Recently, I tasted three Gruners – two from Australia and one from the US and not a one from the grape’s home Austria. It is Austria’s most common grape but its Australian accent is rare to find as yet. From what I have seen though, it is a variety that will be soon adding its fragrance to the Australian wine scene as one of the most exciting white varietal wines within the next decade as more and more vines come on line.
The biodynamic Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner from Canberra and the Hahndorf Hill GRU from Adelaide Hills are two of Australia’s few Gruners and are perhaps the ones you will find on your local retail shelf or wine list.
Others are Stoney Rise and Geoff Hardy’s Hand Crafted. Both the Lark Hill and Hahndorf Hill versions show some texturizing oak contact that polish the palate and add extra spice.
Enter the Zocker Gruner Veltliner from Edna Valley, USA and you have yet another iteration of the grape. This time with a touch of residual sugar left to round out the mouth and add fullness to the body and a crisp clean stainless steel tank ferment to suit their local market. In Austria, the grape produces a wide range of wines starting with the frothy ebullient Heuriger wines just perfect for Summer through to fine white wines and some sweeter dessert wines.
On first tasting, the Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014 ($45) comes across as the more austere wine of the three although there was some delightful light herb, pepper and perfume notes to the tropical fruit sitting there amongst abundant spice. On the palate however, it is intense, soft and evenly balanced despite seeming a little leaner than the others on tasting and compared the opulent 2013. It is a product of a challenging year. After giving it some time to open up it really delivered in fragrance as well as filling out on the palate. With its spicy savoury finish, this wine is made to marry with food. However, its spicy nature makes it a beguiling wine to carry from the table to enjoy by itself on a warm evening.
Almost in contrast upon opening, the Hahndorf Hill Gru 2014 ($28) was more immediately open and generous. A little like the new fun friend that you seem to have everything in common with as opposed to that friend that is more of an introvert until you get to know them. Ripe apricot, banana, orange blossom with a dollop of cream and savoury spice meld into a succulent fleshy palate. There is an abundance of intensity in the flavours and a fullness to the body. It is a wine that delivers high on the fruit and on the irrepressible scale.
Amongst the friends enjoying these two wines on the night, the Hahndorf Hill Gru was very well loved. My impression was that they were charmed by that immediate generosity. Later, the Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner opened up nicely to show a more overt and plush nature overlying the silken texture and spice and won me over. So give the Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner some space to breathe or even some cellar space for mid term visit.
A few days later, I got a peek at some of the Gruners coming from the United States. One that stood out here was the Zocker Gruner Veltliner 2013 from Central Coast California’s Edna Valley with mouthfuls of ripe lush pear, lemon, melon and riverstone was balanced with some residual sugar. It is not as spicy or as textured as the Australian versions having been fermented in tank, and that lushness added to the perception of having more weighty fruit. The Zocker Gruner is a wine very much reflective of its provenance being a wine that brings to mind sitting at a beachside wine bar or café soaking up the Californian sun.
The Zocker Gruner Veltliner performed well at the recent Six Nations Wine Challenge collecting a double gold medal and was a sought after wine at the tasting that followed.