Jurtschitsch Sonnhof, Spiegel, Grüner Veltliner Reserve, 2006
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?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a white wine with 15% alcohol; and from Austria, not the new world! I had my doubts. It has to be said though that it looked beautiful, both the bottle (below) and the wine (above). A wonderfully clear golden colour, very shiny indeed. The nose is not quite as intense, but still very enticing and exciting, managing a good balance between ripe, fresh and elegant character. Honey dew melon and peach blend in with ground white pepper, celeriac and honey-mineral. Not bad, so far.
On the tongue the Grüner is very concentrated and intense, but also quite juicy. Fruit flavours mix with smoky, spicy notes and oaky nut aromas, all embedded in a herbal flavoursomeness and a long, cool finish. I found similarities to a lightly oaked Chardonnay, yet at the same time there was more substance and body, plus a more distinct aroma.
Astonishingly, you would never have noticed the strong alcohol (feel it, yes, but taste it, no). It just comes nicely embedded in flavour, substance and acidity. The Jurtschitsch Grüner easily beats all the high alcohol white wines I have tried so far. It is so quaffable that even after we finished the bottle I could still have seen myself drinking another glass.
I still don't desire this type of high alcohol wine in general, but if it is so well done, I can see myself wanting another bottle of this bold wine. Very good indeed.
...as usual. However, just one thing this pedant from Basel would like to pick up on: we are not "Anglo-Saxons"!
The Anglo-Saxons roamed the wilds of Mercia etc. centuries ago. I know we may still be looked down upon by other Europeans as the Anglo-Saxons, but "...often pronounced 'Grooner' in Anglo-American circles..." will do quite nicely instead, thank you very much! :-))
In reply to Excellent stuff... by Simon Jones
First of all let me thank the pedant from Basel for this and previous comments. Many native speakers are too polite to point out mistakes, so how is one supposed to learn? In this case I am not yet fully convinced though - after all, there are Australians and British Canadians too, not to mention a few others. Having consulted a few dictionaries, it does seem that referring to people of English descent living in an English language context as Anglo-Saxon is not that uncommon, and that the use of the term depends on one's preferences. I have noted though that not all Anglo-Saxons appreciate it. On the other hand, my boss - a good English man - always points out that the Americans cannot be classed as "English speakers" as they tend to maim and mangle the language, so that term would also seem to offend some. What to do I am not sure, other than to discuss matters further over a glass of Grooner.
In reply to Anglo-Saxons by torsten
Glass of grooner - that sounds like a good plan.
You're right, Torsten - it does depend on preferences. Immediately after writing my previous comment, I did regret not thinking of the Antipodeans, Canadians etc. Then again, in Germany and Switzerland I've previously come across talk of "angelsächsische Verhältnisse" (i.e. things like Sunday shopping, CCTV or Sheikhs owning Premier League clubs). And when the French mention "les Anglo-Saxons", their distain is palpable. I doubt they think of Kiwi sheep farmers or the Canadian Mounties when uttering those words.
Despite the dictionary references to the "Anglo-Saxons", it's been often drilled into me as a translator that I should avoid using it as a term, especially given its potentially derogatory effect. On second thoughts, I probably would go for "English speakers" or the "English-speaking world" notwithstanding the point your boss makes!
Sorry, I'm at it again.
Mit besten angelsächsischen Grüssen from this particular pedant ;-)
In reply to Glass of grooner - that sounds like a good plan. by Simon
Glass of Groona/Grooner
"Anglo-Saxons" is a term I use with affection, on rare occasions also with affectionate mockery, so I see your point. While I won't promise to never use the term again, I will promise to look into the glass of Grooner and keep your comments in mind!
Welcome to my Grüner Club
Welcome to my Grüner Club Torsten...
I have been enjoying these wines over the last 2 years now...
and the Smaragd and Reserve wines age beautifully.
Check the blog then buy buy buy...although...you being in the Land Of The Saxs
will not have the choice we do in Germany.
F.X. Pichler, Knoll, Rudi Pichler etc...and all still fairly priced...no doubt as more members join my 'Club' the price will rise...but until then...swim in the River Veltliner.
In reply to Welcome to my Grüner Club by Barry
It seems to me I may have been a member for a while, at least since I had my first aged Kirchmayr Solist Grüner last year. And I did notice the success you had with these wines on your blog, Barry. Luckily, we can source wine directly from the continent, but my favourite local wine shop also has Grüner, Jurtschitsch, but also Knoll. It is difficult to find the aged ones over here though. Will keep my eyes peeled and report back!
High Alcohol Whites
It is suprising that such a high alcohol remained in balance. The grapes underlying the wine must have a good acidity I think to balance any RS then finally the wine has to be full and complex enough to mask/hide the alcohol
Just my theory but I have noticed in some other New World wines that it is possible but then I always suspected some manipulation of acidity which I wouldn't from A Kamptaler GV.
In reply to High Alcohol Whites by Roger Sleigh
This Grüner was certainly
This Grüner was certainly substantial enough to be able to take it, substantial and with good body, but not too heavy at the same time. It is true that good acidity goes a long way in balancing high ABV - I recently had this in a few American wines and it worked very well. I was really surprised because I haven't seen high alcohol done so well!
Check out the Wachau
I'm a big fan of Austrian wines - mostly Smaragd Rieslings but of late the GVs too.
I do recommend you check out the Wachau; there's some really world-class stuff there; I've never had anything up to 15%, but FX Pichler will get up to 14% in a good year and still feel balanced, as well as intensely structured and long.
Fascinating terroir, too; have a look at these posts for some more details:
In reply to Check out the Wachau by Tom Lewis
The Wachau is definitely worth further exploration. I have had only a few wines from there, but all of them were spectacular. Pichler is one of the names that have come up a lot, but I don't think I have tried on yet. Following your recommendation I will have to put them higher up on the list of wineries to explore.
Thanks for sharing this, Tom!