Gru-Vee Grüner Veltliners

Grüner veltliner is the most widely planted vine in Austria and produces a dry, white, spicy wine. Here are 12 of the best

Fashionable with the country's sommeliers and esoteric-wine lovers is a white grape called grüner veltliner, which can produce marvelous wines in specific viticultural areas of Austria. Grüner veltliner—often shortened to "gru vee"—provides a riesling-like citric character, zesty acidity, and often an underlying note of fresh garden greens along with copious fruit and striking minerality. At its finest, it tastes dry, and possesses much more body than expected. While it can age reasonably well, most grüner veltliners are best consumed during their first five to six years. David Schildknecht is probably the world's leading authority on the wines of Austria, and here are some of his picks among recent releases of wines made from this grape.

87 points Salomon-Undhof 2006 Grüner Veltliner Hochterrassen

The 2006 Grüner Veltliner Hochterrassen offers juicy satisfaction, with lentil, lime, and sweet florality. While close to 13% alcohol is higher than the normal target for this cuvée, it results in a glossy, rich mouthfeel and nut-oil undertones; at the same time there is still plenty of clarity and refreshment in the subtly saline and peppery finish. $18

87 points Willi Bründlmayer 2006 Grüner Veltliner Berg Vogelsang

Bründlmayer's 2006 Grüner Veltliner Berg Vogelsang, coming from his westernmost and coolest site for this grape, preserves a deliciously crisp, cress-like aroma and bite that are missing from most 2006s. Analytically, the acids are rather low here (though not nearly so low as in 2003, Bründlmayer points out) but the wine still offers lift and juicy refreshment of ripe, herb-tinged melon in its finish, along with clarity and floral nuance. Experience strongly suggests that this will be even better in a couple of years and enjoyable for three to five years. $25

88 points Alzinger 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Mühlpoint

Leo Alzinger said he had hoped to pick his 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Mühlpoint a week earlier but the flavors were not ripe enough, so the result sits right on the edge of Smaragd. Effusively floral, this retains a cool, fresh-fruited, herbal and saline mineral streak as well as genuine delicacy for all of its analytic ripeness. A touch of bitterness extends the finish while supplying a sense of cut. $28

88 points Emmerich Knoll 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Kreutles

The Knolls' 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Kreutles smells of lentil and herbs, then offers a juicy, mouthful of melon tinged with rhubarb, honey, and herbs. This softly textured grüner veltliner presents a coolly refreshing yet welcoming personality that promises to satisfy over the next several years. $29

89 points Prager 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Hinter der Burg

This grüner veltliner in finished alcohol is already on the cusp of Smaragd. Green tea and snap pea waft from the glass. Beet root and snap pea are tinged with iodine on a glossy, ester-filled palate, but the wine finishes with refinement and a sense of elegance, not to mention minerality. $30

89 points Schloss Gobelsburg 2006 Grüner Veltliner Gobelsburger

This 2006 Grüner Veltliner Gobelsburger offers extraordinary value. Pear, rhubarb, and brown spices in the nose signal a riper expression of grüner veltliner than is usual in this wine. Subtly silky in texture, exuberantly fruit-filled, and sprinkled with cracked pepper, this generous "intro level" grüner veltliner finishes with lip-smacking panache. The problem in 2006 was getting enough high-quality fruit for this négociant bottling, in a vintage with poor flowering and challenging ripening conditions. $18

90 points Freie Weingärtner Wachau - Domäne Wachau 2006 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Terrassen

The 2006 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Terrassen is scented with ripe honeydew melon, cress, and lily. In the mouth this is lively and refreshing for the vintage and the Smaragd category, reflecting its origin largely in high-elevation terraces above Weissenkirchen. Yellow plum and melon are tinged with herbs, inner-mouth floral notes, and hints of white pepper. The texture is silken, and the finish is juicy, satisfying, and billowing. Very few 2006 Smaragd bottlings from any winery are this seamlessly ripe yet light on their feet. When one considers that there are well more than 30,000 bottles of this fine value, it's quite an accomplishment. Enjoy this any time over the next five years. $28

90 points Ludwig Hiedler 2006 Grüner Veltliner Thal

Riesling-like scents of lime and tangerine zest rise from the 2006 Grüner Veltliner Thal, which hits the palate with all the frisky citrusness that this description suggests. And yet, there is a subtle suggestion of creaminess here, too. One certainly notes fullness from the 14.1% alcohol, but not only is this wine free of heat, it's full of energy and refreshment. The finish is smoky and pungent, with green tea, blond tobacco, bittersweet citrus oils and Sichuan pepper pungency. This should be worth following for at least six to eight years. $28

91 points Nigl 2006 Grüner Veltliner Senftenberger Piri

Nigl's 2006 Grüner Veltliner Senftenberger Piri—harvested Oct. 10 and with 13% alcohol—smells of iris, snap pea, rhubarb, and tobacco. With more smoky pungency and depth of flavor than Nigl's Freiheit bottling, this also displays a honey-glazed richness while preserving an admirable sense of clarity. The striking finish here seems more a reflection of the site, with saline, crushed stone suggestions, apricot kernel bitterness, and smoldering, peppery pungency. This well-structured wine should be worth cellaring for 8 to 10 years. $30

92 points Franz Hirtzberger 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Rotes Tor

With classic aromas of lemon, flowers, and lentil, the 2006 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Rotes Tor explodes on the palate with juicy, refreshing citrus, surprising red raspberry, floral inner-mouth perfume, and a hint of honeyed richness that does not detract from true Federspiel character. Herb and lentil low tones in the finish keep this exuberant, multidimensional wine firmly in the grüner veltliner vein. As in so many vintages—but especially in 2006—would that there were more Federspiel bottlings of this quality. It should drink well for at least a half-dozen years. $30

92 points F.X. Pichler 2006 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Von den Terrassen

Snap pea, clover, and a whiff of smoke in the nose of the 2006 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Von den Terrassen introduce an exceedingly ripe, opulent, yet not at all warm palate, with rhubarb, beet, and a hint of coffee joining the snap pea, pungently accented by smoke and pepper. This wears its 14% alcohol effortlessly and offers plenty of sheer refreshment to go with its richness. I would not be afraid to follow it for 8 to 10 years. $49

92 points Nikolaihof 2006 Grüner Veltliner Hefeabzug

Already with the estate's 2006 Grüner Veltliner Hefeabzug—and even though the quality of this light, low-alcohol, practically "entry level" wine is frequently amazing—one knows that something special is happening in the context of the latest vintage. This boasts a rare combination of clarity, flavor diversity, and delicacy, and ripe flavors with low alcohol. Raw almond, lentil, cress, sage, riesling-like white peach, grapefruit, and clover inform a wine of polished, silken texture, and alluring inflections. This finishes from ear to ear, thirst-quenching yet thought-provoking, with subtly bitter suggestions of garden greens—and the thought it most provokes is, "Is nobody else capable of imitating this?" Tasted again, this excellent value was even less resistible than it had been last summer. Precisely for that reason, there is little chance it will be cellared, but it will remain a joy to drink even three or four years after bottling. $28

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.

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