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...
How did it come to this? Clearly, I am weak and was seduced. Seduced by a guy called Larry. Larry Jacobs is, together with his chum Marc Dobson, the founder of Hahndorf Hill Winery near Adelaide. He also reads the Wine Rambler - after the review of the NZ Grüner Veltliner was published, Larry suggested I try the Australian version of Grüner the next time I had schnitzel. Fast forward to Christmas Eve. This is the time when many Germans traditionally eat potato salad and sausages. Clearly my cultural DNA is somewhat damaged as I still like potato salad better with schnitzel.
So I ended up with a potentially unholy mixture of broken German customs, Austrian recipe and Austro-Australian wine. Austro-Australian as the grapes for GRU come from vines planted in 2006, when Larry and Marc imported Grüner clones from Austria to Adelaide Hills. This cool climate wine region allows for an extended growing season that suits Grüner - as does the soil in the Hahndorf vineyards: blue-red slate with quartz and ironstone intrusions on sub-soils composed of deep red clay.
After all this soil colour you might expect a wine of some visual vibrancy - but GRU is quite pale, actually. In fact, one of the paler wines I have seen since the incident with the English wine I don't want to talk about. Luckily, I don't have to shut my mouth about GRU as it shows the qualities that have made Grüner Veltliner so many friends: it is fresh, clean and crisp.
The freshness experience starts with a mineral bouquet that, while a little restrained, has fresh citrus fruit, some ground pepper and a touch of apple and pear. With its moderate alcohol level GRU is also very refreshing to drink, a lean, clear-cut and lively wine with fresh acidity and a lighter finish that blends mineral with a touch of juicy. The Grüner trademark ground pepper is present as is some nutmeg to add a touch of spice that made the wine work very well with the potato salad - both enhanced each others flavours.
Fresh, crisp, dry, lean, mineral - would I sin against the Austrian wine gods if I said that the guys down under too manage to capture the essence of Grüner?