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Vibrant Grüner Veltliner

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, and Jason Wentworth

The wine produced from Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s most widely planted wine grape, can take on many styles. At one end of its spectrum the grape produces simple, unobtrusive wines reminiscent of a great deal of Italian Pinot Grigio. At the other extreme, Grüner Veltliner wine can be extremely full-bodied and opulent, with a richness reminiscent of white Burgundy. Between these extremes lies a tangy wine with elusive flavors that can hint at citrus, white peach, fresh herbs, and a spicy white pepper quality.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 14 examples of this fascinating variety. To the staff’s surprise, a few of the wines seemed a bit flat, lacking the vibrant acidity that can make Grüner Veltliner a hugely versatile wine at the dinner table. Many of the wines were from the 2011 vintage, a year that Austrian wine importer Terry Theise says produced wines “in which acidity was sometimes deficient or ripeness too high, or both (Austria 2012/Terry Theise Estate Selections).” He goes on to say that this was particularly true for Grüner Veltliner.

Having said that, several of the best wines in the tasting were from 2011. The staff’s top pick, the Nigl 2011 Grüner Veltliner Freiheit ($19.99 per bottle), is an electric, vibrant wine. Its nose, redolent of peach, herbs, and minerals, nearly implores one to take a sip. In the mouth, the wine is crisp and refreshing, finishing with a good hit of white pepper.

Nigl, located in northeast Austria’s Kremstal region, is one of the country’s elite producers. It is one of only five Austrian estates selected for inclusion in noted wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.’s The World’s Greatest Wine Estates (2005). The Freiheit (freedom) is Nigl’s entry level bottling, but its excellent quality gives an affordable glimpse of the clarity and elegance typical of Nigl’s pricier offerings. It should be noted that this wine is a “Terry Theise Selection.” Terry’s name on a bottle is usually a clue that something pretty good is inside! Enjoy this gorgeous wine with cold soups, farro or lentil salads, simply prepared fish, or grilled chicken.

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