Ask a wine lover about Argentina’s most important grape variety and the answer will, most probably, be Malbec. The same goes for New Zealand and Sauvignon Blanc and Germany and Riesling. Although each of these countries grows other varieties, they are all best known for one grape, which has become a ‘signature’ variety for them. Interestingly, only 1 of these (the Riesling) is actually native to the country concerned. But there’s another pairing of this kind that has attracted increasing interest in recent years: Austria and Grüner Veltliner. Some find the grape name difficult to pronounce and so it sometimes gets shortened to Gru V (groovy!); it should sell well to those who remember the 1960s!
Grüner Veltliner is planted in about a third of Austria’s vineyards, making it easily their most common variety. Given that, it’s inevitable that some examples will be better than others but, in my experience, you rarely find a bad bottle. At the cheaper end, it makes a simple, pleasant everyday drinking white with hints of citrus and, often, an attractive white pepper tang. But, in the hands of a skilled producer, such as Domaine Huber (Waitrose, £10.79), Grüner Veltliner can really shine. Lovely pear flavours and hints of peach make this very moreish and, although only 12.5% alcohol, it has the body and richness to go with a range of dishes – fish, poultry, white meat – particularly those with a light, creamy sauce.
It’s not a variety that’s exclusive to Austria – I’ve seen, but not tasted, bottles from the Czech Republic and Hungary and there’s also a lovely, herby fresh example from Yealands Estate in New Zealand’s Marlborough region (Great Western Wine, £13.95). But, for now, you’ll most frequently see Grüner Veltliner from Austria and, from my experience, it’s a combination you can buy with confidence.