E Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
The House Wine Of Vienna
Let’s take a look this week at an ideal wine for the hot sunny days we have ahead. Crisp, flavorful, not oaky, a bit of minerals and spice on the finish and it’s almost certain that you aren’t tired of it yet, because few Americans have had this wine, though it’s long been popular where it’s made.
Try a new wine this week!
Oriel’s Ortolan Gruner Veltliner
Our topic this week could have been one of our Wine Century Club updates, since many readers probably haven’t tasted a wine made from the gruner veltliner grape variety. But, as is so often the case, it’s new to us, but very common in its home country, in this case Austria.
Gruner Veltliner is “the house wine of Vienna” Austria, one of my favorite countries to visit. For one thing nobody does schnitzel better. As a schnitzel fan (I’ve actually written articles about them), I prefer the Wienerschnitzel of Vienna (the city’s name is “Wien” in German, with the “w” pronounced like a “v”) to Germany’s Jaeger Schnitzel or Milan’s “Cotoletta alla Milanese.” All are breaded veal cutlets somewhat similar in preparation to our local chicken fried steak.
But back to the wine. Typically, Gruner Veltliner is a crisp, dry, unoaked white wine, known for both its spicy white pepper finish and for pairing well with vegetables, especially asparagus (one of the great challenges in the world of food and wine). It’s made in many of Austria’s wine regions, and can vary in style somewhat when grown in different climates. Those from hilly, cooler areas, such as those along the Danube River are livelier, crisper with a mineral finish, while those from lower, warmer places can exhibit riper fruit flavors.
Most Americans aren’t familiar with Austria’s varied wine regions, but a good wine book or Internet site can answer most questions quickly. And other words sometimes appear on Austrian wine labels that can really take some explaining, like steinfeder, federspiel and smaragd.
But for a good summertime wine, something food friendly and new (to us), a good Austrian gruner veltliner can be a fun new experience. Selection is rarely broad or consistent, but at this month’s eWine Sampling a lot of us enjoyed Oriel’s Ortolan. Ortolan is named for the songbird found in the Weinviertel region’s vineyards, whose melody is said to have inspired Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It retails for around $15 to $20 per bottle.