New Zealand winemakers are a restless lot. Not content with making wines from mainstream European grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir they are now messing with more obscure grapes to give us a taste of something new.
The latest variety to appear on local wine shelves is made from Austria’s signature grape, Grüner Veltliner. I’m sure that wine marketers recoiled in horror at the prospect of having to sell a wine that requires a fair amount of saliva to pronounce correctly. They no doubt imagined a restaurant customer peering at a wine list and saying “I’ll have a Gru…, Gru…, oh make it a Chardonnay”. Many marketers blame the sluggish sales of Gewurztraminer on the fact that first time buyers are simply not prepared to make a fool of themselves.
That seemingly insurmountable problem was solved when a clever American re-christened the grape “Groovy”. DNA testing shows that Groovy’s possibly promiscuous mother is Traminer (a relative of the unpronounceable Gewurztraminer) but the identity of its father has never been established.
Groovy is a logical candidate for New Zealand’s vineyards. In Austria it grows alongside such local winners as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
In Austria Groovy is usually dry but light and refreshing with flavours ranging “from green peppercorn and spice to herbs, meadow blossoms; from cake and tobacco to a basket of exotic fruit” according to Grüner Veltliner by wein.pur.
First releases by New Zealand winemakers Coopers Creek (tastings), Forrest “The Doctors” (tastings), Seifried (tastings), Konrad (tastings), Yealands (tastings), Bannock Brae (tastings) and Waimea (tastings) look promising. Their wines tend toward the peppercorn, herbs, meadow blossoms and tobacco end of the spectrum. They are fresh and, at best, deliciously drinkable.
Bannock Brae Marlene’s Grüner Veltliner, Central Otago 2011 – $28
Fine-boned wine with appealing minerality and purity. It’s dry but shows attractive underlying fruit sweetness. Hints of pepper add a seasoning to a core of citrus and tree fruit flavours. – view on bobcampbell.nz
Yealands Single Vineyard Grüner Veltliner, Marlborough 2011 – $19.95
A moderately light example of the variety but it does have typical varietal character of pepper, citrus and tea leaf flavours. There is also a suggestion of stone fruit/nectarine. Good value at this price. – view on bobcampbell.nz
First published in KiaOra Magazine – Apr 2012.