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Today, Grüner Veltliner is undoubtedly the Austrian white wine grape variety par excellence. This was not always the case. The triumphant advance of the old cross between Traminer and the St. Georgen variety, which was only discovered and named in 2000, only began after the end of the Second World War; today Grüner Veltliner occupies almost exactly one third of Austria's total vineyard area.
© OeWM WSNA

There are many reasons for its success. Grüner Veltliner is not only high-yielding, but also relatively easy to care for and quite flexible when it comes to location. The results are correspondingly diverse: from a simple, drinkable everyday beverage to a complex top wine capable of development, everything can be found. The wines can be thin or fat and ponderous, light and drinkable, elegant and taut or powerful to mighty, bone dry and more and more often a little sweet. High-class noble sweetnesses are rare, but they do exist.

One of the great advantages of the Veltliner is that even simpler and inexpensive wines can give great pleasure. The number of well-made everyday wines with animating fruit and unobtrusive spiciness is hardly manageable.

The higher the quality of the wines, the more the production is divided roughly into two styles: one focuses on elegance, finesse and moderate alcohol, the other on power and fullness, whereby a distinction can be made here between wines that remain tart and firm and still offer finesse and those that focus on melting, warmth, luscious fruit and, increasingly, a certain sweetness. Whether intentional or not, today's particularly powerful wines often contain a few grams of residual sugar, which can usually be clearly tasted in this context. One glass often makes you thoroughly full.

So it is no wonder that the fraction of elegant top Veltliners is becoming more and more popular. Yet it is not at all easy to produce expressive, deep, multi-layered Veltliners with a moderate alcohol content. The variety tends to be somewhat plump in fruit anyway, and its relationship to Traminer also manifests itself in a tendency towards higher sugar levels, especially with reduced yields. But these are a prerequisite for high-quality Veltliner. All the more admirable are the results of many producers of this style, who succeed in combining coolness, precision and a consistently tart taste without expansive fruit with depth, substance and complexity.

We have tasted around 170 Grüner Veltliners in the past weeks, of which we present the best here. In addition to the Austrian representatives, there are also individual wines from South Tyrol and Germany. Links to all results, producers as well as detailed tasting notes can be found at the end of each of the best lists.

In Focus: Grüner Veltliner Grüner Veltliner 2021