Austrian wine has made its definitive statement with Grüner Veltliner. The common cliché is that Grüner is a refreshing white with aromas and flavors of citrus and white pepper. However, in the right hands, Grüner transcends the character of the terroir and the winemaker’s personality. It’s little wonder it has long been Austria’s signature white variety.
In the 1950s, it became the country’s most widely planted grape, for the most part, thanks to Lenz Moser’s development of the hochkultur (high culture) training system, which allows easy maintenance with the use of machinery. Grüner is a somewhat finicky grape known to overproduce, which can affect quality. Because of this and its sensitivity to dryness and certain fungal diseases, Austrians often view it as quite “needy.”
Grüner is grown primarily in the northeastern part of the country and reaches its quality zenith in appellations along the Danube. Though there are examples from Burgenland and Weinviertel that can impress, as well. Grüner is pretty neutral in taste, allowing the soil and microclimate in which it’s grown to be reflected by the wine.
Its performance in loess soil is unquestionable. This type of soil provides the perfect conditions for Grüner and results in ripe and full-bodied wines. Grüner doesn’t like to struggle. So, wherever there is good water retention, it can grow successfully. Expressions from limestone soils, especially from Burgenland, can be world-class, making elegant and precise examples that let the mineral elements shine through.
Though it may have declined in popularity in the past 20 years, Grüner is still Austria’s most important grape as well as its unique contribution to the world of wine.
Weingut Knoll 2019 Grüner Veltliner Ried Kreuties Loibner Smaragd (Wachau); $58, 97 Points. This is an absolutely brilliant expression of classic Wachau. Fabulous aromas and flavors of pineapple, ruby grapefruit and mineral turn to honey and vanilla spice midpalate, with an exquisite harmony that echos throughout. Viscous and round, yet vibrant and full of energy, this is impressive now, but if you show some patience you will be rewarded with an unforgettable wine. Best from 2025 through 2045. —Aleks Zecevic
Prager 2020 Grüner Veltliner Wachstum Bodenstein Smaragd (Wachau); $90, 95 Points. This is crafted with laser precision, delivering inviting aromas that draw you into the glass, where flavors of dragon fruit, papaya, quince and lemon dance together harmoniously. Velvet and silk come to mind when you think of its texture, while the wet stone and quinine notes embrace the lasting finish. Best from 2024–2035. Cellar Selection. —A.Z.
Rudi Piechler 2020 Grüner Veltliner Ried Hochrain Smaragd (Wachau); $65, 92 Points. This starts out fragrant and pungent, yet it is delicate, offering legume and white pepper notes that are typical, but then lily and quince flavors are introduced. Seductive texture puts a bow around it, making it an interesting expression of the classic. Drink now through 2032. —A.Z.
Christophe Hoch NV Grüner Veltliner Hollenburger (Weinland Österreich); $18, 92 Points. This redefines what a Kamptal Grüner is, starting off with a hint of matchstick that signals soft reduction, but once blown off, there is an electric offering of melon, Meyer lemon, sage and lily that all sing in harmony. Then you notice the captivating texture, wrapping up the experience. —A.Z.
Leindl 2020 Ried Eichelberg Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal); $36, 91 Points. Vibrant and pure white, this offers ripe flavors of tropical fruit and durian. It is fleshy, but nicely balanced, ending in a long, mouthwatering mix of citrus and mineral. Drink now through 2030. —A.Z.
Hager Matthias 2018 Viefalt Grüner Veltliner (Niederösterreich); $29, 91 Points. This beats to its own drum with a cloudy appearance and a slight grip on the palate. It exhibits notes of ripe apricot, tangerine and sage honey, with good complexity and a finish that invites you for another sip. It is a wine that makes you think. —A.Z.
Stadt Krems 2020 Stein Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal); $20, 90 Points. Subtle aromas of elderflower are overtaken by an expressive palate, which features notes of white peach, Jonagold apple and yuzu. It’s almost velvety in feel, with medium to full body, but the mouth-watering acidity keeps it intact. —A.Z.
Harm 2020 Ried Silberbichl Grüner Veltliner (Wachau); $24, 90 Points. This shows some hints of reduction, but that adds to the overall experience, complementing white pepper, cardamom and yuzu details on the palate. It reveals more with some air and offers a lingering finish. —A.Z.
When you buy something using retail links in our stories, we may earn a commission. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment for reviews of wines, beers, spirits or other products. Read about our blind tasting and review process here. Prices may vary depending on retailer.
Last Updated: June 6, 2023