Gruber Grüner Veltliner grapes.
There’s a friend of mine who will never touch white wine.
Ever. I really don’t know why. I can understand people avoiding red because
it can sometimes bring on a migraine. But if you refuse to drink white wine,
you’re missing out on some of the great wines of the world. Some of my
favourite whites come from the French region of Alsace, known for its
splendid Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and the bone-dry Riesling which is
completely different to its German cousin. The legendary white wines of
Burgundy are probably the best whites you’re likely to find anywhere in
terms of richness, depth and complexity. And you know the classic grape
variety that’s used to make them, don’t you? Yes, of course you do. Even my
dogs know that. It’s Chardonnay and in Burgundy they make about the best you
can get. Unfortunately, in this part of the world it’s dreadfully expensive.
A good white Burgundy will cost you an arm and a leg; possibly two of each.
For many years Germany
and Austria had a reputation for dull and boring wines but all that changed
dramatically about thirty years ago. A new generation of artisan wine makers
has changed the wine production in Germany in Austria out of all
recognition. They are exploring interesting local grapes rather than relying
on international varieties and giving a completely new look to traditional
Riesling. Austrian wine-makers are developing their national grape Grüner
Veltliner (GROO-ner FELT-lee-ner). With this grape, they’re making
crisp, young wines which have sprightly acidity and flavours of lime, lemon,
grapefruit or sometimes apple. They often have herby mineral flavours, hints
of white pepper and sometimes a distinctive touch of spritziness. The more
expensive, matured wines eventually take on a gold colour and a rich,
Lower Austria is the
country’s largest quality wine-growing area and almost fifty percent of it
is planted with Grüner Veltliner. The local German name for Lower Austria is
Niederösterreich, which I mention only because the word invariably
appears on wine labels of the region. You might reasonably assume that Lower
Austria is somewhere in the south, but it’s not. Strangely enough, it’s the
most northern province of the country.
Gruber Grüner Veltliner, Röschitz 2016 (white), Austria (Bt. 890 @ Wine
Let’s begin by
deciphering the label. Gruber (GROO-ber) is the name of the company
and it’s been producing wine since 1814. If you have been concentrating,
you’ll already know that Grüner Veltliner is the grape variety. Röschitz (RER-shitz)
is a small village in Lower Austria about fifty miles from Vienna.
The first thing you’ll
probably notice about this wine is the playful label with whimsical drawings
of the “Gruber Wine Spirits”. The drawings are apparently inspired by the
micro-organisms which exist on the vines and in the fermenting wine, and
they’re visible only under a microscope. They have become the mascots of the
company and appear in various fanciful forms on all their wine labels and on
their web site.
A pale straw colour,
the wine looks bright and invitingly oily in the glass. The aroma is even
more inviting, though you’ll need to give it a bit of time to develop. I
found that five minutes in the decanter made all the difference. It has a
“clean and lean” bright, floral aroma with a touch of tropical fruit, a dash
of citrus, herby minerals and green apples. The fruit is well forward,
giving a hint of sweetness. But after this brief first impression a more
powerful drier taste comes through and leads to a long, rich and dry finish.
It’s really quite a fascinating tasting experience which makes you sit up
and take notice because the taste actually changes in your mouth.
At just 12.5% ABV this
would make a splendid apéritif if you can share it with people who
appreciate these things. The wine would make an excellent partner for
chicken dishes or ham, but I’d be perfectly happy to enjoy it on its own.
Wine Garage offers an interesting selection of Austrian wines and they also
have some splendid boutique wines from Germany. You can order online and pay
by bank transfer or PayPal, which makes things ever so easy. They’ll deliver
anywhere in Thailand.
Grand Pinot Noir 2017 (red), France (Bt. 850 @ Wine Connection)
Pinot Noir is one of my
favourite grapes and it reaches is finest expression in the red wines of
Burgundy but like the whites, they’re absurdly expensive here. The aromas of
Pinot Noir (PEE-noh NWAH) can sometimes be a bit enigmatic. Red
fruits such as cranberry and raspberry often dominate the aroma but
sometimes the wine has more elemental smells, earthy, tree-bark aromas or
reminders of stalks and sap.
This wine comes from
grapes grown in the foothills of the Pyrenees, near the town of Limoux in
south-west France. The label shows a drawing of a large black sheep under
which the words “black sheep” are helpfully printed, presumably in case you
fail to recognise it. The wine is lighter than I expected and it’s a blend
of Pinot Noir (88%) and Grenache (12%) with an aroma of cherries, currants,
a dash of citrus and herby spices. With an ABV of 13% it’s a bone-dry wine
with a tang of acidity but the taste struck me as rather unusual and quite
different in style to a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. The fruit is restrained,
the tannins are very soft and there’s a long, dry finish. I’d describe it as
a food wine because it would go well with pork dishes and a variety of
cheeses. Unusually for a red wine, you could even try pairing it with tuna
or salmon. There are branches of Wine Connection in Pattaya but you can also
buy online. If like me, you live out in the sticks it would save you a hike