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Summer Wines: Top Five Grüner Veltliners

With its refreshing zestiness and bright acidity Grüner Veltliner wine is perfect for al fresco dining on long summer evenings. Decanter's panel of judges give us their top five best examples of Austria's signature white variety...

Grüner Veltliner wine had long been an ode to Austria’s hallmark white grape variety, but lacked a clear identity for wine lovers to latch on to.

Even today it is perceived as a racy, dry white wine, zesty and uncomplicated, with high natural acidity; generally unoaked and usually inexpensive.

But like its Austrian stablemate Riesling, it can shine in a range of guises. It’s ideally suited to the minerally loess soils in Wagram, but can do equally well on loam in Kamptal, or on the primary-rock soils of much of Wachau and Kremstal.

It’s not a choosy variety in terms of soil types, though it does not show well in the warmest areas
such as Burgenland. On the international stage Grüner Veltiner has always been in Riesling’s shade, but in the right soils and the right hands Veltliner can certainly be its equal. And like Riesling, it can age superbly.

Grüner Veltliner isn’t the most overtly fruity of grapes, being bookmarked more for its white-pepper tones than for any rich fruitiness, although it can display citrus, apple or stone-fruit aromas and flavours depending on where it is grown and on its ripeness levels at harvest.

When picked super-ripe it can veer towards the tropical. It first came to worldwide attention in a blind-tasting in Vienna in 1998, when it was pitted against top white Burgundies, Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti included. Veltliner took the top three places.

Austrian wine estates with an eye on the export market rightly exploited this triumph, but some did so in the wrong way, devising embarrassing labels such as GruVe (geddit?), which didn’t exactly suggest a noble variety. But word has spread, aided by Grüner’s admirable versatility with food, including oriental cuisines.

Grüner Veltliner wine: Decanter panel’s top five

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