A few years back, Austrian gruner veltliner was the hot new thing--and with good reason. It's a beautifully aromatic wine filled with lively fruit flavors that can be both delightfully crisp and beautifully rich. It's often colored by an intriguing touch of fresh greens and, of course, it has that oh-so-chic name. This very versatile and food-friendly white may have lost some of its original luster, but it's still a comfortably cool choice. Here are the panel's favorites:
2009 Hugl Weine Gruner Veltliner, $12.99
Entry-level gruners designed for easy drinking often come in a 1-liter bottle like this one (one-third more wine), making them a great buy for everyday consumption. There's a lot going on here, with spicy citrus and stone fruit aromas on the nose. Round and ripe tropical fruit flavors (mango, papaya) are balanced by tangy citrus. Those flavors linger nicely on the finish in this bargain wine that doesn't compromise on quality.
2010 Fred Loimer Gruner Veltliner, Lois, $14.99
This selection opens with enticingly fresh aromas of spicy spring greens, herb, white pepper and citrus. The first flavor impression is of crisp fruit that explodes on the palate (gooseberry, lemon, lime, a touch of pineapple), backed by soft herb (basil, chive, tarragon), with a lean but lively finish. Letting the wine linger in the mouth reveals a smooth creaminess that complements all that bright fruit.
2009 Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner, Kamptaler Terrassen, $18.99
On the richer side of the gruner flavor spectrum, the aromas are an intriguing mix of pear, lime and tangerine fruit, with the light herb and fresh spring greens so characteristic of the variety. Things get even more interesting on the palate, where creamy peach, lime, blood orange and papaya lead off, colored by sage, mineral and citrus zest. This one should evolve nicely over the next few years.