Gruner Veltliner (GREW-ner VELT-leaner)
A decade ago, gruner veltliner would not have made a top-25 list like this. But its place today is a testament to the quality of the variety and the surging success of Austrian wine. Gruner veltliner is, in fact, the leading white wine of Austria—more acres are planted with it than with any other variety. It’s also the vinous signature of the country; the grape especially excels in the pristine vineyards along the flowing Danube River north and west of Vienna. With the exception of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and a few other smaller areas in Eastern Europe, gruner veltliner is grown virtually no place else. The grape is an ancient natural cross of savagin and a nearly extinct German variety St. Georgener. Going back even further in the family tree, gruner veltliner is related to pinot noir (possibly as a grandchild) since pinot noir and savagin are related. Gruner veltliner has a forward personality. Precise, lively, bold, dry, and minerally, it’s legendary for its lightening strike of white pepper aroma and flavor, along with a subtle hint of green legumes. Like riesling, gruner is virtually never blended with other grapes and is made in a purist manner, which almost never involves new oak. Also like riesling, the grape tends to be high in natural acidity, giving it a mouthwatering quality, as well as considerable advantages when it comes to pairing with food.