Berger Grüner Veltliner Zehetnerin 2005
The Berger family produces their Grüner Veltliner in Zehetnerin in the Kremstal region of
Austria, just west of Vienna on the Danube. These happy people also run a guesthouse where,
if their website indicates rightly, the wine flows rather freely. Grüner Veltliner is the most
commonly planted grape in Austria and represents half the Berger's output. The Bergers use
cultured yeasts that have been carefully selected to isolate key aromatic and structural wine
qualities and ferment their wine in 100% stainless steel using modern temperature control
technologies. The $14 wine has one of those color profiles that is difficult to pin down; one
moment it is golden, the next a greenish-yellow verging on chartreuse.
On the nose white pepper is the first aromatic note. A peppery spritz matches the essence on the tactile level. The initial fruit is lemon, followed by apricot, pear and apple. The mineral element is clay, but sustained citrus keeps it in check. A floral element floats in from the next yard.
In the mouth the $14 wine has some solid body. The citrus, apricot and spice from the nose remain on the palate, while the floral element increases, to a point. Like every good dramatic story, the wine does come to an end, and in so doing reverts to the citrus. The apple and pear, less common notes in my book, chalk up as merely a tease. At the end you are left wishing for a little less acid, but you can always reach for another glass. The citrus, of course, is predictably refreshing.
The Berger Grüner Veltliner is not the kind of wine to which you can attribute a great number of “point-scoring” elements, unless of course you are using the wine to score points with someone you plan to kiss. As many wines virtually cry out to be paired with food, this wine aches to pair you with another human. It is an inherently social wine, and as much as I enjoyed it in front of this computer I know it would be infinitely more of a pleasure at the Bergers' table.
Grüner Veltliner may be more difficult to pronounce than Chardonnay or even Pinot Grigio,
but it is just as easy to drink, and provides some satisfying aromatic variation when you want
a white wine for that critical business lunch, or that make-or-break third date. If those two
little dots over the “u” rankle you, just ignore them and pronounce the name of the wine any
way you want. Besides, as the wines become better known in the United States, we will
invariably settle on a workable but consistent mispronunciation that will make everybody
happy. Simply asking for “Austrian wine” will more often than not yield the desired result.
We in the United States should be drinking more Austrian wines—after all the governor of our largest wine-producing state originally came from Austria—but I am afraid the Austrians themselves and the other Europeans get first pick.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman
Grüner Veltliner grapes in Austria's Kremstal.