Austrian wine is gru-vee

Local musical artist Gary Seiler wrote a poetic song about San Diego after Labor Day, which includes the refrain: “Beaches are empty, yeah. It’s good to be back home!” He sings of vanishing tourists and how special our home is this time of year, including its having the best weather of the season.

Weather is a natural flavor to partner with wine. If that is a difficult concept to grasp, think of a steaming cup of hot chocolate on the back porch after a long day of skiing in Mammoth. Now picture yourself with that same cup of cocoa at La Jolla Cove in September.

Warm sunshine and chardonnay? Save that one for someone else. Gruner veltliner, Austria’s native and most important grape, offers a crisp change of pace that pairs perfectly with San Diego’s warm foray in to fall.

Let’s start with simplifying the name. Officially, it’s pronounced “GREWH-ner FEHLT-lee-ner.” Certainly a mouthful, and one wine professionals are making user-friendly by either shortening to the initials G.V. or calling it by its nickname “gru-vee,” the latter certainly describing how this wine is being accepted across the country.

“When I pour it at the wine bar, people usually end up buying it,” said Bill Boyer of The Wine Loft in Carlsbad on the increased awareness and popularity of the varietal.

Since the 1980s, Austrian vineyard managers have been experimenting with lower yields and therefore higher ripeness levels. The results were richly flavored wines while still retaining balanced acidity levels. These changes in the vineyard have led to the proliferation of gru-vee exports across the globe.

On the table, gru-vee is among the most food-friendly wines available, even being a natural partner to the nearly impossible to pair asparagus and artichoke. Modern cooking’s focus on the fresh flavors of local ingredients is highlighted by the brightness of these wines.

Due to the grape’s naturally high acidity levels, these wines are among the few excellent white wine cellar candidates. Acidity acts as a preservative and allows these wines to mature for a decade or more.

Though gru-vee is made in many countries, it is best expressed in Austria, and specifically the Wachau (pronounced va-COW) region. Here the lime and grapefruit aromas marry perfectly with the varietal’s hallmark feature, white pepper.

Gru-vee tastes like it is from the same family as riesling, but without the petrol aromas and the sometimes-accompanying sweetness. The two varietals share similar weight and, for wine geeks, clarity of place, making a side-by-side tasting of different vineyards from a single vintage a pleasurable exercise.

Excellent gru-vees can be found at most any wine shop in the county for around $15, including at Carlsbad’s The Wine Loft at the wine bar, if you want to try before you buy.

Chardonnay is great, and absolutely has its place at the table, but there is no better way to chill away the late San Diego summer than kicking back with a cool glass of gru-vee and the Jimmy Buffet-like sounds of Gary Seiler.

Mark Stuart is a certified wine professional, educator, judge and columnist. Please send your story ideas or feedback to