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Grüner Veltliner Makes You Smile
Wines for spring? Keep it fresh, young, high-acid, and mineral-driven.
My beer-loving boyfriend made an insightful comment as we recently sipped Gut Oggau’s 2019 “Winifred”, a cloudy and delightful rosé of blaufränkisch and zweigelt. “We drink a lot of Austrian wine,” he noticed. That we do, Jimbo! Koppitsch, Christian Tschida, Meinklang, Johannes Zillinger… the list of super influential natural winemakers making hyped juice out of Austria that regularly finds its way to our dinner table goes on. Why is that? I wondered. Vienna-based wine writer Daniela Dejnega says Austria’s low-intervention wine movement is a natural extension of the country’s wider trend towards organic and biodynamic agriculture. Vineyard holdings tend to be smaller on average, making it easier for smaller producers to convert their land to organic and biodynamic farming. This new wave of young, terroir-driven growers and winemakers has emerged with an itch to further improve wine quality in a way that’s respectful to the environment. And let’s not forget the country is home to Rudolf Steiner, the father of biodynamics. These aren’t mere coincidences; when it comes to natural wine today, Austria is where it’s at.
Wines for spring? Keep it fresh, young, high-acid, and mineral-driven. Think happy wines that reliably put a stupidly large smile on your face. Wines that pair flawlessly with those green, springtime vegetables you’ve been counting down the days for. (I can’t possibly be the only one who dreams about ramps and asparagus, right?) Grüner veltliner, in particular, checks all the spring wine boxes. Its versatility in style ranges from light and zesty to rich and complex, and you don’t have to spend much to get your hands on a quality bottle. Perhaps don’t drink the following Austrian spring wines, two varietal grüners and one grüner-based blend, in public. A stupidly large smile is guaranteed to make you look goofy. And grü-ve.
Put simply, Christina Grüner Veltliner is “[sunshine] in a bottle, you’ve got to [drink] me the right way.” While I may be misremembering the lyrics to Christina Aguilera’s 1999 hit song “Genie in a Bottle,” let me be clear: there is no wrong way to drink bottled sunshine. Yes it’s cloudy, yes it’s playful. But at its heart, this value-driven wine is textbook Grüner: honeydew melon, peaches, white blossom, and mineral. Quenchable and quaffable, this quintessential spring wine is sure to crowd please. “If you want to be with me, baby, there’s a price to pay...” And it’s only, like, 17 freaking dollars.
Nikolaihof represents OG natural winemaking. They’ve been practicing biodynamic farming in Wachau for just over 50 years, making them one of the first biodynamic producers, well, ever. Their storied and ancient estate dates back almost 2000 years and produces classic expressions of indigieous grapes made naturally. Don’t let the screw cap fool you; it’s very much an American misconception that cork closures are superior. Lush and layered, this pure expression of Grüner comes complete with citrus, melon, dried herb, almond, and white pepper. A round and ripe honeyed finish longly lingers on my palette as I selfishly long for more.
Claus Preisinger Kalkundkiesel White 2019 - $28
No swirling or wafting necessary here. That’s because intensely aromatic and ripe notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and nectarine jump out of the glass without being asked. Simply smelling Claus Preisinger’s 2019 Kalkundkiesel Blanc feels like taking a bite of the juiciest fruit, leaving an inevitable mess on your newly washed shirt. The word Kalkundkiesel itself is a portmanteau, blending the words kalk (chalk) and kiesel (pebble), indicative of the limestone soils on which the grapes for this blend are grown. Five days of skin contact leave this wine with a slightly cloudy, golden hue and a textural sensation remnant of chalk and grapefruit pith. A blend of Weissburgunder, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, and a bit of Muscat Ottonel, this juice is sure to wow. Just remember to leave your fancy shirts at home.