Austria's signature grape - Gruener Veltliner - has had a meteoric rise thanks to its delicate, food-friendly character, finds Brian Elliot

Interest in Austrian wines has surged in recent years. Entry into the Economic Community 20 years ago will have helped investment there, but the biggest single cause is almost certainly the meteoric rise in popularity of the country’s delicate, food-friendly signature grape – Grüner Veltliner.
Gru-vee, as Americans predictably call it, produces crisp and aromatic white wine with flinty, green pepper flavours and invigorating acidity, but also a certain richness of texture. Its vines really flourish in the area around Wachau on the banks of the Danube some 40 or so miles upstream from Vienna. Indeed, it is to one of Wachau’s adjacent areas – Kamptal – that we go for a reasonably priced supermarket example of the genre. Here the loess-dominated soil has helped to give 2013 Eitzinger Grüner Veltliner (£8.99 at bigger Co-op stores) those hallmark, clean and flinty touches, appealingly supported by lemon-centred acidity and crunchy apple crispness.

“These vines really flourish in the area
around Wachau on the banks of the Danube”

Equally, an impressive alternative from nearby, 2013 Waitrose Grüner Veltliner Niederösterreich (£7.99 at Waitrose stores and online) will also give you fresh, green apple elements. Here, though, they are supplemented by spicy depth and a discernibly mineral edge.
Nevertheless, for my top pick I am going to a less-fashionable region around the shallow Lake Neusiedl to the south-east of Vienna. The sweet wines the lake’s climatic conditions encourage have been famous for more than 300 years and, nowadays, its red wines are also attracting attention. More relevantly for this discussion, however, the outstanding Höpler Winery at Breitenbrunn has been exporting superb Grüner Veltliner to Scotland for more than 15 years. Its 2013 Grüner Veltliner Höpler, Burgenland (£11.99 at Henderson Wines in Edinburgh) – offers delicacy and lightness that gives added sophistication to the wine’s fresh apple zestiness, its pepperiness, and the delightful floral and tropical fruit layers.

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•  For regular recommendations on sensibly priced wine, go to Brian’s new website at MidWeekWines.co.uk

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Brian Elliott

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