Green and Gruner: Austria’s White Wine

alpsWine from Austria? Really?

You mean that country with all the mountains?

The country where the Von Trapp family fled over the Alps after singing their little hearts out in “The Sound of Music?”

Yes, we’re talking wine from Austria — very good wine, actually.

There have been wine grapes grown in Austria for centuries — every European countryman (and woman) has always enjoyed wine every day, and most of it is made locally, even in chilly Austria. While the western half of the country is filled with the soaring Alps, the eastern half  produces wine grapes that until relatively recently — i.e. 10 or 15 years ago — were mostly shipped to Germany. They were blended with German grapes to make less-than-top-notch country wines.

But 10 or 15 years ago some Austrian said, “Hey, wait a minute. Why don’t we bottle and sell our own wine. And if we’re going to put our own label on it, let’s make it good.” And that’s what they eyes

The grape they’ve poured their resources into, and that’s become Austria’s signature grape, is Gruner Veltliner. This white grape thrives in Austria’s cool continental climate. The mild summer weather produces good acid in the grapes, creating a crisp, aromatic white wine.

At a blind tasting recently we tasted Green Eyes Gruner Veltliner 2009, which seems to be designed with the American market in mind: the label is anything but traditional. But the wine is good.

The nose offers snappy pear, citrus and a slight floral aroma, with a pale straw-yellow color. The palate is crisp, but not so acidic it turns your mouth inside out (like I’ve known New Zealand whites to do). I tasted more citrus and pear, with some flinty minerality. It’s not heavy on the palate, and the overall balance between fruit and acid was good.

This kind of white should be drunk young, and very well chilled. If we ever get any warm weather (we’re working on a string of 35-degree-fahrenheit days), Green Eyes will make a great summer refresher.

You won’t find Gruner Veltliner everywhere just yet, but its star is on the rise. The U.S. wine market has discovered it, so look for it to start appearing in wine shops and the wine aisle of up-scale food stores. You should check it out — I think it’s a new experience you’ll enjoy. Cheers!

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