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Domane Wachau Smaragd Achleiten Gruner Veltliner 2009
The Domäne Wachau is situated in the heart of the Wachau Valley, one of Europe’s oldest cultural landscapes. Led by winery director and Master of Wine Roman Horvath and winemaker Heinz Frischengruber, Domäne Wachau counts among the leading wine producers in Austria. The winery is based in the picturesque medieval town of Dürnstein. The region offers perfect conditions and unique terroir for growing outstanding wines. An extremely cool, marginal climate imbues elegance and finesse. Steep terraced hillside vineyards are the foundation for extremely low yields that guarantee structure and complexity.
Teamwork is the very essence of Domäne Wachau. The experienced and passionate vintner families of Domäne Wachau cultivate their vineyards according to strict quality criteria, following a complex, sustainable and environmentally conscious cultivation programme: green cover is planted between the vines, biodiversity is promoted and canopy management is carefully adjusted to each year’s weather conditions. The physical demands are enormous; the steep vineyards usually allow only manual labour and the dry stone walls, which have marked the landscape for generations, must be maintained.
Heinz Frischengruber and his team vinify the handpicked grapes with as little intervention as possible. The result is a unique range of authentic and elegant wines that reflect the diversity of the Wachau terroir, grape varieties and the famous Wachau single-vineyards.
Appreciated for superior wines made from indigenous varieties, Austria should be on the radar of anyone who loves bright, elegant wines. These food-friendly, cool-climate reds and whites are quintessentially European in style with racy acidity, moderate alcohol, and tart, fresh fruit flavors. Austrian wines are prized for their near-uniform dedication to excellence, and it is now difficult to find a bad bottle.
Rather than joining in on the worldwide trend to plant international varieties, Austria has chosen to stake its reputation mainly on its native grapes. Grüner Veltliner, known for its racy acidity and vegetal and peppery aromatics, is the most important, comprising nearly a third of Austrian wines. Riesling in Austria is high in quality but not quantity, planted on less than 5% of the country’s vineyard land. Unlike their German counterparts, Austrian Rieslings are almost always dry, with higher alcohol, slightly lower acidity, and flavors that lean more toward the citrus end of the fruit spectrum. Field blends of these two grapes along with Pinot Blanc and other white varieties known as Gemischter Satz are popular for daily consumption in Vienna. Red wines include light, tart-fruited Zweigelt, juicy and spicy Blaufränkisch, and Pinot-Noir-like Saint Laurent.
Difficult to pronounce yet delightfully easy to drink, Grüner Veltliner is indigenous to Austria, where it has long maintained its status as the nation’s most important white grape. It became trendy among America’s wine elite in the mid-twenty first century, and has since proven itself to be more than just a fad, becoming a mainstay on the shelves of wine shops and the pages of restaurant wine lists for those who enjoy a crisp and refreshing yet serious white wine. Grüner Veltliner performs well in cool climates, and is gaining ground in chillier pockets of California and New York’s Finger Lakes.
In the Glass
Crisp and refreshing with plenty of lively acidity, Grüner Veltliner is marked by telltale notes of white pepper and a slight vegetal quality reminiscent of green beans, as well as a streak of minerality. When less ripe, it leans toward the lemon/lime end of the fruit spectrum, while additional hangtime at harvest can lend notes of pink grapefruit and even stone fruit. A hint of spritz on the palate is not unusual.
Grüner Veltliner is a wonderfully versatile wine—it can pair with just about any lighter fare, from seafood to poultry to complex salads. It even works with spicy foods, and can be a classic pairing with Asian dishes.
When it comes to foods that are notoriously difficult to pair, Grüner Veltliner has been known to step in and save the day. The sulfur compounds naturally present in asparagus can imbue a wine with a highly unpleasant metallic taste, while artichokes’ cynarin compound typically cause the taste of a wine to turn unpalatably sweet. Grüner Veltliner not only manages to avoid these issues, but actually serves to complement these foods with its sharp, pungent, vegetal flavors.