Grüner Veltliner, the ultimate food wine, is now in India

Two years ago, in Vienna, we were lucky to score a last-minute table for dinner at the two-star Steirereck, chef Heinz Reitbauer’s elegant, glass-fronted restaurant, known for its modern reinterpretation of Austrian food. After picking the six-course tasting menu, which came with mini tent cards explaining each course, I perused the wine list. Expectedly, it was a heavy tome with options to pair each course with a sommelier-selected wine.

The sommelier glided up. “The paired wines, madame?” he asked. Not really. I wanted a Grüner Veltliner. He sighed but smiled, going on to offer me choices. Eventually, I picked a single vineyard bottle from a top producer, and he nodded his approval. If I had to choose one wine through dinner’s several courses, it should be this.

The taste of that exceptional wine remains in my memory. From the delicate freshwater char with beeswax, the savoury-rich veal tongue and sweetbreads to the rabbit with pineapple sage, it held its own.

Grüner Veltliner, the ultimate food wine, is now in India

Truly a remarkable wine, Grüner Veltliner (pronounced GRU-ner VELT-leener) has been gleefully discovered by the wine intelligentsia — sommeliers and chefs — as a wine that can be easily paired with a variety of food (American-Austrian superchef Wolfgang Puck has called it his go-to wine with food).

Now with Austrian wine available in India, it will be interesting to see Indian reactions to Grüner Veltliner (often facetiously but pithily referred to as GrüVe or ‘Groovy’).

Wine and history

This is not any Austrian wine. It’s from the historic Schloss Gobelsburg, one of the country’s big names from the Kamptal region. Michael Moosbrugger, the man behind Schloss Gobelburg winery today, knows all about the versatility of Grüner Veltliner, of course. It occupies 50% of his vineyards, along with indigenous red grapes, Zweigelt, St Laurent and Blaufränkisch. Riesling and Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir) are the international grapes that thrive here.

  • Named among the Top 100 wineries of the world by Wine & Spirits magazine US, four times in the last two decades
  • Owned by the monastery of Zwettl, an order of Cisterian monks for over a 1,000 years
  • Destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1784 in its current grand baroque avatar
  • Used to house French prisoners of war and then devastated in 1945 during World War II
  • Regained its reputation for quality winemaking under Father Bertrand Baumann in the 1950s
  • Michael and Eva Moosbrugger took over running Schloss Gobelburg in 1996

Moosbrugger, who took over the Cisterian monk-owned winery in 1996, must have paused to consider how best to preserve the heritage of the ancient property. I asked him this during his short India visit to introduce his wines. “Gobelsburg is more than just a winery,” he said. “I had to consider its culture and traditions. We are changing, but in tiny steps. I tell myself, in 800 years of winemaking, you are a tiny footnote in the history.”

The ancient winemaking traditions remain important for Mossbrugger, named Winemaker of the Year 2006 by wine and lifestyle magazine, Falstaff. He replicates these in Gobelsburg’s Tradition range of wines.

“Signature wine styles of the 19th century and older are coming back today,” he points out, “Look at Georgia, Rioja (Spain) and Germany.” More important for him is the need for his wine to speak of their “orientation” – their climate, soil and terrain. “It became popular for a region to copy another’s style. Bordeaux style is copied around the world, as is Burgundy. But I’m sceptical of this. Our cultural responsibility is to create a wine of character that reflects where it is from. Our Danube area style is unique in the world of wine.”

The dynamic cellar

Austria has a long history of winemaking, filled with good phases and bad. As a wine industry, it found its feet in the late 1990s, reinventing itself as it understood the need to be recognised as a quality winemaking region. Moosbrugger, one of the renaissance stars of the time, acknowledges the major changes which took place then. “Old casks were replaced with stainless steel tanks and computerisation and technology came to the forefront in an effort to produce excellent wine. But when I think of Schloss Gobelsburg and its centuries of winemaking history, I can’t image stainless steel tanks in the cellars. I had to devise other means. Instead of machine-controlling the temperature, I brought the wines to different temperatures by moving them into cooler areas — using our casks on wheels — to avoid pumping wine.”

Thus developing what is known as the ‘dynamic cellar’ approach. These ancient systems have both pluses and minuses, he adds. “I lose a little bit of control over the wine, but allow it to develop its own personality and reflect that of the vineyard, too. In our vineyards also, we grow vines knowing we are doing it for our future generations.”


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Printable version | May 15, 2021 7:17:53 AM |

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