Monday, November 22, 2010

Picking and Drinking Gruener Veltliner with Ewald Gruber sen. and jun., Weingut Gruber, Weinviertel, Austria

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller picking and tasting Gruener Veltliner with Ewald Gruber sen. and Ewald Gruber jun.

As part of the EWBC 2010 in Vienna, I picked Gruener Veltliner in the vineyards of Weingut Ewald Gruber in Roeschitz in the Weinviertel with my EWBC 2010 fellow participants and the Gruber family. The grapes will be used to produce a EWBC 2010 wine. This was my first time out in the vineyard to pick grapes.


Austria’s vineyard area is divided into 4 main regions, of which Niederoesterreich (Lower Austria) is the most northern. Within Lower Austria, the Weinviertel is by far the largest district. Situated to the south of the Thaya river, between the Manhartsberg mountain to the west and the Marchauen to the east, the Weinviertel extends southwards right to the gates of Vienna. The fertile region with its rolling hills is one of Central Europe’s oldest agricultural site. The region derives its name from viticulture: Weinviertel means winedistrict.

Picture: Austria's Wine Regions

Gruener Veltliner

The Grüner Veltliner is the characteristic wine of the region. It covers 50 % of the vineyards in the Weinviertel and makes up around one third of the vineyards of Austria.

It is a highly versatile variety but is rarely grown in any other wine regions, and as such remains Austria's real point of difference. Cool nights are important for Grüner Veltliner in order to achieve perfect acidity and aromatic expression. The grapes ripen fairly late, and therefore benefit from the warm summer and autumn days that Austria's continental climate offers.

Picture: The Gruener Veltliner Harvested by the EWBC 2010 Participants

Grüner Veltliner is known for its spicy, smoky character with a distinctive white pepper and tobacco bouquet. Fruit character can range from citrussy to rich, peachy flavours, and there is always an excellent dose of balancing acidity.

Weinviertel DAC

Austria’s main wine classification system is based, like the German one, on the amount of sugar in the grapes at harvest, and includes categories like Qualitaetswein, Kabinett and Spaetlese. Recently, there have been efforts to supplement this ripeness-based with a terroir-based classification system. Accordingly, in the Weinviertel, the Weinviertel Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) was introduced. The new system tries to group wines typical for their region together; DAC wines always have a clear taste profile.

In the Weinviertel, a DAC wine is always a Grüner Veltliner, easily recognizable by its lighter yellow to darker greenish-yellow color and its fine peppery, spicy-fruity taste. It has to be dry, with a maximum residual sugar of 6g/l. It must not display woody or botrytis-like notes and its alcoholic strength should be at least 12 % by vol. The basic control for the Weinviertel DAC is identical to that of any quality wine, because the Weinviertel DAC too has to fulfils all the criteria of a Qualitaetswein. Weinviertel DAC bottles can be recognized by their uniform cap bearing a stylized map of the Weinviertel region.

Picture: The Participating EWBC Wine Bloggers

With the 2009 vintage, the DAC Reserve category has been added to the Weinviertel DAC system. As with the Weinviertel DAC wine, the Weinviertel DAC Reserve wine must demonstrate a clear, region-typical taste profile – it must be a peppery Grüner Veltliner from the Weinviertel. But it also must have other distinguishing features: a dense structure; a long finish and a robust style. Subtle Botrytis and wood tones are acceptable in the DAC Reserve. The alcohol content must be at least 13 %.

The Weinviertel winemakers are very optimistic that the new DAC system will help boost exports. I doubt it and I am with Terry Theise here, one of the leading exporters of Austrian wine into the US, who has been very critical of the DAC system and has not even bothered to explain it to his customers in his catalogue. In my view, it will take a long time to achieve recognition and acceptance of the DAC system.

Ewald Gruber Estate and Wines

The Ewald Gruber Estate is located in Röschitz in the west of the Weinviertel wine-growing region in Lower Austria. It has been owned by the family since 1724. The Estate also includes Weingut Schloss Maissau (7 hectares) and Weingut Stift Altenburg (6 hectares). In total, the Grubers own 80 hectares of vineyard land and purchase fruit equivalent to 50 hectares. All wines are fermented, aged and filled in their main winery in Roeschitz.

The Ewald Gruber Estate has remained a family enterprise despite its size of 70 hectares. This is possible, because 3 of the 6 children of Hermine and Ewald Gruber - Ewald jun., Maria and Johann – are fully involved in the business. Notably Ewald jun. , who completed his oenological studies at the Klosterneuburg college before gaining practical experience in Australia and New Zealand, is responsible for the cellar, while Ewald sen. concentrates on the vineyard work.

70% of the area is planted with the white varieties Grüner Veltliner (main variety with 50%), Riesling, Welschriesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, the remaining 30% is planted with the red varieties Zweigelt, Blauburger, Pinot Noir, Blauer Portugieser and St. Laurent. Gruber’s philosophy is sustained integrated vineyard practices, including natural fertilizing, careful soil treatment, no use of herbicides, and encouraging naturally useful insects, by planting appropriate plants and trees on the borders of the vineyards. The top wines are marketed in the “Selektion der Einzellagen” and “Alte Reben” categories. The wine portfolio also includes the Frizzante „Punkt Genau” (perlé wine).

Picture: The Gruber Team

Today, Ewald Gruber is one of the leading Weinviertel Estates and one of the driving force in terms of the Weinviertel’s marketing efforts. In this vein, Ewald Gruber sen. established the “Weinquartier” in Retz, a stylish restaurant cum wine store, where you find 300 wines from all over the Weinviertel.

Picking and Tasting Gruener Veltliner in the Im Hinterholz

It was a lot of fun to harvest the Gruener Veltliner in the Im Hinterholz vineyard. First, the whole group was carried on a truck from the winery to the vineyard, through the narrow streets of Roeschnitz. Then we were provided with scissors and bugs. The instruction was to cut out all the botrytized grapes and only put healthy, green grapes in the bucket. In fact, this was quite a tedious work as many grapes did not meet the quality criteria, at least not my quality criteria. In an hour we harvested enough grapes to produce about 500 liters of wine. This is gonna be the 2010 EWBC wine.

At the end, we tasted two Gruener Veltliner in the im Hinterholz vineyard.

2009 Gruener Veltliner, Weinviertel DAC: Nutty aromas with hints of smoke and peachy notes, good structure, lovely stone-fruit and mango flavors on the palate.

2009 Gruener Veltliner, Weinviertel DAC Reserve: Picked one month later that the DAC, very low yield, 15% in new oak, ripe apricots, smoky on the nose, creamy texture, caramelly notes on the finish.

Postscriptum: The 2010 EWBC Gruener Veltliner

Ewald Gruber keeps us in the loop in terms of what is happening with the EWBC 2010 Gruener Veltliner. Here is a picture from the pressing of the grapes, a couple of days after we had visited the Ewald Gruber Estate.

Picture: Pressing the EWBC 2010 Gruener Veltliner Grapes

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