It is undeniably fresh and floral outside as spring breezes cross our backyards and the season awakens. I find myself wanting a glass of fresh and floral, too. Cue the world of German and Austrian white wines, which represent an exciting area of spring sipping for oenophiles not already familiar with this force in the wine world.
Winemakers from these regions are devoted to white wines – more than 65% of the bottles produced are white varietals. The countries’ moderate climate results in wines that are crisp and clean. Hot weather develops higher sugar levels in grapes. The cool climate of Germany and Austria allows grapes to retain a high level of acidity while still reaching desirable sugar levels.
Three German and Austrian white wines to fall in love with are Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Grigio. Of the three, Riesling is by far the most well-known and the most abundantly produced. Riesling’s popularity makes sense – it is a fragrant, nuanced and zippy wine.
In years past, much of the German Riesling that made it to U.S. shelves was overly sweet. As such, shoppers may shy away from the wine, and in doing so miss out on spectacular bottles.
Understanding how to read a German or Austrian wine label will have you deftly drinking wines from these regions. Although they may look intimidating because they are in German, the label system is easy to discern once you understand the methodology.
Listed on German wine labels, in addition to common wine markings such as vintage, producer and appellation, are details about the quality of the fruit and the sweetness of the wine. “Trocken” denotes the driest wine, which is determined by having the lowest level of residual sugar. “Halbtrocken” (sometimes also called “Feinherb”) is semi-dry, while “Liebliche” and “Süss” are the sweetest wines.
Grüner Veltliner is a varietal grown primarily in Austria. The wine is exciting for fans of Sauvignon Blanc in particular, because it has the same tangy green-apple and fresh-cut-grass attributes so loved by Sauvignon Blanc fans. Grüner Veltliner made headlines some years ago when studies revealed that white wine contains antioxidants similar to those found in red wines.
The Pinot Grigios from Germany and Austria are unlike Pinot Grigios you are probably familiar with. Thanks again to the moderate climate where the grapes are grown, Pinot Grigios from German and Austria are zingy and textured.
Learn what you like
A fabulous place to investigate which varietals you prefer is the newly opened Ludwig's Biergarten on Castro Street in Mountain View. In addition to an extensive selection of German beers, the restaurant boasts a small and focused menu featuring German and Austrian wines.
“We were able to take customer input from our San Jose location to determine the wines to pour in Mountain View,” co-owner Ben Bates said.
While recently enjoying a glass of Ludwig’s 2019 Kruger-Rumpf Estate Riesling Trocken, I proclaimed it was “spring in a glass.” Lush floral notes on the nose and sustaining, zingy minerality on the palate make this wine perfect to enjoy on Ludwig’s welcoming patio.
“Our wines are food-friendly and showcase some of the exciting whites coming out of Germany and Austria,” Bates said.
The restaurant’s 2019 Bründlmayer L & T Grüner Veltliner is wonderful with the vegan lentil loaf entree. The “L & T” on the label stands for “light and dry,” and the wine is certainly both. With an almost effervescent mouthfeel, this wine is crisp and full of spring vegetable flavors such as pea shoot and radish.
Ludwig’s Pinot Grigio on offer is also from Austria. Described as “not your grandmother’s Pinot Grigio,” the 2019 Pinot Grigio Valle Isarco Kofererhof is complex and enticing.
When asked about the wine program for the Mountain View location, Bates said staff are paying attention to the unique energy and customer preferences they are seeing with their clientele.
“We’re really excited to be here,” he said. “As we get to know our customers better, we’ll be able to fine-tune our menu even more.”
Christine Moore is a Mountain View resident. To read her blog, visit sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com.