Posted by: tomciocco | August 20, 2013

ROTER VELTLINER – AN AUSTRIAN WHITE THAT’S IN LINE FOR A PROMOTION

In discussing Austrian white wines, the two biggies that will inevitably arise in the conversation are Gruner Veltliner and Riesling (though Riesling is always thought of as German as Kaiser Wilhelm, there is a fair case to be made that its origins are Austrians, but that’s another post). These two giants are surely the vines that dominate the Austrian wine scene, but there are quite a few others that deserve attention, and Roter Veltliner is definitely one of them.

Despite the similarity in name with Gruner Veltliner, most researchers agree that there is no close kinship between Gruner and Roter Veltliner. In German “roter” means red, and compared with true white or green skinned grapes, I suppose you could say that Roter Veltiner has red skins, but in the same way that Pinot Grigio has red skins – more pinkish/reddish than true red or purple or even black. And like Pinot Grigio, Roter Veltliner can make a fantastically kick-ass, aromatic pink wine, but also like Pinot Grigio, these rose’ wines rarely come to pass. I’m not sure why, and it’s a pity too, but again, that’s another post.

As it turns out, Roter Veltliner is a very old and prolifically fertile variety that has been determined genetically to be one of the parents of a slew of Austrian varieties like Rotgipfler, Neuberger, and Fruhroter to name just a few. Not household names outside of Austria for sure, but all are important legs on which Austrian viticulture stands.

Once planted widely in Austria, Roter Veltliner’s overall acreage has shrunken steadily over the last decades. This is a variety that needs sunny south and/or west-facing slopes, and warm seasons to show its best, and the fact that Roter Veltliner was once fairly widely planted in sunny California is a testament to these needs. These days, most Roter Veltliner is raised in the Wagram region in the extreme northeastern corner of Austria, very close to the Hungarian border. This gently hilly area of the country is much lower in altitude than much of the rest of the country, and climatically it has much more in common with warm and luminous Hungary than the rest of Austria is dominated by a colder, wetter and more mountainous terroir.  There is not a lot of Roter Veltliner to be had, but there’s a reason while it’s still around after all of these centuries, and after all those years of great service, it definitely deserves that promotion…

I put this very expressive and confident wine with a first course of a tomato, yellow squash and whitefish salad with some rye bread, followed by a main course of chicken cutlets in a sour cream, mushroom, scallion, white wine, and parsley sauce with a side of green beans.

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Eckher Wagram Roter Veltliner 2010

Pale golden straw color. Very expressive and well-defined aromas of fresh aromatic white flowers, applesauce, sliced pear, kiwi, lime, cut grass, straw, and pristine brook water. The body of the wine is round, solid, cohesive and very well-balanced, with a slight creaminess that is balanced by a crisp and clean acidity that springs tidy, sweet and sour flavors of tangerine, lime, green melon, yellow cherry, and fresh herbs. Very long quinine water and mineral finish. Really nice stuff.

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