Rare Grüner Veltliners That Can Age For Decades

Rare Grüner Veltliners That Can Age For Decades

While Austrians’ feelings toward Freud and The Governator may be mixed, one thing they all get behind is the nation’s signature grape, grüner veltliner. It’s Austria’s most planted varietal, consistently making crisp white wines that taste like peppery sauvignon blanc. For most grüner, that’s where the story ends. However, there are a handful of producers that elevate grüner from refreshing and easy-drinking to complex and collectible. Their wines are always hard, but very much worth exploring when you can.

The Producers

When it comes to grüner, a few names stand out from the crowd: Emmerich Knoll, Peter Vayder-Malberg, FX Pichler, and Hirtzberger. They aren’t just giants of Austrian wine - they’re mentioned in the same breath as the greatest white wine producers on earth. While some have been around for two decades and others for two centuries, they all make crisp-yet-rich grüner in Austria’s best wine region, Wachau. As is common in Wachau, their labels often display the words “Federspiel” or “Smaragd”. Both indicate dryness, with the former used for medium-bodied wines, and the latter for bigger, fuller styles.

The Ageability

The Wachau has a similar profile to the Mosel in Germany. In both areas, grape varieties that are typically light and delicate produce wines that can age for decades. In the Mosel, it’s riesling, while in Wachau, it’s grüner. Grüner is grown on steep slopes along the Danube River, consistently battered by cold winds coming down from the north. This allows the grapes to retain high acidity, while vineyard placement and farming techniques lead to particularly extracted wines. The combination makes for incredible ageability.

The Wines

Few wines better embody the cool freshness of early spring than young grüner veltliner. Heavy on citrus and grassy flavors, it tastes like a more herbal, spicy but subtle sauvignon blanc. These pair perfectly with salads, cheeses, and pretty much all picnic staples. As grüner ages, it takes on richness, depth, and savory notes that more closely resemble great White Burgundy. Whichever style you prefer, these are the bottles to try.

Rudi Pichler and Leo Alzinger

Rudi Pichler and Leo Alzinger are two names you can always trust to deliver grüner with enough crisp acidity to combat 100-degree summer days. Alzinger’s wine is harvested a bit later than Pichler’s, leading to a slightly richer style.

F.X. Pichler

When it comes to Austrian wine, no name carries as much weight as F.X. Pichler. Their grüner is made in a rich, intense style, with a bold herbaceousness that brings to mind the Sancerre of greats like Vatan and Cotat.

Salomon Undhof and Peter Veyder-Malberg

The Salomons have been making wine in the Wachau since George Washington’s first term as president. Their grüners are known for clarity and purity of fruit. With age, they bring to mind the structure and elegance of great Chablis.

Peter Veyder-Malberg burst onto the natural wine scene a decade ago and the hype has only intensified. Even in a warm year like 2009, his grüner is pure and invigorating, with a rare balance of roundness and cut.

Emmerich Knoll

If you were to raid the cellars of sommeliers and winemakers, your stash of grüner would be dominated by Emmerich Knoll. These are some of the most nuanced and spicy wines in Austria, and even after two decades, they’re still remarkably fresh.

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