Friday, February 11, 2011

Gruner Veltliner and Szechuan Beef with Broccoli, Try Again!

On the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year I was talking to a friend of mine when the subject of Asian food and wine pairings came up. While common knowledge tells us that pairing a riesling or even gewurtraminer with spicy dishes such as Thai cuisine can work, what about using a gruner veltliner?

Fast forward a few days when lo and behold, my doorstep has a box containing some wine, one of which happens to be a gruner veltliner from the Osterreich region of Austria. Per my usual routine, this gruner rested for a little while before I opened it to taste and share with you. Frequent readers may recall my fondness for this varietal, as highlighted in a couple of previous posts. Please feel free to click here and here to see them.

2009 Weingut Christ Gruner Veltliner Bruch

As I marveled at the color, a delicate greenish straw color, I figured the pairing of Spicy Szechuan Beef and Broccoli along with lime rice might utterly destroy the gruner. Why did I capitalize that entree title? Well, that's the name on the bag that came from my local Trader Joe's.

Time for a few whiffs of the 2009 Weingut Christ, where fragrant lime juice and lemongrass seem to appear first. Upon another sniff, tart green apple and wet rock bounce around in my nostrils. The barest hint of spice and fresh lychee are present too. Hopefully it's apparent that I am loving the complexity of the nose so far.

Now I get to taste the wine, my favorite part! Right away I get traditional gruner flavors: citrus, fresh herb, wet rock and green apples. Overall I think the nose is more complex than the taste, but here's the rub. Two things ran though my head, first that the wine was too cold to be tasting and second, that the wine hadn't settled enough after being shipped.

Here's the situation: while I was tasting the gruner, I couldn't get enough life, vivacity, crispness or whatever word you use to describe an acidic white that should have some "pop". The flavors seemed muted and dissipated far too quickly for my liking. Since I'm reasonably certain of my method for evaluating white wines, I suspect that I may not have allowed the 2009 Weingut Christ to rest long enough..But that seems a bit far-fetched too. Perhaps my palate was just having a bit of an off day.

I wrote these tasting notes quickly though, before I cooked up the Szechaun beef and broccoli. The spices in that dish unfortunately blew the gruner out of the water. About the only thing that the gruner brought to the table was enough acidity to partially was my palate clean of the sweet/sour flavors in the food. Now that I'm reflecting a bit, I realize that there simply wasn't the opposite flavor of sour present, which for our purposes is sweet. That's why a wine with a bit more residual sugar would have fared better.

As of now, at about 6:30pm, I'm going to put this stuff away and seal it with my vacu-vin till tomorrow. Don't worry, I will put the wine back in the fridge and before I re-taste, it'll be allowed about 30 minutes to gently come up a few degrees.

Picking up where I left off last night, I once again poured a glass of the 2009 Weingut Christ Gruner Veltliner and allowed it to slowly warm up a bit. For the first time since I started writing about wine, a taste and review entry is spanning two days. Comparing my notes from last night to what I am experiencing tonight, the bouquet is close though I would suggest that the lychee that was faint last night has come on strong though, overtaking the subtle spices and nearly drowning them out.

Comparing the mouth-feel and flavors of last night to what I taste tonight reveals some changes. The beautiful acidity is still present, I love how it builds a wall in my mouth while slowly moving backwards across my tongue and brushing my cheeks. Here I get much more spice than before, but still lovely green apple and herbal notes. Hints of residual sugar peek out through a fleshier mid-palate than before. Imagine the pulp of a lychee fruit mixed with a spritz of pineapple juice. The finish tends towards abruptness, but given the high acidity, we can't be too surprised by that.

Day two brought about a better wine than day one, no question in my mind. Had you asked for a rating after yesterday, I'd have given this wine a C and suggested you pass on it. Tonight though, the wine shows much more character and varietal honesty. I marked it up a letter grade, to a B- and encourage you to BUY a bottle. I searched the internet and found a lot of places selling this for about $12, which isn't bad at all. It does lack a bit of complexity compared to more expensive gruner veltliner but that nose is something from a more expesnive bottle. 12.5% alcohol also earns a positive nod. Check out the 2009 Weingut Christ Gruner Veltliner Bruch and see what you think.

This was provided as a media sample.

Beau Carufel


  1. I'm all about Szechaun and Sauvignon Blanc. I know I know, it's weird ... but I love the spiciness with the strong acidity from a good Sauv Blanc.

  2. I will have to try out that pairing, perhaps with a Sancerre or something from New Zealand.