Gruner Veltliner, given the much easier to remember moniker gru-vee (as in groovy) by the marketing people, is an Austrian white wine grape variety and their most popular white, accounting for 30% of all Austria's plantings. To give you some idea, there's as much Gruner Veltliner in Austria as there is Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.
It's believed to be a native Austrian variety, derived from Traminer on one side, and an unknown grape on the other. The spectrum of wines made from the grape is wide, more akin to Riesling in New Zealand, ranging from light wines made to be drunk young, to opulent rich wines with exceptional cellaring potential. Key varietal characters are a spicy mixture of fruit (mostly apple) and spice (the signature pepper note), with a backbone of lively, integrated acidity. Very ripe styles display nuances of nut and dried fruit, complemented with tropical notes and honeyed aromas.
There are a handful of Gruner Veltliner producers now in New Zealand – and an Internet search for the wine grape turns up names like Coopers Creek and Heart of Gold (Gisborne), Lime Rock (Hawkes Bay), Forrest Estate, Konrad, Tinpot Hut and Jules Taylor (Marlborough), Waimea Estate and Seifried (Nelson).
Last year, at the New Zealand International Wine Show, I took time out from writing gold medal descriptions to sneak a taste of three Gruner Veltliners entered into the competition. The Waimea Estate was my favourite but the judges did not reward it with a medal. Then I described it as, " . . .fairly dry but with textural richness that adds weight, this is neutral on the nose and rounded in the palate with delicate hints of aniseed, perhaps tarragon, a bit of that sucking on an apricot kernel character and a hint of flower musk creeping in on the finish . . . ".
Waimea Estate Gruner Veltliner 2010 was tasted again this weekend. With the wine poured icy cold from the refrigerator, the aromas are aromatic with a hint of lemon zest and the flavours are juicy and herbal with a tropical fruit richness – served chilled there is a Sauvignon Blanc similarity to the flavour profile but as the wine warms up in the glass the inherent spiciness of the Gruner Veltliner grape comes through and it finishes nutty and dry.
What I like about this wine it that it has oomph and punch and with a slightly herbaceous and juicy fruit profile, it's going to be easy for Sauv Blanc drinkers to understand
Waimea Estate grows just three rows of these grapes on a narrow stony block called Railway Reserve, named as such because it was once a railway line. On April 10th 2010, hand-harvested grapes were gently whole bunch pressed and the juice was cold settled for several days, before racking to a stainless steel tank. Light solids were included in the ferment to give the wine some texture and body, and the juice was inoculated, with fermentation temperatures kept moderately low. After several weeks of fermentation, the wine was allowed to ferment to dryness and settle naturally. No malolactic ferment was encouraged. The wine was gently fined and filtered pre-bottling and bottled in August 2010.
It has 13.5% alcohol by volume and a screwcap closure. The price I was given is $23.90 a bottle and only 43 cases were produced.
Check out www.waimeabrands.com for more.
© Sue Courtney
10 Jan 2011