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How Grüner Veltliner revived the Austrian wine industry

Fri 22 Jan 2010 15:44

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Austrian wine used to be extremely rare. This wasn’t because the country didn’t produce wine, or even good quality wine at that, but because the small amount it did produce tended to be lapped up by patriotic Austrians. This meant that the wines were rarely exported beyond Austrian and German borders.

Of course, some inexpensive wines did make their way over the UK in the 1980s, but a huge scandal broke when a small number of producers were found guilty of using a chemical called diethylene glycol (also used to make anti-freeze for cars) to sweeten basic wines.

This meant that the reputation of the Austrian wine took a huge battering, and the industry has therefore taken years to recover from the scandal.

But things have been turned around in the last five or six years, and Austrian wines have had a bit of a mini-boom in the UK and the USA.

This is largely because of a grape variety called Grüner Veltliner. Grüner Veltliner (handily re-christened 'Gru-V' by British wine journalists) took the restaurant trade by storm – it created a medium-bodied, fresh and fruity wine that is extremely versatile and therefore goes very well with many different foods.

Grüner Veltliner soon became a fixture on many restaurant wine lists, and has led to a renewed interest in Austrian wines.

If you’d like to try some Austrian wine, but aren’t sure what to go for, have a look at wine expert Tom Cannavan’s favourite three picks:

1. Salomon, ‘Groovey’ Grüner Veltliner 2008, Austria, priced at £7.99, from Oddbins (or £6.39 as part of a mixed case)
Cleverly taking the 'Gru-V' title one step further in its name, this dry, crisp, very refreshing Grüner Veltliner makes an excellent introduction to the grape.

With tasting cues of green leaves ( such as rocket and watercress), green apples and lemons, this wine matches nicely with dishes such as poached salmon or most white fish.

2. Domaine Gobelsburg, Grüner Veltliner 2008, Austria, priced at £8.49 from Waitrose

Domaine Gobelsburg is a bit of a Gru-V specialist, and this fine example has a little more richness than the Salomon bottle, and a bit of spice too making it a great partner to Oriental cuisine.

This wine has flavours of celery, white peppercorns and pears, and matches up well with Chinese and Thai food, and well as most fish.

3. Sepp-Moser, Zweigelt 2008, Austria, priced at £8.50 from WoodWinters (Bridge of Allan and Edinburgh)
Of course Austria is not all about Grüner Veltliner, and it is not all about white wines. The typical Austrian Zweigelt grape variety makes deliciously fruity but dry, food-friendly wines, and this pick, which has flavours of cherries, plums and black olives, accompanies dishes such as Hungarian goulash, chicken or pork schnitzel really well.

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