Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner 2020, Austria

Cost: $17-19

What: After you have been drinking wine for a while you start to feel like you can figure out just about anything you come across. But one of the best things about drinking wine is you are guaranteed to be surprised at times.

I have had several pleasant surprises lately, and I will be writing about them in the weeks ahead.

Today’s surprise is the Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau in Austria. I have had Grüner Veltliner (or gru-vee as it’s sometimes called) many times, and have always enjoyed it. But this one was really something special.

It was loaded with fresh fruit and strong minerality, a combination I love. I have never had a bad gru-vee, but this one stood out. As I researched the wine I figured out why I liked this one so much.

This wine had “federspiel terrassen” added to the label, which I found out meant it had come from grapes hand picked from steep terraces in vineyards throughout the Wachau Valley. Grapes grown high on the terraces have a little special something from the soil and the angle of the sun.

The wine is a gorgeous pale yellow in the glass, with aromas of green apple and white pepper, with hints of tropical fruit and herbal notes. On the palate it is full of juicy fruits, crisp acidity and the mineral notes on the finish. It is a medium-body wine and can hold its own with many kinds of food.

The vineyard is run with sustainable, and increasingly, organic principles. The winery uses no herbicides or insecticides. After picking, the grapes are processed in a pneumatic tank press, with the must then fermented under controlled temperatures and aged on their fine lees in stainless steel tanks.

The word federspiel comes from falconry, a popular leisure time activity among the nobility in medieval times. Domäne Wachau says the falcon stands for the elegance of their dry white wines. The winery recommends serving the wine at 48 degrees, and I would agree it needs to be well chilled.

At only 12 percent alcohol this wine is perfect for summer meals and afternoon sipping on the deck, at the lake or at the beach.

I thought this wine was a good bargain at around $18, but Domäne Wachau has an even better bargain with it’s one-liter bottle of Loess Grüner Veltliner for only $14. (It’s pronounced “low-ess” in English.) The one-liter bottle holds one third more than a 750-ml bottle, so you can see what a bargain that is.

These grapes will be different than the Federspiel grapes because they come from all over the Wachau region, not just the Wachau Valley. The governing body for the Wachau region does not permit a Wachau appellation designation for a one-liter bottle, so it carries the Austria designation. The grapes come from various vineyards along the riverbed and valley floor, but not part of the official Wachau Valley appellation. These grapes should produce wine slightly fresher and fruitier compared to wine from the steep slopes.

I have not tried the Domäne Wachau Loess, but I have had other Grüner Veltliners that weren’t from the steep slopes and they were very good. So I’m sure this one-liter bottle will be a terrific bargain. It’s the first one-liter bottle from Domäne Wachau to be released in the United States.

Winery: Much of Austria’s outstanding wine industry is shaped by geological processes going back millions of years. The Danube River has carved a serpentine path through solid gneisses and amphibolites, and today the soils from the crystalline rocks of the terraces  provide great sites for growing Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

While the glacial era saw little vegetation in the valley, blown-in rock dust settled onto the mountain sides, forming loess layers on the eastern face of the slopes. The steep slopes led Bavarian monasteries to add stone wall terraces during the Middle Ages, making it easier to grow grapevines there.

Hot dry summers and cold winters are moderated by the large area of water in the Danube. There also are great swings in temperature between day and night, which helps grapes develop more flavor and character.

Domäne Wachau, led by Winery Director, Roman Horvath MW and Oenologist & Cellar Master, Heinz Frischengruber, has developed into one of the top wineries in Austria, with an excellent range of award winning Wachau wines that beautifully reflect their origin. Wachau was recently named Austria’s 15th DAC winegrowing region.

World-famous vineyards such as Achleiten, Kellerberg and Singerriedel are just a part of the wealth of top sites managed by Domäne Wachau. The winery works closely with vintner families who have worked the steep slopes for generations. They know the special features of each vineyard plot.

The wine is imported by Gonzalez Byass USA, a family-owned national importer of fine wines, sherries and premium spirits.

Goes with: We had this beautiful wine with fried shrimp, hash brown potatoes and salads. It was a perfect mid-week summer meal. The shrimp were commercially breaded and frozen, so all I had to do was pop them in the oven and have a few sips of wine while we waited for them to cook.

Both Teri and I thought this was an outstanding wine. Teri is a confirmed Chardonnay lover, so for her to praise another wine is rare. We both thought the flavor of the wine exploded when we had it with the food. It’s nice for sipping, but much better with food.

This wine would pair perfectly with fish, seafood, poultry and the traditional Austrian Wiener Schnitzel. Austrian wine authorities recommend pairing it with many asparagus dishes, baked spring rolls, dim sum or spaghetti al frutti di mare.

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