My tongue tingled as I sipped on a greenish white wine with a mouth-watering acidity and mild peppery notes with hints of minerality. It was a signal that I had discovered a new wine—one worth reserving for special occasions or laid-back drinking. It was a Grüner Veltliner from Austria.
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I tried it at a wine tasting hosted by sommelier Gargi Kothari in Mumbai in June. Grüner Veltliner, nicknamed Gru-Vee, is a grape varietal known for its tart acidity. Synonymous with Austria, this old-world wine is refreshing and unique. Kothari says she wanted to introduce something “different, new” to encourage guests to look beyond the ubiquity of Chenin Blancs, Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays. Loimer, the easy-drinking Grüner Veltliner from Austria’s Kamptal region, has a distinct personality, with aromatic notes of pear and green apple.
Kamptal, like Kremstal, Traisental, Weinviertel and Neusiedlersee, is a key wine-growing region in the scenic alpine country. A grape embodies the terroir in which it is grown. “White wine is known for acidity, which is derived from cooler temperatures and soil that can stay cool. Austria is a cold country and its soil is chalky with limestone which remains cool, making it perfect for this grape varietal to produce zingy and zippy white wines with a distinct acidity,” says Kothari. Grüner Veltliner is also grown in mountainous, cold countries like Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary. This explains the minerality and luminous acidity I tasted in the first sip.
Wine is best enjoyed when shared but buying it proved to be a challenge. Most wine shops don’t stock it; some haven’t even heard of Grüner Veltliner. One can get it, though, at premium stores such as the Mumbai-based thewine park.com. The lack of availability, Kothari believes, is due to the fact that production is limited and confined largely to Austria.
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Sommelier Ajit Balgi, though, believes there are several reasons it has not caught on. To begin with, marketing. “Even wines from Burgundy are not mass-produced—but they are well known,” he notes. Grüner Veltliner wines, however, are missing from wine lists in restaurants; there are barely any events celebrating Austrian wines, something that can’t be said for wines from France, Italy or California. In the 2004 movie Sideways, Californian Pinot Noir was, in fact, woven into the plot of a struggling writer and his romantic interest.
Years ago, says Balgi, Georgian wines came into India—but they didn’t sell because nobody knew. Kothari adds, “Once I had a Gru-Vee from Czech Republic but would you even associate it (the country) with wine?”
This is not the only reason though, says Balgi. In the 1980s, Austrian wines earned a bad name owing to adulteration; they have only been able to re-establish their reputation over the last two decades.
The third fact, notes Balgi, is price. A bottle of Loimer Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal costs ₹2,995 on thewinepark.com. “Although it is good value for money in that category, it hasn’t got the exposure. Nobody wants to import wines which are not selling,” he says.
If you get a chance, try a zesty Austrian Grüner Veltliner. Due to its sharp acidity, it pairs well with fatty food containing cheese, butter or even deep-fried snacks, says Balgi. Think of it as squeezing lime over batter-fried prawns. Tempted?
Balgi’s picks: Jurtschitsch GrüVe, Loimer and Gobelsburg
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