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Wines Of Now

Deep Dive:
Australia's Best Grüner Veltliner

With vineyards arrayed across terraces along the steep south-facing contours of its slopes, the Wachau is as blindingly impressive a wine region as any in the world. And it is from these ancient vineyards, and those that spill into the alluvial plains flanking the Danube, that Austria’s marquee grape, grüner veltliner, is perhaps best known. Most Austrian grüner is actually grown in territory far less dramatic – if still somewhat charming – and the grape has also found an increasingly significant second home on the other side of the world, with Australia the southern hemisphere’s leading grower. From the epicentre in the verdant Adelaide Hills to our first exponent in the Canberra District, grüner is making its mark, and doing so in stylish fashion.

Austrian roots

Grüner veltliner is Austria’s definitive white variety, and definitively Austrian. Although it spills into bordering countries, Italy – or more specifically, the distinctly Germanic Alpine region of Alto Adige – Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, grüner’s identity is inextricably linked with Austria. Which is fair enough, especially when you consider that the grape has had both parents identified, one as the decidedly promiscuous traminer (a parent to a multitude of grapes) and a hitherto unidentified grape found near Sankt Georgen, in the eastern state of Burgenland. Additionally, and more importantly, Austria, and perhaps most vocally the tiny regions of the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal have put grüner veltliner firmly on the world map.

Like the famous Judgment of Paris tasting of 1976, that saw Californian cabernet triumph over those of Bordeaux (a quelle horreur moment for the French), there was a similar affair held in 2002 that pitted the best of white Burgundy against the cream of the grüner veltliner crop. A suitable panel of gun tasters was in attendance, including, somewhat famously, Jancis Robinson, who has become a vocal advocate of the variety. As always seems to happen in these tastings, the underdog won (and the French were horrified once more), and the variety, and Austrian wine in general, put another foot firmly on the world stage.

Occupying a place of primacy, grüner veltliner eclipses the albeit strong case of riesling to be Austria’s most valued white grape. In fact, although many wine lovers who are familiar with the great wines of Austria would peg riesling as its equal and perhaps superior, this is largely based on the tiny output grown on primary rock, often on steep stone terraced vineyards in the aforementioned regions, and most famously in the Wachau.

Eimerberg vineyard in Wachau

Eimerberg vineyard in Wachau. Source: vinea-wachau.at

Riesling accounts for 4.1 per cent of the vineyard area in Austria, while grüner veltliner marshals an impressive 31 per cent of the total national vineyard area, making it the most planted variety. It’s worth pausing here to reflect on the fact that 29.5 per cent of Australia’s vineyards are devoted to shiraz, which goes some way to emphasise what an important variety grüner is to the Austrian wine psyche. Also, it’s worth noting that while that percentage figure is high, the area under vine in Austria is not, with it one of the few wine-producing countries that is firmly focused on quality wine production – aside from traditional ‘jug wine’ solely drunk locally. As an example, Bordeaux has almost three times as much area under vine as Austria.

This quality imperative of the Austrians was largely spearheaded to arrest what seemed like a terminal decline after one of wine’s most famous scandals. In 1985, a chemical used in antifreeze was discovered in Austrian supermarket wine in Germany, and unsurprisingly the Austrian wine industry went into a rapid nosedive. Although no-one died (luckily, as it’s killed thousands in other adulterated products), it tarnished the Austrian wine brand seemingly irrevocably. Even the destruction of 36 million bottles wasn’t enough to right the wrong. What followed was an extraordinary turnaround engineered over decades that saw the country focus on both their individuality as a wine-growing nation and equally on the principle of quality being of utmost importance. This approach has, no doubt, contributed heavily to the international awareness and appreciation of grüner veltliner.

Like the famous Judgment of Paris tasting of 1976, that saw Californian cabernet triumph over those of Bordeaux (a quelle horreur moment for the French), there was a similar affair held in 2002 that pitted the best of white Burgundy against the cream of the grüner veltliner crop. A suitable panel of gun tasters was in attendance, including, somewhat famously, Jancis Robinson, who has become a vocal advocate of the variety. As always seems to happen in these tastings, the underdog won (and the French were horrified once more), and the variety, and Austrian wine in general, put another foot firmly on the world stage.

Loibenberg vineyard in Wachau

Loibenberg vineyard in Wachau. Source: vinea-wachau.at

Bordering southern Austria, Italy’s Alto Adige region makes a modest though not inconspicuous amount of grüner veltliner, but you will often see bottles simply labelled veltliner, which may contain grüner veltliner or frühroter veltliner (an early ripening, pink-skinned, unrelated and somewhat neutral variety) or a combination of the two. As for the countries on Austria’s other borders, you’re unlikely to find an example from any of them here, although it is the second most widely planted grape in the Czech Republic, behind the less than noble müller-thurgau. It’s grown in a very limited but still meaningful fashion in the USA and Canada, and although it is both planted in South Africa and New Zealand, with the latter showing very strong potential, the southern hemisphere home for grüner veltliner is Australia, and more specifically the Adelaide Hills, which is responsible for more vines than all the other southern hemisphere producers combined.

Grüner Veltliner In Australia

The first grüner produced in this country was made by Chris Carpenter (one of our panel members) from Lark Hill, in the Canberra District. In the early 2000s, while embarking on a journey that led to their vineyard’s conversion to biodynamic farming (certified in 2008), the Carpenter family were also developing a fascination with the Austrian grape.

Lark Hill is cold by any standard, with their elevation tipping out at a lofty 860 metres above sea level. This altitude compounded by the cold nights afforded by the continental climate, plus abundant growing-season sunshine, make this a place built for creating ripe yet thrillingly bright wines. When Jancis Robinson visited the vineyard in 2002, she translated this into a potential suitability for grüner veltliner (note this was the same year that she participated in that ‘Grüner vs Burgundy’ tasting). In 2004, the Carpenter family put the first vines into the ground, and that first meaningful crop resulted in Australia’s first commercial example, being the 2009 Lark Hill Grüner Veltliner, and from certified biodynamic grapes, too.

In reflecting on his reason for planting grüner, Carpenter highlighted the distinct differences between the two grapes, which often seem mentioned in lockstep when referencing the Wachau or Kamptal. “For us, we had a site that suited riesling really well, and I thought this is non-aromatic, spicy, textured – it’s everything that riesling isn’t in terms of a palate concept. It’s an interesting alternative.”

Hahndorf Hill, in the Adelaide Hills, followed suit, with their 2010 ‘Gru’ Grüner Veltliner, joining the 2010 Lark Hill as Australia’s only commercial examples at the time. Fast forward a mere decade and there are around 30 producers in the Adelaide Hills alone, with many more plantings coming on line soon, both there and in other promising areas of Tasmania, Gippsland, the Canberra District, Tumbarumba, the Eden Valley and other cool climate zones.

Led by co-owner Larry Jacobs, who has become somewhat of the local godfather of the grape, Hahndorf Hill have come to occupy a somewhat hallowed position as a producer of grüner (along with other native Austrian varieties). They have imported six clones themselves and make no less than four varietal wines, including both a reserve and late harvest style, and the variety is treated with similar deference by other producers. Also in the Adelaide Hills, CRFT Wines make three versions from three different sites, with all seeing some skin contact, and they are made with no fining or filtration. They represent a very different side to the grape, told through three distinct territories. Other pioneers, like Geoff Hardy and Longview, are as significant for the wines they make as they are for being a source of fruit for other makers. If grüner veltliner has a spiritual home in this country, it is emphatically the Adelaide Hills.

Grüner Veltliner vines at Lark Hill in Canberra

Grüner veltliner vines at Lark Hill in Canberra

In Tasmania, Joe Holyman of Stoney Rise, in the Tamar Valley, has been the most visible pioneer, though not terribly conspicuous at that, given his tiny production. There has been very little grown on the Apple Isle, and Holyman’s hatful was just enough to merit exposure to the market, and the press. His vines were planted in 2004 and his first commercial wine was from the 2012 vintage, though he made wine as early as 2009. The cuttings for the Lark Hill vineyard were actually sourced from Holyman, who had acquired them from a CSIRO trial, though the original cuttings have been in Australia since the ’60s. With a decade of vintages under its belt, the wine has become somewhat of a cult bottling, with strong critical praise to match, though production has remained typically meagre.

As it stands, grüner veltliner has made a significant contribution to the wine landscape in a very brief time. In a tick over a decade, we’ve seen the output grow from a lone wine to 40 plus, and they are all firmly in the quality camp, with makers seeing potential in the grape that could see it emerge as one with especial suitability to some of our cooler viticultural zones. An equation like this inevitably triggers the need for a ‘deep dive’. So, with six of this country’s best taster in tow – and two of those, one Czech and the other Austrian, as expert in the grüner field as you could hope to find – we gathered every Australian example we could and put them under the microscope to find the wines that compelled the most. As usual, this was not an exercise in technical perfection or to champion one style over another, nor was it a search for profundity. Rather, the aim was to find wines of interest and character that reflected variety and place.

Our panel: Kara Maisano DipWSET, Wine Director Masani; Loic Avril, Sommelier; Andreas Puhar, Owner/Director Enoteca Sydney; Chris Carpenter, Winemaker/Owner Lark Hill Wines; Jan Taborsky DipWSET, Wine Director Topper’s Mountain Wines; and Sarah Lawler, Wine Consultant. All wines were tasted blind.

Tasting Grüner Veltliner in the Agostino cellar at King & Godfrey, Melbourne

Tasting grüner veltliner in the Agostino cellar at King & Godfrey, Melbourne. Photography by James Morgan.

Grüner Veltliner, The Grape

Grüner veltliner is grown across Austria, with it being favoured in sites that have both good access to water and an ability to wick it away. For example, while riesling is traditionally grown on the rugged terraces of the Wachau where soil is hard to come by, grüner likes the free-draining and more fertile loess (a wind-blown silt) nearer to the Danube. In less interesting areas, grüner can be reliable rather than exciting, with potentially extravagant yields and generally simple flavours, but given the opportunity, it can convey terroir very effectively. It’s also a grape that can produce compelling examples across the ripeness spectrum, with anything from ultra-lean riesling-like expressions to rich and quite powerful wines in a chardonnay spectrum. Even at this extreme, it rarely takes to oak well. The classic flavour profile is often described as having yellow grapefruit, spice and pepper notes, while an array of orchard fruits often chimes in, with ripeness dictating which ones feature in any given wine. More obtusely, various notes hovering around types of radish are common, with Jancis Robinson also citing “dill, even gherkin character” as being characteristic.

Grüner Veltliner harvested grapes at Lark Hill in Canberra

Grüner veltliner harvested grapes at Lark Hill in Canberra

Beset with issues of pronunciation, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board have toyed with synonyms that are various plays on the word ‘groovy’. It’s like your dad’s trying to be cool, but he’s also wearing an Alpine hat and leather shorts, and he keeps launching painful puns at your friends and then laughing at them heartily. It’s not good. And it’s not necessary. The AWMB has done an amazing job, and the words grüner veltliner are easy enough to pronounce (even if the umlaut – those dots over the u – confuses some). Play with the word as a cuvee name, by all means, but please don’t call it ‘gru-ve’. Please.

Australian grüner veltliner – the overview

For a modestly aromatic variety, there was always the possibility that this tasting could have been overwhelmed by wines that fell into an indistinct dry-white category, without any significant sense of individuality. In reality, this could not have been further from the truth. Having said that, this doesn’t mean there was a sense of varietal homogeneity either. In fact, there were a great diversity of expressions, and mostly of singular character.

This idea of fragrance brought up the seeming duel between riesling and grüner. It was noted that, in terms of perception of Austrian wine, grüner seems to sit in the shadow of riesling. “Except in Austria,” commented Puhar, “except in Austria.”

When asked if the tasting showed that Australian grüner had an identity, Carpenter replied, “Totally… it’s all in the spectrum of what we see as grüner. Some absolutely nailed it, and some perhaps need some adjustment. People often ask us what grüner’s like. It’s like many things or it’s unlike everything. It’s grüner. People are going to find wines they love in the broad spectrum of grüner veltliner in Australia. I love grüners with spice, vibrant acidity and well-balanced phenolics. To my mind, the best of these examples are refreshing and thirst slaking.”

Our panel of wine experts gathered at Agostino's cellar underneath King & Godfrey, one of Melbourne's original wine retailers

Our panel of wine experts gathered at Agostino’s cellar underneath King & Godfrey, one of Melbourne’s original wine retailers. Photography by James Morgan.

“There were lots of varietal characteristics,” noted Maisano. “Some wines didn’t resonate with me. Those that used quite a bit of oak, or the cloudy more funky styles. But in general, I thought it was an interesting, diverse bracket. I really looked for the herbal notes balanced with stone fruit elements. I was really intent on that finish on the palate that signifies grüner, where there’s that lovely acidity, but there’s also that warmth and body. They should signify what the variety is about, and it’s a beautiful variety.”

“When you’re benchmarking it against the Austrians… you’re benchmarking against which style?” asked Puhar. “You see that’s the problem. If you’re lucky enough in restaurant you may have the opportunity to taste the bigger styles, the reserve styles. Or are you benchmarking against the entry level, the ‘federspiel’ styles?”

“There was one wine in there that looked like Chablis. Nothing like grüner, but a bloody good wine.”

Indeed, that idea of a direct benchmark was highlighted by wines with greatly varied approaches to making, as well as aprently different climatic conditions in the vineyard. Carpenter felt that some of the less successful wines were planted in inappropriate sites and tended to show overly ripe tropical characters, while the more successful ones had drive and texture. “If we’re trying to look for what is definitive about grüner, in my mind it’s spice, it’s pepper, it’s phenolic texture, phenolic ripenss without sugar ripeness. It’s all these things that make for a delicate, pretty thirst slaking-style. Not a big boofy over-the-top style,” he remarked.

“That’s just amazing,” chuckled Puhar. “What you said is the way we think here about what grüner could be like. In Austria, people of my generation, of my age, are still just always thinking, ‘how can I get this a little bit riper.’ Where their children who are in their 30s are thinking ‘woah, let’s pull it back.’”

Lawler noted that while grüner had plenty of character as a variety, it was not always that easy to pin down. “I always find that in a blind tasting, a grüner veltliner is the one that can throw me the most because it can be a wine that can have delicate, pure characters, like white fruit and stone fruit and florals, but at the same time it’s got spice, and there’s cucumber skin and lots of phenolic texture. I’ve often confused it with white Rhône varieties. I’ve often confused it with Friulian varieties because it can get that beautiful texture.” Puhar added, “We sometimes talk about cabbage and cucumber skin. Austrians talk about lentils a lot, radish…”

Kara Maisano at our grüner veltliner panel tasting and discussion. Location: Agostino cellar. Photography by James Morgan.

“Grüner is not an overly aromatic variety, so when the wines are very aromatic, I’m suspicious,” Taborsky noted, suggesting perhaps the use of aromatic yeasts or enzymes in a couple of the wines. This idea of fragrance brought up the seeming duel between riesling and grüner. It was noted that, in terms of perception of Austrian wine, grüner seems to sit in the shadow of riesling. “Except in Austria,” commented Puhar, “except in Austria.”

In reflecting on his reason for planting grüner, Carpenter highlighted the distinct differences between the two grapes, which often seem mentioned in lockstep when referencing the Wachau or Kamptal. “For us, we had a site that suited riesling really well, and I thought this is non-aromatic, spicy, textured – it’s everything that riesling isn’t in terms of a palate concept. It’s an interesting alternative.”

“Aromatically,” Puhar noted, “I found out of 39 wines, I found probably 34 smelling like grüner. I really did. On the palate, things changed dramatically. I found some wines that I would pinpoint to limestone. That’s odd for me, as there’s not much limestone in the classic areas [in Austria]. The wines that had fruit and acid balance really stood out. There was one wine in there that looked like Chablis. Nothing like grüner, but a bloody good wine.”

“When you look at grüner, it is a very fragile grape,” added Avril, “like pinot noir. As soon as you try to extract too much from the press you can see too much extraction of phenolics. Phenolics are very important to me – you don’t want too much. You force it, you see it straight away. And too much oak will destroy the aromatic component of it. I just want to see something steely and lively, with fresh acidity representing the green element of the grüner veltliner but also that phenolic importance, but it has to be the right phenolic extraction.”

Loic Avril at our Grüner Veltliner panel tasting and discussion

Loic Avril at our grüner veltliner panel tasting and discussion. Location: Agostino cellar. Photography by James Morgan.

“A lot of the wines that pushed the phenolics too far became really hollow in structure, and then there were some wines that didn’t push it enough and they became too acidic and too plain, and you wanted that nice in between bit where they flesh out and get personality,” added Lawler.

There was little division over the seeming use of oak in some of the wines, with all tasters finding it jarring when noticable, though these examples were in the minroity. “Most of them were made with respect to the variety avoiding ambitious heavier and oaky expressions on one side and not trying to artificially squeeze more aromas from this rather neutral grape. The tasting confirmed that freshness and texture are the key elements for making great grüner,” Taborsky summed up. He also noted that a couple of the wines looked like they may have had some residual sugar, which he thought jarred. “If you give it a little sugar, you will lose the character of grüner veltliner.”

All in all, though the local offering has someway to go to mirror the profundity of the best grüners of Austria, the early evidence is very impressive indeed. “Aussie Gruner is a true success story. With only a ten-year-long history in Australia, the grape has captivated many talented winegrowers who – and that is important – planted it in very suitable terroirs and approached it seriously,” said Taborsky. “There was no weak wine in this comprehensive line-up, and some of the wines were utterly delicious.”

“Take the Wachau and the Kamptal out of the equation, and suddenly these wines look very good,” Puhar remarked. “Go to Burgenland and Weinviertel and these wines look almost equivalent.” Encouraging words indeed.

Searching for Australia's best Grüner Veltliner in the Agostino cellar at King & Godfrey

Searching for Australia’s best grüner veltliner in the Agostino cellar at King & Godfrey. Photography by James Morgan.

The top wines from the blind tasting

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2018 Hahndorf Hill 'Gru' Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills
2018 Artwine ‘In the Groove’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $35 RRP

This was selected by half our panel as their favourite wine of the tasting, with Lawler, Taborsky and Carpenter all giving it top billing, while Maisano also included it in her top-six list. “The wine begins with aroma of yellow nectarine, citrus blossom and a hint of sweet ginger spice. The palate has fantastic texture, fleshy yellow fruit, with a touch of nectarine skin and some savoury notes. …The fleshy textured stone fruit on the palate is balanced with lovely high acidity and a touch of phenolic grip and hints of spice with a long tasty finish,” wrote Lawler. “Immediately aromatic, perfumed nose – floral and spicy. Palate light, lithe and focussed, with a sinewy, tightly wound thread of phenolics from beginning to finish. Acidity is refreshing and harmonious,” noted Carpenter. “Red apples, white pepper, hint of celeriac and sawdust – simply grüner,” said Taborsky. “I love the wine for its balance between zesty fresh flavours of lime peel, mango and green pear and lovely textural finish. It stands in the middle of the line-up – not ballsy or packed with oak and malo characters like some, neither too lean and green. Balance is everything. Well done!” he summed. Maisano found it “A delicious and harmonious blend of radish, kohlrabi, green apple skin and tart citrus. The balanced body, acidity and length exude character and charm.”

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2018 Hahndorf Hill 'Gru' Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills2018 Hahndorf Hill ‘Gru’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $31 RRP

Puhar registered this as his top wine, while it also found favour with Taborsky and Maisano. “Starts off quite tight, closed with some herbal notes. Chamomile nose. Very juicy and round, ripe apricot, good intensity, warm on the long finish,” wrote Puhar. “I wasn´t surprised to have one of Larry Jacobs´ grüners in my selection,” noted Taborsky. “Consistently great Gruners coming from his winery. There is lots happening in the glass. The ‘Gru’ is richer with a magnificent creamy texture and perfectly balanced peppery finish. All of that effortlessly carried by a zesty acidity. This wine has potential to age and should be drunk with food.” Maisano found it “Unique in its hint of botrytis, namely dried ginger, with white blossom and nectarine. The acidity and finish did not disappoint. Lovely.”

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2019 Nick Spencer Wines Grüner Veltliner, Tumbarumba2019 Nick Spencer Wines Grüner Veltliner, Tumbarumba $35 RRP

Both Maisano and Avril included this among their top wines, with the latter putting at the top of his list. “Ripe with citrus peel and orange blossom. Steely. A varietal and expressive wine. Good balance on the palate. The finish is lively, with a hint of smoke and pickled radish,” he wrote. “Pristine and bright. White stone fruits layered with baked lemons, green peas and fresh sage are balanced by a crunchy acidity,” remarked Maisano.

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2018 Stage Door Wine Co. ‘White Note’ Grüner Veltliner, Eden Valley2018 Stage Door Wine Co. ‘White Note’ Grüner Veltliner, Eden Valley $25 RRP

This was Maisano’s top wine, with Puhar also including it in his top-six list. “An unctuous grüner with signature dried herbs, white pepper and fennel seeds. Lively acidity, body and minerality drive the finish. Great expression,” wrote Maisano. “Very fine mineral – stands out for the chalky nose. Nice tight fruit, more in the citrus spectrum with some secondary characters, good intensity,” commented Puhar.

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2018 Nepenthe Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills2018 Nepenthe Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $31.99 RRP

This featured high on both Carpenter and Taborsky’s list, with it also making Avril’s top-six. “A powerful, stone-fruited and melon-driven style – riper and richer but not overdone. Texture is present and powerful but polished, integrating nicely with acid. The wine has a detailed, considered feel,” commented Carpenter. “Restrained and leesy, almost like a top Muscadet. Mango and pepper dominate the palate. It’s quite weighty and round – not a laser-sharp grüner. There is a lovely white peach bitter textural finish to balance the weightiness. Needs food,” wrote Taborsky. “A medium bodied wine, with ripe grapefruit,” noted Avril. “Sea salt. Bitter phenolic. Slightly green flavours which is a bit extracted. This wine is clean and well balanced with a good finish.”

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2018 Shining Rock Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills2018 Shining Rock Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $35 RRP

Lawler named this in her top six, with Avril placing it towards the top of his list. “Lively and pretty aromas of cooked pink lady apple. Seaspay, sea herbs. Good balance. Bitterness and some green notes. Hint of spice and grapefruit. This wine is varietal and mineral,” Avril wrote. “A very aromatic wine with white florals and white nectarine,” noted Lawler. “A good core of fruit on the palate, quite juicy stone fruit but kept light and fresh, and balanced by zesty and refreshing acidity. The biggest appeal is that refreshing acidity, it gives a cool lightness to the fleshy stone fruits.”

2018 Precious Little Wine Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $25 RRP

Both Taborsky and Carpenter liked this wine, with the former singling it out for particular praise. “A little bit wild at the beginning, but when I gave it a good swirl the wine showed straightforward white peach-pip-driven crispy freshness and a long, lingering lime-peel finish, with a hint of peppery spice. Pure and zesty – perfect example of a ´federspiel´ style,” he reflected. “A powerful, ripe-fruited wine. Well balanced, and the palate is tightened up with acidity. This is an intense, bigger style that perhaps lacks some spice and liveliness,” wrote Carpenter

Top wines in our search for the best Grüner Veltliner: 2019 The Pawn Wine Company 'The Austrian Attack' Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills2019 The Pawn Wine Company ‘The Austrian Attack’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $25 RRP

Carpenter and Avril both found favour with this wine. “Fantastic aromas on this wine,” commented Avril. “One of the most varietal wines in this bracket. Terroir is showing.” Carpenter wrote: “Juicy, lemonade character. Immediately thirst slaking. Pretty aromatics and fresh fruit. Perhaps lacking detail and complexity to take it further but an immensely delicious drink.”

2017 Shining Rock Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills2017 Shining Rock Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $35 RRP

This was selected in both Lawler and Puhar’s final lists. “An open and aromatic wine, little white florals, honeydew melon, and white stone fruits. Lots going on, such great aromatics. A beautiful extraction of texture and a good amount of spice to finish. It finishes with spice, but also light and floral. A lovely balance of floral lightness with complexity and warmth,” wrote Lawler. “Darker earthy nose, lentils, dry kitchen herbs, savoury on the nose. Earthy fruit, Mirabelle plum, nice weight, powerful, structure and length,” reflected Puhar.

2019 K1 by Geoff Hardy Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $25 RRP

This made both Puhar and Maisano’s lists. “Vegetal, mature, ripe, quince on the nose, complex. Very (what I consider) varietal, medium-bodied, savoury and richer, but with good balance,” wrote Puhar. “Seductive aromas of stone fruit, fresh herbs and subtle spice complementing the refreshing grapefruit note,” commented Maisano. “This grüner has it all – acid, body and length.”

2019 Wangolina Station Grüner Veltliner, Mount Benson2019 Wangolina Station Grüner Veltliner, Mount Benson $28 RRP

Puhar: “A bit lactic on the nose and tight. Very Balanced, nice clean citrus and orchard fruit, textural, very young and vibrant with potential. Crunchy, tightly bundled fruit to finish.”

2019 Pike & Joyce Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $25 RRP

Maisano: “Somewhat subdued until the palate sang with radish, wet stone and green pear. A savoury expression accentuated by white pepper and lemon pith to the finish.”

2019 CRFT ‘The Arranmore Vineyard’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $30 RRP

Lawler: “The wine is a touch cloudy from spending some time on skins. The nose is a very intriguing mix of lemon balm, white florals, honeydew. The palate has fantastic texture and phenolic grip. A mix of lemon curd and cucumber skins, balanced texture with high acidity and very refreshing. A more interesting style, and a tasty wine.”

2018 Artis ‘Single Vineyard’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $35 RRP

Carpenter: “Spicy, peppery notes with some initial reduction, which quickly clears. Palate taut and balanced – a core of sweet fruit wrapped with nice acid and some fine-grained texture.”

2019 Howard Vineyard Adelaide Hills2019 Howard Vineyard Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $35 RRP

Avril: “Pleasant aromas of orchard apples. Fresh herb bouquet and silky texture. The acid adds freshness to the body of the wine. It has a lovely purity and slightly salty element to it. Great vivacity.”

2017 Hahndorf Hill ‘Reserve’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $45 RRP

Puhar: “Very vinous and complete on the nose, with herbal and vegetal hints. Good texture, medium balanced acidity. A more savoury style with secondary vegetal influence and very good intensity. A more forward, mature, ready wine than most of the samples.”

2018 Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $25 RRP

Taborsky: “Restrained on the nose with hints of celeriac, pepper and yeast. Elegant and very light on its feet with a lovely spicy finish and solid persistence. Great wine by the glass.”

2019 Henschke ‘Percival’s Mill’ Grüner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills $38 RRP

Lawler: “Some cool white stone fruit, green apple and a touch of chalky minerality. The palate has surprising fruit weight and intensity, with a nice mineral line running through with the acidity. Very long wine, some nice crisp green apple and a touch of spice on the finish.”

2018 Seppelt Grüner Veltliner, Henty2018 Seppelt Grüner Veltliner, Henty $26.99 RRP

Lawler: “The wine begins with aromas of citrus zest, citrus blossom, white peach and cucumber skin. A nice juicy core of fruit on the palate, with light and tight acidity. Beautifully balanced fruit and acid. A tasty finish, white peach and cucumber skin lingering.”

2019 Billy Button 'The Groovy' Grüner Veltliner, Alpine Valleys2019 Billy Button ‘The Groovy’ Grüner Veltliner, Alpine Valleys $27 RRP

Avril: “Skin contact wine. Bit of funk to it. Phenolic. I like this style as well, because it does have a good element of fruit and spice, with cured meat and anise notes.”

2017 O’Leary Walker Grüner Veltliner, Clare Valley $25 RRP

Carpenter: “A lean, taut and razor-sharp wine, with reduction and spice working well together to provide an intriguing nose that develops as the wine opens up.”

2019 Stoney Rise Grüner Veltliner, Tamar Valley2019 Stoney Rise Grüner Veltliner, Tamar Valley $32 RRP

Taborsky: “Zesty, juicy wine, energised by high acidity but with a nice bitter touch. Slightly hazy and there´s a bit of funk too, with a hint of cider next to the tart green apples and white pepper but overall it´s playful and very easy to drink. Another proof of grüner’s great versatility.”


The Panel

Andreas PuharAndreas Puhar was born in Vienna (where his grandparents had a vineyard) but grew up in Klosterneuburg near the Wachau. He arrived in Australia to work as a chef at Kables at the Regent, working under Serge Dansereau, who revolutionised Sydney dining in the 1980s. For 15 years, he owned and ran (front and back of house) what was one of Sydney’s earliest genuine wine bar, De Vine, in the Sydney CBD. For close to two decades he has owned and run Enoteca Sydney, one of Australia’s premier wine wholesalers, specialising in artisan wines from Austria, Germany, France and Spain, as well as representing small Australian makers.

Jan Taborsky is currently the Wine Manager at Topper’s Mountain Wines. After completing a master’s degree in Philosophy, Sociology and Journalism in the Czech Republic, Taborsky’s career was forever diverted by wine. He has worked in various wine roles, as a sommelier and in sales and marketing positions. He has completed the AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Course and is a WSET Diploma holder.

Jan Taborsky and Kara Maisano

Kara Maisano is the Sommelier and Wine Director for Masani in Melbourne’s Italian heartland, Carlton. Maisano is a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier, WSET Diploma holder and WSET Certified Educator. She was the Gourmet Traveller Wine Young Sommelier of the Year for 2018.

Sarah Lawler has worked at many prestigious establishments as a sommelier, including a significant tenure as Head Sommelier at Melbourne’s Rockpool Bar & Grill. She currently works as a wine consultant and is the Wine Buyer for Melbourne’s lauded Kaiseki restaurant Ishizuka. She is also a Len Evans Scholar.

Chris Carpenter of Lark Hill Wine at the Grüner Veltliner tastingChris Carpenter is the Director and Winemaker of Lark Hill Wines in Bungendore, in the Canberra District. He studied Biochemistry at ANU and Wine Science at Charles Sturt University. Carpenter took out the Young Gun of Wine Danger Zone trophy in 2018, and was a Young Gun of Wine finalist in 2017. He also made Australia’s first grüner veltliner at Lark Hill in 2009.

Loic Avril hails from Tours, in the Loire Valley, but has spent much of his career working abroad. After apprenticing at the Michelin starred Le Grand Monarque and Anne de Bretagne, Avril worked with the legendary Gerard Basset, before moving to The Fat Duck in Bray, where he worked as the Assistant Head Sommelier until moving to Australia for the temporary relocation of The Fat Duck. He was then the Director of Wine for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal for its entire tenure in Melbourne. He has won countless accolades, including Best Young Sommelier in the World, the UK and France.


How the tasting was conducted

All wines were decanted into clear wine bottles, so as to not let bottle shape or closure type intrude on the appraisal. The wines were presented with no particular order to the wines. Once the initial tasting was completed, the panel re-tasted as they saw fit to confirm or recalibrate their first impressions, and to give those wines tasted first a chance to be properly compared to those tasted later. The identity of the wines was revealed after the panellists had disclosed their opinions.