Our store is located in Boulder, Colorado, a notoriously “foodie” town. We have a huge wine selection and a well-trained wine staff, so we’re often asked about food pairings. Easy, right? Usually, but some foods are difficult. Asparagus and artichokes, for example, contain a chemical called cynarin which makes wine taste metallic.
Without hesitation, I take customers asking about these two veggies to the Austrian wine section and suggest a Gruner Veltliner (pronounced groon-er velt-leen-er). More often than not, they’ve never heard of it, but if they take my suggestion, it soon becomes one of their “go to” wines.
Gruner Veltliner is grown primarily in Austria where it comprises about 37% of the total grape production. There are two basic expressions of this varietal. If it is grown in the granite soils on the very steep hillsides along the Danube west of Vienna in the areas of Wachau, Kamptal, and Kremstal, the wine is very pure with perfect acidity and enormous minerality—sometimes described as “liquid stone.” These wines are full bodied with beautiful perfumed aromatics and age gracefully. They have the strength of character to match with any food. If the grapes are grown in the southern plains, the perfume is peppery and spicy, and these wines are drunk young.
Berger from Kremstal is crown capped like a beer bottle and comes as a liter only. The wine is light, faintly herbal, and is refreshing like minerally cold spring water. This an excellent entry level Gruner at $15. You’ll be glad it comes as a liter since one glass will not be enough.
Nigl Kremser Freiheit, also from Kremstal, has a smoky, creamy nose that is gradually overtaken by bright fruit and minerals. Light and stimulating, firm and lively, this is a wonderful wine for chicken and artichokes, asparagus soup, or just about any other food.
Arndorfer Weinberge, from Kamptal, is a spicy Gruner with vibrant minerality and acidity, and notes of grass and citrus on the nose. This is a perfect wine to start the evening, as the acidity makes the mouth water and the mind crave food. A great example of this grape’s potential, it’s a bargain for $25.00. Martin Arndorfer, not yet thirty years old, and his wife both come from familes of great winemakers. I had the privilege of meeting this enthusiastic yet humble young man and tasting through a half dozen of his wines, including his Vorgeschmack, 80% Gruner and 20% dry Riesling, aged four months on the lees in 80% stainless steel and 20% used oak. This wine has been one of my staff picks ever since.
Gruner Veltliner is one of the greatest food wines available. The freshness and vibrancy make it especially well suited for cooking that focuses on fresh local ingredients. Chefs all over the world are embracing it.
So next time you head to your wine shop, think Austria!