You may not have heard of it before, but Gruner Veltliner is an exciting new wine variety for New Zealand consumers and winemakers alike.
Grüner Veltliner (AKA Grüner, GruVee or GV) is the most prized varietal in Austria and “Today, no self-respecting restaurant wine list, whether in New York or Hong Kong, can afford to be without at least one example of this, Austria’s signature white wine grape.” [Jancis Robinson]
With Grüner representing 50% of the new varietals planted in NZ last few years, and 80% of that having been planted in Marlborough, it is a new variety in which a lot of winemakers, including myself, are showing an interest.
Gruner rocketed to international renown partly as a result of the overall high quality of the Austrian Wine industry and partly as a result of an international wine tasting attended by renowned expert Jancis Robinson who writes:
“As a confirmed Riesling enthusiast, I was slow to recognise Grüner Veltliner’s charms. For a long time I thought of it as a poor second to the great Riesling in Austria’s wine lexicon. It took one of several significant blind tastings staged by Munich dentist and fine wine merchant Jan Paulson of www.rare-wine.com to convince me that Grüner Veltliner was truly a great grape variety. It was an audacious exercise. In each case a panel of renowned wine tasters was invited to taste a range of top Austrian Grüner Veltliners mixed, in flights arranged by age, with top Chardonnay-based wines made around the world. Best of all, we in London were allowed to choose the opposition, so it included such names as Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne, Leflaive and Ramonet.
“Before this London tasting, I could not imagine it would be anything other than a walkover for Chardonnay in general and white burgundy in particular. After the tasting I could hardly believe the results: seven of the top 10 places had been taken by Austrian wines, some Chardonnays but mainly Grüner Veltliners – but this was a result that replicated similar ones in the other, similar tastings. This proved to me that Grüner Veltliner is capable of producing very fine, full bodied wines well capable of ageing. The top wine of all was a Knoll Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Vinothekfüllung 1990 which obviously had years more ahead of it – unlike many white burgundies of the same age.”
Nautilus Estate planted Grüner Veltliner in our Renwick vineyard in 2009. As with all the grapes grown on this site, it is managed organically although not certified. We have planted two clones: 4/143 and 4/15. These are the only two clones available in NZ and are supplied by Riversun nursery in Gisborne. The variety appears to be quite vigorous and fruitful in Marlborough growing conditions and will require quite intensive management to produce premium quality wine (as does Pinot Gris for example).
In 2013 we picked our third crop from our experimental Grüner Veltliner plantings in our Renwick vineyard. This was the first year we had a full canopy and thus it is our first real indication of how the variety will fare on this site. The fruit was destemmed without crushing and split into 2 parcels. In a bit of a winery science experiment, one parcel was fermented cold in a typical new world style & the other was fermented at a warmer temperature which is more in line with old world Austrian techniques. Both wines were kept on yeast lees for four months before blending in August.
While it is still early days, and we are only producing a tiny quantity, the variety certainly shows promise with attractive aromatics of white flower, spice & sometimes white pepper with some enticing mid palate texture. The wine has a nice crunchy/chalky acidity which is quite different in style to our Sauvignon Blanc.