Gruner Means GOOD
If you like the crisp refreshing snap of a good Pinot Grigio, you’re in for a treat when you taste the subtle familiarity and pleasant distinctiveness of Gruner Veltliner.
Pronounced: grooner velt-LEEN-er
And if you are really cool? Just call it Gruner.
Aroma: Lemon and Lime Zest, Stone Fruit like Peaches and Nectarines,
Taste: Like it smells, plus Minerals and a hint of White Pepper
Food Pairing: Asian, Indian, Fish and Seafood
Cost: Many Under $20
Think of Gruner as a more minerally version of Pinot Grigio. A mineral taste is something like the experience when you smell the steam coming off concrete after a quick shower on a hot summer day, or the unique taste sensation from real mineral spring water.
New Jersey is not known for its Asian cuisine or its selection of “not-the-usual-suspect-wines. Still, the first glass of Gruner I enjoyed was in a delightful Japanese restaurant in Morristown New Jersey, and paired with sushi flawlessly.
You know you’re for a good glass when a wine list is produced with enthusiasm. This one was carefully laid out with notes to the best matches with the food from the menu. Our waiter was the resident wine guru at this very popular, but non-descript (hole in the wall!) restaurant. He was well versed in his wine knowledge, and his keen understanding of what wines went with their menu offerings. His recommendation of the Gruner with our sushi was spot on. Crisp and spicy, the flavor of citrus zest permeated the cold and clean-tasting white wine.
When wine pairs well it should make both the drink and the food sing with flavor. The mineral flavors of the Gruner neatly complemented the similar notes that are found in raw fish and the rice. As a bonus that night, our bottle was a full liter instead of the traditional 750 ml bottle, so we easily poured 6 glasses of wine for the table. I later learned that Gruner bottles come in a wide variety of styles, ranging from an Alsatian style flute to an ordinary 750 ml bottle to a liter topped with a crown cap (like the top on a beer bottle).
Austria claims Gruner Veltliner as its most important white grape variety. If you don’t know much about Austrian wine, you are not alone. It is a hidden gem that I predict will soon be much more popular in the US. Just like any other wine producing country, there are a lot of different varietals grown and made into delicious wines. You’ll probably see two types in Atlanta, Gruner and Riesling. Reds are made with grapes that we don’t see often in our wine stores. Anyone up for a glass of zwiegelt or blaufrankisch?
Most Gruners you’ll find in our city are fermented in stainless steel tanks or other neutral vessels so there is no oaky flavor to the wine. The alcohol levels are low, typically around 12 percent. Both of those attributes are a bonus for matching this versatile wine with food. First choice for a wine match would be a seafood dish with flavorful spices, like my quick and easy Orange Shrimp on Polenta recipe below. The garlic and ginger with the tiny hit of heat from the Asian Chili Sauce make the wine sing.
I hope you can score a Gruner soon. Expect to pay between $15 and $35 for most. If you are near a Whole Foods, you can find a green-crown-capped liter bottle of H & M for about $15. I’ve found Ewald Gruber’s fun bottles of highly rated Gruner at Total Wine from $14 to $30. (Gruber’s Gruner, get it?) Many small shops with wine savvy owners also carry Gruner. Make it a big score when you enjoy it with this recipe for Orange Shrimp on Polenta.