Grüner Veltliner

Taste the difference, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, 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.

Markus Huber's Veltliner, Sainsbury

Weingut Hirsch, Zöbinger Heiligenstein, Grüner Veltliner, 2006

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?

Julian Wednesday, 05/05/2010

An afternoon of Austrian 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.

Wine Ramber London autumn wine tasting, 2009

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?

Jurtschitsch Sonnhof, GrüVe Grüner Veltliner 2008

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.

Weingut Hirsch, Zöbinger Heiligenstein, Grüner Veltliner, 2007

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.

green juice

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: