Pops of white peppercorn, a squirt of a juicy peach and a racy line of minerality—these are the characteristics that bring fans of Austrian Grüner Veltliner to the table. A natural crossing of Traminer and an unknown grape, it’s considered indigenous to Austria and is the country’s most widely planted grape today. There, the best examples are grown at higher altitude in rocky soils on steep slopes, with extreme temperature shifts to retain acidity yet ripen the fruit.
“Grüner is definitely much more terroir-sensitive than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling,” says Bertold Salomon, owner of Salomon Undhof in Austria. Simply put, it’s not a grape that can be grown just anywhere. However, it’s thriving in these three regions.
Alto Adige, Italy
Grüner was introduced to this northern Italian wine region in the 1990s, and today it accounts for about 65 acres in Valle Isarco. Gravelly, alluvial soils on steep southeast-facing slopes provide sun exposure and temperature swings that lead to a medium-bodied, mineral-driven style. Hints of caraway and anise are joined by green and ripe apples, quince and honey, with a lengthy yet refreshing finish, says Armin Gratl, managing director of Cantina Valle Isarco.
Marlborough, New Zealand
During the early 2000s, Grüner came to Gisborne; shortly after, it was planted on the South Island. Today there are almost 100 acres, mostly in Marlborough, where hot days and cool nights give grapes a bright, clean profile. Partial fermentation in older barrels and malolactic fermentation lend richness and roundness while allowing it to develop with age. “It’s a super aromatic, textural, lively and wonderful food-friendly option,” says Jules Taylor, owner of Jules Taylor Wines.
Adelaide Hills, Australia
Wines made from the grape in this cool-climate region were first released in 2009. Renowned wine writer Jancis Robinson was so impressed with Australian Grüner, she organized a tasting pitting it against world-class bottles like white Burgundy. Today, around 30 producers are making stylish and intensely flavored examples showcasing notes of pear, apple, lemon and signature white pepper.
This article originally appeared in the December 31, 2021 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!