Christopher Sealy is a sommelier, wine educator and occasional wine writer, based in Toronto. He was the recipient of the first ever Toronto Michelin Guide Sommelier Award in 2022, as wine director for Alo Food Group restaurants. In between frequent wine travel and wine service, Christopher can be found at the Saturday morning farmers’ market, spinning vinyl at a local wine bar, sipping fresh low-intervention wines, or in a coffee shop planning his next wine collaboration.
I first met Grüner Veltliner perhaps a decade ago, or more. I had scheduled a tasting with an agent who was touring my home town of Toronto with an Austrian wine producer – it was an unexpected encounter with the Grüner Veltliner grape: I was shy and caught off-guard. The Grüner shimmered with an emerald hue, was charming, nuanced, vibrantly fresh and complex at the same time.
I was intrigued. I became enamoured. I wanted to get to know Grüner wines in all their forms and fashions. To this day our relationship can be described as one big love affair.
My first visit to see Grüner Veltliner on its home soil was in the company of the wine-grower Fred Loimer, who is located in the Kamptal wine region in the Danube area of Lower Austria, Niederösterreich. The Kamp is one of the many tributaries that carve channels across the land, making way for the warm easterly breeze of the Pannonian Basin to enter and clash with the cool winds of the Atlantic descending from the north and west. Beautiful climates of tension allow for Grüner to be fashioned into some of the most dynamic wines I have ever tasted.
I have learned that, yes, Grüner can be styled into elegant and classic wines. Yet with a more raw, lower-interventionist/biodynamic approach, Grüner is capable of reaching indescribable heights of taste and delight. Austria is abundant in biodynamic wines.
Over the years, I’ve been able to explore Grüner’s native lands further, spending time in the cool, westerly, terraced vineyards of the Wachau where Grüner displays a crystalline and mineral side; like sunlight in winter. All the way east above Vienna to the rolling hills and valleys of a Sound-of-Music landscape that is the Weinviertel. Here a multitude of expressions of Grüner can be found, from sensual skin-contact wines to acacia-scented, spicy, peppery expressions. In between, there are the regions – no less in significance – of Kremstal, Traisental and Wagram, which all offer various other identities of Grüner.
When all you need is comfort at the table, Grüner easily takes the place of Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño or Muscadet – even Chardonnay in many instances. With any dish featuring or scented with asparagus, anise, fennel, cucumber, over a crudo, lake or ocean fish, Grüner is harmonious. With serious cuts of veal, pork, roast cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, meanwhile, enjoy a ‘reserve’ level or grand cru 1ÖTW (Austria’s equivalent of the German Grosses Gewächs) expression of Grüner.
Good Grüner is irresistible, great Grüner is divine. Most Grüner is already styled and fashioned to a high degree. It’s just in its DNA. Take more than a sip and fall into a wonderful love affair.
Discover Grüner Veltliner: Sealy’s three to try
For those who love ‘classic’ styles, try any of the many expressions of Fred Loimer, particularly his Ried Spiegel 1ÖTW, Langenlois, Kamptal. This is a wine for the cellar, reflective of time and space that shepherds the energy of soil and environment towards centre stage, like the skilled conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
For those who may have explored Grüner at their local natural wine bar, try Weingut Shödl’s Grün, Grün, Grüner, Weinviertel 2022 (£28.50-£33 Modal Wines, Wayward Wines), for an expression of raw clarity. No funk, just enough edge with a peppered playfulness, and delight that keeps you coming back for more. As a food pairing option, this low-intervention wine works wonders.
Weingut Prager is an icon of the Wachau, crafting wines of Klimt-esque divinity. Whatever you see in a Klimt painting, I am sure you will find in a bottle of any terroir-driven wine from Prager. There is no comparison for wines like this. It is difficult to pick one particular bottling, but I would recommend many.