It’s often cited that Gewurztraminer doesn’t sell well because it’s difficult to say. While this may be true, it’s also overstated. Its niche-ness has probably got more to do with the grape’s personality than its name.
Now New Zealand has a brand new phonetic wine puzzle to solve with the emergence of Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner Felt-lee-ner), this year seeing the long-awaited release of several bottlings from around the country.
Grüner Veltliner is a high quality white grape from Austria, where it makes up a third of all vineyard plantings. In Austria, it can be made in a simple, table wine style (where they like to mix it with lemonade. Local Austrian winemaker Rudi Bauer told me that.)
But it is the concentrated, dry Grüners from the steep terraced vineyards on the banks of the Danube that have influenced NZ growers to try it here.
Central Otago producers have been talking about the variety for some years and plantings are now starting to bear fruit and wines appearing. Central Otago is even mentioned in the wine geek’s bible, The Oxford Companion to Wine, as a place that’s trialling the variety.
There are some similarities with Central Otago and the best Austrian regions. The continental, moderate climate, a marked difference in daytime and night time temperatures and a long, dry autumn.
The variety has a strong following, especially in the US. Though production will remain small in NZ for a while, it adds another string to the bow and gives our wine portfolio added interest and diversity.
Great Grüner Veltliner can be intensely mineral, one of the most mineral wines I’ve tried. What’s mineral? To some it’s like a wet river stone. To me it’s like Andrews Original Salts, a dissolvable medicine my mum used to give me for an upset stomach.
Don’t let that put you off. The best Grüners are full bodied, dry and peppery. When aged they develop a honey and toast character reminiscent of Chardonnay. And they age really well.
So far I’ve tried Forrests’ version, a full bodied, medium dry, overtly fruity wine that’s fun, but not authentic.
Last night I managed to scrounge a barrel sample from Mount Edward. Theirs is off dry and textural with lots of typical mineral notes (Andrews). High alcohol will be a concern as it’s a late ripener and sugar levels can rise sharply.
As for the name? America has tried Grooner, GV and even Gru Vee and you’ll probably see the same here.
Whatever works? The important thing is to pluck up the courage to try something new with your wiener schnitzel this summer.
Paul Tudgay is the Queenstown Resort College business hospitality manager and wine appreciation lecturer.
For more of Tudgay’s wine musings, go to his Wine down site