Grüner Veltliner is an Austrian success story. Increasingly popular, well, fashionable - cool actually -, it stands for the renaissance of Austrian winemaking after the scandal of the 1980s. Leaving fashionability aside, the consistent quality of the Grüner ending up in my glass never fails to amaze me, and if you delve deeper into the subject you also learn how well these wines can age and how much substance they can have. So yet another Grüner to be reviewed on the Wine Rambler, you may say? Yes, but this one is different - it comes from New Zealand.
Never having tried a NZ Grüner before, I was very curious when I saw it in my favourite Battersea wine shop and took a bottle home with me to do some research - with Wiener Schnitzel, of course, and potato salad. Does New Zealand deliver?
First a few words of background story. The grapes for this wine come from vineyards in the Marlborough region, made into wine by Jules Taylor. Jules Taylor, it turns out, is a girl who, as her website informs us, loves the character of the Marlborough region. She makes wines from a range of grapes there, including Riesling and the inevitable Sauvignon Blanc, and in 2010 she made her first wine from Grüner Veltliner. This is what she has to say about it:
With its strong aromatic profile I believe it is a variety that should be eminently suited to the Marlborough region. I have gently pressed the berries after chilling the fruit to minimise oxidation and the juice was then cold settled over 48 hours before fermenting. The ferment was kept cool and long to retain the vibrant aromatics and then gently clarified, stabilised and bottled with a screw cap closure to retain freshness.
The wine that resulted from this process has 14% ABV, 12.6g/l of residual sugar and 7.2g of acid, again per litre. Clearly, this information will help you to understand the wine, won't it? I mention it for two reasons. First of all to say that while the Grüner does not exactly feel bone dry, I was a little surprised by how high the sugar content is. Secondly, well, I was not surprised to read about the alcohol level as that is much more present.
But first things first. On the nose the Grüner is fresh, with the usual aromas of green apple, ground pepper and citrus, plus spicy flowery notes, a little wax and, initially, some turpentine. So far not bad, I thought while happily digging into my schnitzel. Now thirsty, the first sip actually felt like drinking real Grüner. Clean, citrussy, fresh, a little sharp, clean, a sprinkling of mineral and good moments of juiciness. The acidity made the wine feel fresh, although in the finish I found it a little too sharp.
Together with the food that was fine though. What troubled me was that I found the wine too heavy. Ah, the Wine Rambler, with European arrogance, complains about high alcohol wines from the new world, I hear you say? Not quite. I still have very fond memories of an Austrian Grüner Veltliner that with 15% clocked in even higher than the Taylor wine. And yet the Austrian wine was easily polished off because it was so tasty and well balanced, whereas even between two of us we did not quite find the energy to finish the Taylor after we had eaten the schnitzels. While I found the balance not to be quite right, there still was much to like about this wine, so I remain somewhat undecided in my verdict.