Austria's capital city of Vienna has many attractions to satisfy even the most jaded world traveler. Few are more satisfying for the wine lover than Gemischter satz. And all of the grapes for Gemischter are from suburban vineyards, making Vienna one of few major world cities with thriving vineyards and its own style of wine.
Flowing freely from the unique collection of wine taverns, around Vienna, Gemischter satz, loosely translated as "mixed set," is a blend of up to 20 varieties. The majority grape, Gruner Veltliner, is Austria's most important grape. Riesling, which happens to be the second most important grape, is part of the "set" as is Weissburgunder and Traminer.
An aside. On a balmy summer evening, a number of years ago, I headed to Grinzing, one of the many small Vienna suburbs with popular Heuriger (wine taverns), to wet my palate with some Gemischter satz. I knew nothing about the wine, except for the tongue-twisting name. But I was willing and ready to learn.
|Sipping Gruner at an outdoor Heurige
Tables were set outside and an aproned waiter motioned me to an empty one near the sidewalk. Like magic, a glass of chilled white wine was set in front of me, along with a menu. "Is this Gemischter satz?" I asked mangling the wine name. "Yes," came the patient reply.
"Would you like to order food?" the waiter asked with a smile. I looked at the menu and decided on weisswurst, sauteed red cabbage and a hard roll, a combination that I hoped was a good choice with the wine.
How could I miss, a casual meal in such pleasant surroundings on a lovely evening. As for the wine, it was what I expected: light and fruity with a touch of spice and a hint of bitterness, balanced with crisp acidity.
Austria's Green Wine
Gruner Veltliner, the national grape of Austria, is named for the town of Valtelina in northern Italy. Gruner traces its ancestry to Savagnin, an ancient French variety, which also happens to be related to Sauvignon Blanc.
There is also a roter (red) veltliner and a fruhroted (early-ripening red-skinned) veltliner, but they are not genetically related to Gruner Veltliner.
Although Gruner is widely planted in Austria, it is prone to disease, so the vines must be trained high to allow for maximum air circulation, on a Lenz Moser trellis system, named for the famed Austrian viticulturist.
More than half of the country's Gruner is grown in Lower Austria, but also in Kamptal in the north and the Wachau district west of Vienna.
Popular styles of Gruner include single varietal, Austrian sekt (sparkling) and a sweet version from Austria's famed Burgenland.
Viewed through the lens of modern wine, it may seem that Gruner Veltliner has only recently made the scene. But there is evidence that Gruner was around in Roman times, when it was known as Gruner Muskateller. Gruner became more commonly grown in the 19th century.
In the last 20 years, interest in Gruner Veltliner has taken off and today it is a popular alternative white variety in New Zealand, Australia, Washington state, California, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Gruner's attraction is a combo flavor of citrus peel and white pepper, with a mineral back note and all balanced nicely with mouth-watering acidity, a combination that reminds some of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
And like Riesling, Gruner hits all the right notes when paired with Chinese and Thai dishes. fried foods, lightly prepared fish and Gruner is a favorite with vegetarians for its flavor affinity with vegetables.
Versatility is a hallmark of Gruner Veltliner, especially when grown in Austria. The flavors of Gruner have encouraged tasters to use descriptors as wide-ranging as green beans and black pepper. Austrians describe this peppery taste as pfefferl.
The majority of Gruner Veltliner consumed today, especially in the United States, is intended for early drinking. Add a couple years of bottle aging and Gruner transforms into a complex wine with tropical fruit and nutty flavors, again more like an aged Riesling.
There are a lot of Gruners on the market, but here are six to get you started. Pichler-Krautzler and Prager, from Wachau; Alram, Etz and Schloss Gobelsburg, all from Kamptal; And Nigl from Kremstal. Most Gruners are priced from $14 to $40. One domestic Gruner that sells well is Joel Gott, Columbia Valley, Washington, $17. Lastly, Canadian wine writer Tony Gismondi says that British Columbia Gruner Veltliner is a "qualified classic."
Wine trends come and go. Pinot Grigio and Albarino had their days and still have strong appeal to a lot of white wine drinkers. It's time now for Gruner Veltliner.
The Anniversary. This month marks four years of "Gerald D Boyd On Wine" wine blogs. In more than 180 postings, I've stayed with the statement made in that first blog:
"... I am introducing Gerald D Boyd On Wine, a wine primer for newcomers to wine and those fans of wine wanting more background information. No wine politics, wine gossip, wine technology and other assorted topics that are covered by other wine bloggers and wine publications."
In the future, there will be a few changes in the format but not the focus of the blog or the content. I plan on keeping "Gerald D Boyd On Wine" as interesting and informative as I can...and I hope you will stay with me.
Next blog: Barolo: Italian Red Wine at its Finest
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