Most people just starting out on their wine journey don’t associate Germany or Austria with wine country. And I didn’t either at first. But Germany produces some of the best Riesling in the world, and Austria has made a big push into stores recently with their Gruner Veltliner (pronounced GROO-ner Felt-Lean-er) whites and amazing red wines.
Let’s first look into German Rieslings. Riesling thrives in Germany because of its cool climate surrounded by mountains and rivers. Riesling from Germany tastes pure, with fragrant noses and the rich flavor of peaches, apricots and apples. They are spectacular (and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t normally prefer Riesling).
There are many drier Rieslings available too and we’re seeing more and more of these reaching US stores. The German wine authority has a super complicated system for outlining the ripeness and sugar content of the wines, but I, like many American wine consumers, have yet to figure it out.
The labels on German Rieslings are confusing too but you can start your journey by finding some Riesling from Mosel, which seems to be a popular option in many restaurants and wine shops.
In Austria, Gruner Veltliner is thriving as more wine enthusiasts pick up on what is a great white wine bargain, and one that floats a little off most people’s radar (although I am seeing an influx of new Gruner bottles at my wine shop). Here’s the scoop. Gruner Veltliner is not at all like Riesling. I only included them in the same section because of their geographic relationship (and because my local wine warehouse keeps them side by side).
Gruner Veltliner is light to medium in body, and is dry and crisp; not too sweet. It shares some of the same fruit flavors as Riesling, but is more like a robust, floral Sauvignon Blanc. Gruner Veltliner is really food friendly as well, going with just about anything – seafood, white meat, vegetables or stir fry.
And you can find Gruner Veltliner in stores for around $15-$20. When you are looking for a change of pace, try a bottle of Gruner. It won’t be your last.
Your Wine Check List for Germany and Austria:
– Riesling from Germany (start with Mosel)
– Gruner Veltliner from Austria
Fast fact: German immigrants brought Riesling vines with them in the late nineteenth century and the earliest US plantings occurred in New York’s Finger Lakes region.