Here's a story of youthful adventure: In my last year of school, I went for a week of hiking in the Scottish Highlands with three friends. Among many glorious things and brave deeds, it was also a time of spectacularly soggy hiking boots and mad scrambling for overbooked accommodation, us German school boys never having heard of such a thing as a bank holiday. One late afternoon we stumbled into the village of Crianlarich after a day's quasi-amphibious hike and made for the hostel where we had secured beds for the night, when the menu of the local takeaway caught our eye: Fish and Chips up there, of course, and a good variety of other deep-fried fare. But did it really say "fried black pudding and chips"? Dessert was provided for by fried chocolate bars.
This culinary cornucopia seemed outlandish, if strangely appealing, to us, and we mentioned this to our landlord when we checked into our bothy bedrooms. "Och ay", he said, "they fry ****ing everything". All right, I made the och ay-part up, but he did have the Scots accent that gave us such trouble, and I also seem to remember a distinctly north-of-the-border expletive in there. He also said this with a look that seemed to say "You boys think you can handle it?" It was a dare.
Among the trusted recommendations you will get when asking for a wine to go with Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal escalope) and potato salad is Grüner Veltliner, Austria's signature white wine. A little while ago I was browsing the wine selection in one of Munich's more upmarket department stores, looking for a wine to bring to a Schnitzel dinner, when something green got my attention.
Green, with a clean and minimalistic design, the Grüner Veltliner "Green" seemed to promise exactly what I was looking for - a clean, minimalistic but very fresh wine.
Grüner Veltliner, also known as GruVe and often pronounced "Grooner" by Anglo-Saxons, is certainly hot property these days. Austria's signature white grape has won much critical acclaim and is now seen as cool and trendy. Most of it is consumed in Austria, and - even though Grüner can age very well - traditionally as a young, fresh wine that does not need much ageworthy complexity. Potato salad and Wiener Schnitzel (a breaded veal escalope) is one of the dishes the Austrians serve with it.
Some Grüner is made in a different style though, creating complex wines of beauty. Complexity and substance can be a good thing, but did the Jurtschitsch winery go a step too far by creating a Reserve Grüner with astonishing 15% abv?
Having had a fun afternoon sipping austrian wines recently, I dediced it was time for another foray into the territory of Grüner Veltliner, also known as "Groona" in the Vayniac universe. The austrian national grape, Grüner Veltliner makes for powerfully spicy, herbal and mineral whites, if, and only if, handled expertly by ethnic austrians with Veltliner strains in their genome. Johannes Hirsch from the Kamptal clearly qualifies here. We have tasted his 06 Heiligenstein a year ago with a very respectable, but didn't-blow-our-socks-off kind of result. So what has an additional year of bottle age done for this wine?
People have very different ideas about wine labels, including people in wineries, of course, and that must be a good thing as it creates a certain variety. The artist-designed label of this year's GrüVe is certainly very distinctive, although I cannot say that I like the way in which it overpowers the whole bottle to the point that you see nothing else. But that just is the tradition of the Sonnhof estate's GrüVe label, an entry level Austrian Grüner Veltliner from one of Austria's premier wineries.
Grüner Veltliner is Austria's signature white grape variety. It produces lovely, fresh and crisp wines and I am just having one of these from the Kamptal. Located within easy reach of Vienna, the Kamptal has a few well known vineyards and Heiligenstein (holly stone) is one of the prestigious ones. Grüner Veltliner has a reputation of being a good food companion and so far I have not gone wrong with this grape.
The nose of the Heiligenstein Veltliner is a nicely balanced mix of cool mineral, apple and citrus fruit, enhanced by herbs, vegetable and a bit of freshly ground pepper. Not in an in-your-face style, more of a quiet confidence that does not need a fruit explosion to convince. [read the full post...]