Sunday, September 19, 2010

Grooooooovy Grooner! Gruner Veltliner to the Spelling Police...

Gruner Veltliner continues to make inroads in the domestic market as an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. It's the number one white grape in Austria and is also grown in small quantities in Oregon and California. I don't mean to suggest Gruner is better or worse as the aforementioned varietals though. What Gruner can do is provide a wonderfully refreshing, food-friendly, sometimes complex white wine to explore.

The wine drinking public is growing more and more aware of Gruner. Some of the best examples can have a complexity and texture that rivals the top Sancerre's and Oregon Pinot Gris'. Trouble is, Gruner Veltliner can be hard to find in the United States. A lack of consumer awareness contributes to the relative scarcity of the wine. As it turns out, a lot of people also have trouble pronouncing the name, which is understandable since it's got all sorts of funny dots and letter-pairings.

Enter winemaker Meinhard Forstreiter and his creation: "Grooner". Imported by Monika Caha and retailing for between $12 and $15, this example of Gruner Veltliner is designed to introduce wine drinkers to the grape.

2009 "Grooner" Gruner Veltliner Kremstal, Austria

Originating in the Kremstal region of Austria, which is in the northern part of the country, Grooner clocks in at a modest 12% alcohol by volume. According to the critics and industry commentators, 2009 was a very good vintage, quality-wise. A somewhat uneven growing season was saved by a last bit of great fall weather to properly ripen the grapes in most regions. Luckily for me (and you), this included the Kremstal region.

Interestingly, the Austrian wine industry has a theory that vintages in the "9's", 2009, 1999, 1979, etc..Are usually absolutely amazing. This first came about in 1959 and has continued to this day. They have scores and wine-drinker consensus backing them up in this theory as well, so there's probably something to it.

Now, how was the 2009 Grooner? In a word, delicious.

I'm a sucker for high-acid white wines, always have been and always will be. With that not-so-subtle disclaimer out of the way, I tasted this wine without knowing the price. After finding out the price, I was surprised, in a good way.

Right off the bat, I liked the pale-greenish hue and impressive clarity. I could immediately tell this was a type of wine I didn't have too often. My first few sniffs revealed freshly sliced green apple, a whiff of perfumed lemongrass, and even some gooseberries. That kind of nose to me immediately signals a dry, crisp white wine.

At nearly room temperature, the acidity was very lively across my palate. I could feel a washing effect all the way back through the finish. That carried flavors of grapefruit peel, hints of herbs and green apples, lime juice and wet rocks across the back palate. I felt that perhaps the finish was a bit quick, but this seemed to work with the Grooner.

All told, I was impressed with the accessibility of this wine along with the well integrated flavors. That acidity easily won me over and I'd love to try this wine with sushi, tempura vegetables and even grilled crustaceans. I highly recommend the Grooner, giving it a B+. Wonderfully expressive flavors carried through by crisp acid make the wine perfect for hot weather, food, and most importantly, perfect for you to start to explore Gruner Veltliner.

This wine was provided as a sample.

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Beau Carufel

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