[In solidarity with government agencies facing severe challenges during budgetary sequestration, Gil will squeeze two columns in the space of one this week and indiscriminately cut the ending of the second column by 10 percent.]
If you haven’t already discovered the Austrian wunderkind grüner veltliner, now’s the time. Yes, this white wine has a scary umlaut that poses some pronunciation challenges (GROON-ner FELT-lih-ner). But you’re not going to let a couple Germanic words stand in the way of the world’s greatest food wine, are you?
Something approaching a comedy sketch was routinely launched by me and a former co-worker when we were given a challenging food-wine pairing. “Well, there’s grüner, of course,” was the catchphrase we’d say in tandem to bewildered customers. And while we didn’t always suggest a grüner, it speaks to this unique grape’s adaptability to a wide swath of cuisines.
Think of grüner as a wine with the crispness of a pinot grigio, the complexity of a white Burgundy and the power of Russian River pinot noir. That’ll cover a lot bases food-wise. I’ve successfully paired grüners with the sweet tang of southern barbecue, spicy Thai cuisine, troublesome dishes with asparagus and/or artichokes, ethereal and earthy dashi broth and wholesome Alsatian choucroute with all the meaty fixin’s.
A few years back, I was sitting in an enlightening seminar on rieslings given by renowned German winemaker Ernst Loosen. He took the gathered wine professionals in the room on a tour of rieslings around the world.
We tried rieslings from Australia, Washington state, Alsace, France, and Germany, of course. The standout of the group, however, was a riesling from Austria. I observed—and others in attendance agreed—that the Austrian riesling seemed to be a freakish cocktail of the other four.
Due in part to the sequester, I don’t have the resources to look up the Austrian riesling in question. I do remember it was as crisp as the Australian riesling, as fresh as the one from Washington, as complex as the Alsatian with the steely, slate-like minerality of the German.
I fondly remembered this seminar as I recently sat across the table from a riesling made by Schloss Gobelsburg. The wine, called Gobelsburger, comes from the terraced vineyards northwest of Vienna in Austria’s Kamtal region. Not only was it the most enjoyable wine I’d tried in months, it was 20 bucks—a bargain for a wine of such remarkable quality. Although alone in my kitchen, I asked myself out loud: “Why are we not enjoying more Austrian rieslings?!”
Here’s why. If there is a problem with Austrian rieslings, it’s their availability. One Atlanta retailer I’m familiar with offers merely two. Austrian rieslings stand in the long shadow of big brother grüner veltliner. To give you the scope, the store that offers two Austrian rieslings has more than 15 grüners on its shelves. So, it’s easy to love, but hard to find.
There you have it. Two columns in the space of one. Maybe this sequestration concept isn’t such a …
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a consultant for a metro-Atlanta wine shop. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.
— Gil Kulers, AJC Drink blog