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Get to Know Grüner Veltliner

Don't you just want to say Grüner Veltliner (groo-ner felt-lih-ner)? It sounds like the name of a German philosopher or an avant-garde movie director you pretend to know whenever you hear it in conversation.

But no -- it's an Austrian white wine whose name translates to "green velvet". Grüner Veltliner is gaining recognition among the greater wine community (although there have been steadfast fans for decades) and it's appearing on restaurant wine lists everywhere. Grüner Veltliner is a great food wine with substantial fruit and cleansing acidity, but it's still best paired with slightly lighter fare such as fish and pasta.

However, it has enough power and acidity to stand up to something as rich as foie gras and the fact that it's still relatively unknown keeps the price quite reasonable.

How does it taste? Think of standing in a freshly cut yard, with a bit of gasoline from the lawnmower hanging in the air. You have a nice crisp Granny Smith apple sliced in front of you. Breathe deep. Now take a bite of the apple and relish the sweetness you get immediately, then the tartness. There is also a slice of kiwi in front of you; pop it in your mouth. Notice the acidic bite you get in the back corners of your mouth. That's "Lois", the 2002 vintage of Grüner Veltliner from Fred Loimer ($13 at the Jug Shop, 1567 Pacific). It screams for a warm day, sitting in the sun savoring seared tuna and pickled vegetables.

Salomon Undhof's 2002 version ($13.00 at Amphora, 384 Hayes) is a bit more like standing in a kitchen with an apple pie in the oven, munching on the leftover apples seasoned with nutmeg, sugar, and just a touch of lemon. This one is great alone, but if food must be involved, a mildly spicy oriental chicken salad would make a great match.

Your chance of getting a great bottle of this wine for a good price is exceptionally high. Now say it with me: Grüner Veltliner.

Vineyards Genevieve Robertson can be reached at by_the_glass@hotmail.com