sainsburys I came past an Austrian wine that looked really interesting. And so I grabbed a bottle and was rewarded with one of the best wines I have ever bought from a supermarket. If you are bored by cheap Australian or Italian wines and look for a good refreshing white then look no further and go for Austria this summer.
Having had a fun afternoon sipping austrian wines recently, I dediced it was time for another foray into the territory of Grüner Veltliner, also known as "Groona" in the Vayniac universe. The austrian national grape, Grüner Veltliner makes for powerfully spicy, herbal and mineral whites, if, and only if, handled expertly by ethnic austrians with Veltliner strains in their genome. Johannes Hirsch from the Kamptal clearly qualifies here. We have tasted his 06 Heiligenstein a year ago with a very respectable, but didn't-blow-our-socks-off kind of result. So what has an additional year of bottle age done for this wine?
RotWeissRot, a Munich wine shop specializing in austrian wine (or Ösiwein, as it is affectionately known here at the Wine Rambler) had organised a tasting of high-end juices to celebrate its seventh anniversary and invited some very well thought-of winemakers to present them in person.
So who was I not to get on my bike, pedal sharpish to the somewhat dowdy part of town where it resides, meet with Wine Rambler friend and wine tasting regular Anke, and grab a glass.
About once per season the London branch of the Wine Rambler assembles a coalition of willing wine drinkers in London. The mission: to drink some god-damn wine. Mostly German wine. This time, however, we had new rules - every wine was tasted blind, its identity only to be revealed after the judges had come to a verdict. Also new was the excessiveness: between the eight of us (two arrived late, one left early) we opened nine bottles, although not every wine was finished. So let's jump right in, shall we?
People have very different ideas about wine labels, including people in wineries, of course, and that must be a good thing as it creates a certain variety. The artist-designed label of this year's GrüVe is certainly very distinctive, although I cannot say that I like the way in which it overpowers the whole bottle to the point that you see nothing else. But that just is the tradition of the Sonnhof estate's GrüVe label, an entry level Austrian Grüner Veltliner from one of Austria's premier wineries.
Grüner Veltliner is Austria's signature white grape variety. It produces lovely, fresh and crisp wines and I am just having one of these from the Kamptal. Located within easy reach of Vienna, the Kamptal has a few well known vineyards and Heiligenstein (holly stone) is one of the prestigious ones. Grüner Veltliner has a reputation of being a good food companion and so far I have not gone wrong with this grape.
The nose of the Heiligenstein Veltliner is a nicely balanced mix of cool mineral, apple and citrus fruit, enhanced by herbs, vegetable and a bit of freshly ground pepper. Not in an in-your-face style, more of a quiet confidence that does not need a fruit explosion to convince. [read the full post...]
Looking for an alternative to lemon or vinegar as an acidic ingredient when wine is going to be served? An excellent option is Verjus, that is (literally) green juice from unripely harvested grapes. Compared to vinegar the acid is milder and 'rounder', the flavour is fruity and more complex than that of lemons. Being common in the middle ages it gradually fell into oblivion and gains increasing popularity in the culinary scene only recently. We were curious and tested Austrian Verjus today: