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Superlative Grüner Veltliner

Will Motley

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It's easy for people to take a chance on an unknown wine from an unknown corner of, say, Italy or France. Not so with Germany and Austria. Why? Certainly nothing to do with quality. There's an odd language bias in this country, a hard-edged skepticism toward all things consonant with our mother tongue. Call it rebellion; maybe it all hits too close to home. Meanwhile, the most affordable top-tier wines in the world slip by, practically unnoticed. Well, not if I can help it.

We just got our irregular/annual shipment of German and Austrian wines from the portfolio of the inimitable Terry Theise. No one has promoted Germanic wines in the United States like, or as much as, Theise, whose irascible style and shrewd palate have led to his position as THE venerable contrarian — something like the Noam Chomsky of the wine world.

Today we kick off a short, three-part breakdown of these highly misunderstood yet deeply rewarding wines.

First up, a couple of ringers from Austria.

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Alzinger Loibner Frauenweingarten
Wachau, Austria
Grüner Veltliner
$30

Weingut Alzinger makes a spate of single-vineyard Grüner Veltliners worthy of global admiration. For sake of space (and, honestly, market realities) we chose one, the Frauenweingarten.

Here's what Theise had to say about it:

It was clear right away this vintage was unusually good, even by Alzinger’s sublime standard. . . Classy and spicy with a wonderful salty grip . . . does this genre ever get prettier?

Alzinger holds vines in all of the most important parcels in Wachau, a valley along the Danube river west of Vienna. Soils are a mix of gravel, sand and river sediment. And this wine, breezy and charismatic, embodies Wachau at its best.

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Schloss Gobelsburg Lamm
Kamptal, Austria
Grüner Veltliner
$70

It doesn't get better in Austria than Schloss Gobelsburg, in the Danube region of Kamptal. For years we've carried their entry-level Gobelsburger, lean, honest, provocative. This week, for the first time, we've acquired their widely acclaimed, best-in-show Lamm, considered one of the most expressive Grüner Veltliners in all of Austria. The name Lamm name derives from the local word for the soil type, loam, in which it's grown.

Again, Theise in his own words:

It’s a high-water mark of GV perfection, and even after all these supernal vintages, this wine can still gob-smack you. It’s every possible thing to cherish about GV, brilliance and intensity, taut yet endlessly juicy, “sweet” yet steely, like taking a huge cable and stretching it to the moon.

Lamm is the epitome of Kamptal purity. Power, body, grace. This is a wine to lay in the cellar and enjoy at full, indulgent maturity.