Grüner Veltliner is widely known as the white flagship variety of Austria where it accounts for more than 30 percent of the country’s wine production. The variety is similarly popular in neighboring Slovakia, representing one fifth of the nation’s output. In recent years, U.S. wine regions have also begun to cultivate Grüner Veltliner, including the Finger Lakes region of New York as well as New Jersey.
Grüner Veltliner in 60 Seconds
- Grüner Veltliner is a light-bodied white wine with very high acidity.
- Grüner Veltliner is the off-spring of Traminer (aka Savignin/Sauvignon Blanc). Its second parent is widely believed to be St. Georgen, an obscure Austrian white variety.
- Austria grows more than 75 percent of the world’s Grüner Veltliner.
- High-quality versions are often aged in oak casks.
The Grape’s Origins
There are two sides to Grüner Veltliner’s origin story. The variety’s name translates to “Green Wine of Veltlin” — Veltlin being an area that is historically part of Valtellina, Italy in the lower Alps. Some believe the grape was born here and drunk during Roman times but scientists haven’t been able to prove the Italian connection. The grape’s lineage has only been traced to Austria, specifically Niederösterreich, a state in Lower Austria.
Grüner Veltliner was unknown outside of Austria more than twenty years ago. It didn’t take off on the international market until famed British wine writer Jancis Robinson travelled to Vienna in 2002. Having tasted Grüner Veltliner against some of the top white wines in the world, including White Burgundy and Chardonnay from California, Robinson was blown away by the wine, proving a clear victory for Grüner Veltliner. From then on, the wine world began singing the grape’s praises, and it has gradually proliferated on restaurant wine lists and in wine shops across the globe.
What Grüner Veltliner Tastes Like
Grüner Veltliner is a dry wine with high acidity and dominant notes of citrus, including lemons, limes, and grapefruit. It’s also known for a white pepper quality that translates to a green herbaceous character, making it easy to compare to Sauvignon Blanc. Along with Chardonnay and Riesling, Grüner Veltliner is one of the rare white wines that is incredibly age-worthy.
Producers select their best fruit for age-worthy expressions. These wines age in oak anywhere from one to three years and can be cellared after bottling for a decade, sometimes longer. This style demands a higher price, up to $50, and exudes rich and somewhat creamy layers of citrus and honey while still radiating the grape’s trademark high acidity.
Foods To Pair With Grüner Veltliner
Famed chef Wolfgang Puck is credited with saying his perfect meal is classic Austrian Wiener Schnitzel alongside a glass of Grüner Veltliner. The wine’s high acidity makes it a great pairing for fried foods, much in the same way that sparkling wine helps elevate anything deep-fried.
Grüner Veltliner’s crisp and herbaceous qualities make it an ideal wine to pair with vegetarian dishes, especially ones with spice. Try it with Thai coconut curry or spiced black bean tacos with roasted sweet potatoes. For seafood lovers, seek out lean fish like haddock or halibut to compliment the variety’s crisp and austere character.