Let's go now with a Friday edition of The Swill, wherein certified sommelier and Hip Tastes book and blog author, Courtney Cochran brings you the latest gossip and findings from the wide world of wine.
Somms Josiah Baldivino of Michael Mina and Carlin Karr of Sons & Daughters dish about Grüner.
In sommelier speak, a hot wine is one that pairs spot-on with numerous dishes, performing a sort of oenological multi-tasking—not unlike the intra- and extra-marital maneuverings of a certain ex-governor you may have heard about. To wit, Austria’s Grüner Veltliner has long been bandied about as a sommelier fave, and though I’m a fan, I’m not convinced of its super-prowess. So I turned to my colleagues for insight, taking the of-the-minute pulse of Grüner, so to speak, from some of our most savvy vinous minds.
In the sommelier field, Sons & Daughters’ bright young thing Carlin Karr and Michael Mina hottie Josiah Baldivino weigh in. Roland Micu of Napa’s Grüner-heavy La Toque lobs in a few pearls as well. For the record, the varietal is pronounced “grOOner velt-LEEN-er.” Good news is, it gets easier to say after several glasses. Now, the rapid fire q-and-a session:
Is Grüner as “hot” as some somms have led us to believe?
Karr: Grüner is over generalized and has been inaccurately depicted as a wine that goes well with anything. Many people fail to recognize the range of styles of Grüner, which is crucial to understanding these wines. Grüners from the Wachau region are usually the richest in style with the ripest fruit and most robust texture. In the Kremstal region, the wines are less fruity with more mineral austerity. Kamptal Grüners are more subtle and often have delicate floral aromas.
Micu: Here in Napa, I would say that Grüner is not "hot" in the public’s eyes. When I pour Grüner in a pairing, I would say a good 70% of my guests are unfamiliar with it.
Baldivino: Grüner has gone beyond the "hotness" scale and has positioned itself on wine lists as a staple as opposed to just a fashionable, quirky and eclectic wine.
Wow, okay, that’s a totally inconclusive collection of responses. Let’s try this one: is Grüner truly a “go-to” wine?
Micu: I really like it as a "go to" with raw fish preparations and Asian ingredients.
Karr: Grüner has interesting versatility, unique character and can pair well with a range of often challenging foods like asparagus, artichokes, fresh peas, sushi, and sashimi. It can handle a good amount of spice while still remaining dry, which explains why so many have considered it a “go-to” wine.
So it’s versatile with certain foods. Is something else coming up as the “new
Baldivino: Grüner is like the “gateway” wine that makes people open their eyes and take new and interesting wines seriously. If I were a newer up-and-coming white wine like Assyrtiko from Greece, I would send Grüner a box of baklava and a note saying, "Thank you for paving the way."
Karr: I’ve recently had some Spanish and Portuguese whites that have a lot of the same appeal as Grüner: medium acid, mellow fruit and slight herbal notes. A favorite is Luis A. Rodriguez’s 2007 Vina de Martin “Os Pasas” blend from Ribeiro (a blend of Treixadura, Godello and Albarino).
While we’re on the topic, which Grüners are you serving and/or loving right now?
Karr: I am currently pairing our rhubarb and English pea salad with a 2009 Hiedler “Löss” Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal. My other favorite producers are Salomon (Kremstal) and Prager (Wachau).
Micu: 2007 Karl Lagler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Steinborz
Baldivino: 2009 Salomon Undhof Grüner Veltliner Lindberg Reserve, Kamptal
If Grüner ever truly was a “sommelier favorite,” is it still so?
Karr: There are tons of great producers out there and I don’t think the popularity of Grüner Veltliner will fade anytime soon.
So the conclusion? Like that other Austrian, Ahhnold, Grüner’s turned out to be a mixed bag. But—as I’ve learned in my research—Grüner is almost always faithful to an esoteric flavor profile that “borrows” the best charms of several of our favorite grapes. It boasts Sauvignon Blanc’s racy acidity and herbaceousness, Riesling’s floral notes and minerality, and Pinot Grigio’s signature lushness. And there’s nothing inappropriate about that.