VintageTexas Cyclopedia of Wine: Grüner Veltliner, it’s now grown Texas roots, but what is it?

Llano Estacado Winery 2021 Grüner Veltliner, Kubacek Vineyards

Until earlier this year, Grüner Veltliner was not in my Texas wine lexicon. I knew and experienced this grape variety as a white-wine grape grown almost exclusively in Austria. There, it accounts for maybe about a 40 percent of that country’s total wine acreage. Often referred to by just its first name “Grüner”, it is made into a pale-straw colored, light-bodied wine that is served cold and delivers a minerally and refreshing wine experience.

In today’s wine market, Austrian Grüner has a reputation and is Austria’s most significant white wine variety. Its lineage while partly in question most probably derives from a crossing of the Traminer grape variety with another grape. The second parent still remains unconfirmed. Many students of Austrian wines believe that the second grape may be a centuries-old, perhaps now-lost grape variety in Burgenland in the easternmost of the Austrian states.

Grüner Veltliner Grapes

My Eye’s Spied a Bottle of Texas-Grown Grüner Veltliner

My first encounter with a Texas-grown Grüner Veltliner was at Neal Newsom’s Grape Day festivities back in April of this year. I was actually gobsmacked with my first sight of a bottle of Texas wine carrying the name Grüner Veltliner on its label. My first thought was how could this be? After all, Austria is a cool winegrowing region, right? At least that’s what I’d been taught many years ago. Texas is actually the opposite, being described politely as a “warm” winegrowing region, and not so politely as just “damn hot”, particularly in 2023. How could these opposites be brought together in a Texas vineyard and a glass of wine?

While I have had many Grüners before, they have all been from Austria. My experience all mimic the descriptions I gave you above: pale-straw colored, light-bodied, minerally and refreshing, but maybe with one more color descriptor – a light almond cast.

On Neal’s Grape Day his “bardominium“ was set up for rows of people to listen to presentations, but it also had a few table brought together on one side. It was stacked with opened bottles of Texas wines of all types for attendees to taste. This is where I found a 2021 varietal Grüner Veltliner (Limited Release) produced by Llano Estacado Winery with vineyard acknowledgement to Kubacak Vineyards in Tahoka, TX, in the Texas High Plains AVA.

Texas Grüner Veltliner Tasting

If Austrian Grüner can be described as pale-straw colored, light-bodied, minerally and refreshing, I’d say that the Texas Grüner had just a bit more color that accentuated what I called above the “almond cast”, likely due to the intense high plains sun at 3200+ feet and a drive to a bit more ripeness from the higher average temperatures. But, the most amazing part of the tasting was that this wine still came across with the minerally and refreshing aspects of Grüner I was hoping for. On the palate, I’d also say that that Texas Grüner had a just bit more body (maybe light+ body) to give. This Texas wine was naturally a tad different that the Grüner that I’ve tasted that were from Austria owed to our local growing conditions, but still a solid performance and varietally correct.

Texas-grown Grüner Veltliner grapes at Kubacak Vineyards

Follow-up Research – Texas Grüner is Not So Far Fetched as I Thought

After the tasting, the incongruousness of Grüner Veltliner in Texas was still playing in my mind. So, when I got back home, I decided to do a little research. What I found out was that while Austria can be generally considered a cool growing area, its eastern region of Burgenland where their Grüner is most plentiful is a bit different. Burgenland is influenced by a hot continental climate that besides Grüner Veltliner also produces some of opulent red wines and extraordinary sweet wines in Austria.

So, fellow Texans, I hope that we can all welcome a new grape variety to our Texas wine lexicon with Grüner Veltliner. Find one and enjoy!

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

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