Feelin' Gru-ve: Grüner Veltliner, the sommelier's friend

White pepper and lush tropical fruit are commonly evident on the nose, with some bottlings heavier on fruit and others leaning more toward spice. Older grüner veltliners can have hints of honey and petroleum much as older rieslings do. On the palate, grüner veltliner has abundant fruit and good acidity (think nectarines and citrus fruit). Many grüner veltliners also exhibit spice.

The fruit and acidity of this wine make it a wonderful choice with a wide variety of foods. It stands up to dishes with bold flavors of herbs, onions and garlic. And it is excellent with hard-to-pair asparagus, and even with salads. Grüner veltliner is the perfect accompaniment to a roasted vegetable sandwich with a spread of chevre.

As for proteins, this wine works well with fried catfish. The fruit tames the earthiness of the fish, while the acid works to cut the richness of the fried coating. Grüner veltliner brightens chicken dishes, and stands up nicely to roast turkey and pork.

Grüner veltliner loves international foods. It is a natural with German schnitzels, but you may be surprised to find that it is a great option for Spanish and Portuguese seafood, chicken and pork dishes as well. It is also great to keep in mind for Mexican, Thai, Chinese and Middle Eastern fare. It pairs beautifully with sushi, and I also enjoy it with seafood or chicken gumbo.

Most Grüner veltliner is still and dry, but it makes a lovely dessert wine and an occasional sparkler. And while it is amazingly versatile, keep in mind that no wine pairs with everything. I find that Grüner veltliner doesn’t stand up well to very spicy foods.

A few picks:

  • Summerer, Grune Lady NV - $14

  • Franz Hirtzberger Smaragd Rotes Tor 2007 - $50

  • Marc Aurel 2009 - $15

  • Nittnaus Premium Eiswein (375 ml) 2004 - $50

To read what and where Colleen is eating and drinking, follow her on Twitter @colleensachs.

As a food and wine writer, I am frequently faced with a couple of challenges. One is being asked to bring a wine to dinner at someone's home without being given much information about the menu. The other is being asked to choose a wine for the table at a restaurant where everyone is having something different. At times like those I make sure I have a versatile wine in my hip pocket.

When the meal calls for a white wine I often bypass chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio for the less well-known, but imminently food-friendly, gruner veltliner (GROO-ner FELT-lee-ner).

Grüner veltliner, affectionately known as "gru-ve", is most widely grown in Austria, where at least two DACs (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) apply to this varietal. It is also found in the Slovak and Czech Republics.

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