By Justin Taylor

The world of wine grapes and styles from those grapes has gone through an explosion of growth in the past few years as vineyards ripen and bring new grapes to winemakers that have only been seen in far reaches of the old world of wine. As an average consumer, this assault on the mind of wines carrying names in languages few of us know and an even smaller amount of us could say we have visited. Yet the experience of wine is just as much about the story of the grape or region as it is the flavors we get to experience in the glass. The wines produced from the grape Grüner Veltliner are currently going through a quiet renaissance in the United States and even right here in North Carolina.

The old world regions of Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal in Northeastern Austria have long since staked their claim to a white grape known by many names, most popular of which is Grüner Veltliner. The soils on the north bank of the Danube River range from clay to well-draining gravels, and other areas that balance between these two extremes. The first part of its name actually means “Green” giving a hint to its beautifully bright green color at harvest. “Veltliner” is a reference to the area where the vine is believed to originate, Valtellina, Italy.

The wine tends to take on two distinct flavor profiles that make it uniquely friendly to pairing with multiple types of cuisine. The fresh, youthful styles are generally lean and bright with flavors of citrus, great for pairing with seafood and fresh vegetables. The more complex and rounded wines tend to come from warmer vineyards that promote extended ripening, pushing the grape to speak volumes. Wines from these areas can be medium to full bodied, full of ripe stone fruit flavors, and just a hint of white pepper that is great with pastas and fresh fish.

Whether you explore the wines of Austria or even the locally produced Grüner Veltliner at Burntshirt Vineyards, I hope you are able to check off this varietal as being a great tasting experience of 2016. The answer to last issue’s trivia is a mouthful, but here it goes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, Vaccarèse, Bourblenc, Roussanne, Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul, Picardan and Terret noir. Trivia for the next issue: What is the red varietal that makes up a large portion of the famous Hungarian wine “Bulls Blood”?

Justin Taylor is Assistant Winemaker at Burntshirt Vineyards, Hendersonville, NC.