In a country steeped in history and ruled by the Habsburgs for more than 700 years, the best way to get a handle on Austria’s wines may be to place them within the context of the country’s regal past.
Riesling, with its rigorous structure, edgy minerality, and noses of fresh green and bright yellow, is the Habsburgs. There, it’s been said. Among Austria’s whites, Riesling holds the scepter and wears the crown. “I’ll have a bottle of Austrian Riesling please.” Rolls off the tongue.
But what of Gruner Veltliner?
If Riesling is the Habsburgs, Gruner Veltliner stands Austria’s Crown Prince. The heir apparent, the people’s favourite, lurking behind a marble column or moss-covered oak tree, dagger in hand.
First some basics: Gruner is everywhere in Austria, making up more than a third of the country’s wine growing areas. The most famous of these are the Wachau, Kamp and Krems Valleys in Lower Austria. Arrive in Vienna, follow the Danube west for an hour. Bingo.
And what does it taste like? It tastes the way a delightfully fresh and refreshing white wine should taste. And what does it smell like if you put your nose sideways into the glass and are a person who can distinguish such fleeting notes? It smells of everything from lime to ginger, grapefruit to radish, lemon to tarragon and nectarine to Brazil nut. But don’t say all these things at once because no one will believe you. Is Grüner acidic, of the pleasing “my, how fresh” and not “oh my god I can’t feel my tongue” kind? Yes. Very.
“And what does it taste like? It tastes the way a delightfully fresh and refreshing white wine should taste.”