Luckily for us, warm temperatures extend well into fall, so there’s no excuse to not familiarize yourself with these great white wine varietals. They may take a backseat on most menus to the better-known grapes, but these wines are flat-out terrific and deserve your attention.
First, there is the delicious grüner veltliner (GROO-nur velt-LEEN-er). Most Americans, even many sommeliers, misplace the accent on the first syllable of VELT-leen-er. If you have any doubts, ask a native speaker. Some American wine-loving wag — with links to ‘60s counterculture or a love for Paul Simon lyrics — dubbed it GruVe. Get it? “Groovy.” That strikes me as too clever by half and confusing, except in print. I prefer the simpler “grüner” for short.
In any case, it’s Austria’s answer to sauvignon blanc, a crisp, medium-bodied wine with sumptuous fruit, often described as bringing lychee and white pepper to the palate. Grüner is a fine accompaniment to pork, veal, scallops, sushi, and even asparagus or artichokes, which are notoriously difficult to pair.
The wine’s also great with choucroute garnie, that wonderful Alsatian combo of sauerkraut with a whole continuum of pork. It has the richness and power to stand up to great sausages and other charcuterie. If your go-to white is sauvignon blanc, you’ll surely enjoy this versatile varietal.
The other side of this finishing-the-summer duo is gewürztraminer (guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-nur). It packs an aromatic brilliance with medium body and lush tropical and passion fruit favors. There’s a hedonistic side to “gewürz,” German for spice. Though different bottlings range in sweetness, they don’t display much subtlety, but geez, are they fragrant. Even the dry renditions display an amazing nose, and while they may smell as if they’re sweet on the palate, you’ll find them destined to trick your taste buds.
Where this wine shines, particularly with off-dry versions, is with spicy Asian dishes involving soy sauce, as well as Indian food, especially curries and sweet-tart chutneys. Gewürz succeeds in the presence of sugar, salt, spice and smoke when most other grapes cry for mercy.
Then, there’s the big surprise that higher-acid German gewürz from the Pfalz region is an inspired match for raw tomatoes. The pairing is a revelation. Try the ripe fruit with just olive oil and sea salt, plus some torn basil leaves; hold the balsamic. You’ll be surprised by the synergy of the mashup. Don’t delay, because next month I’ll cover some underappreciated red varietals for the inevitable arrival of cooler weather.
As we approached Memorial Day and began to think about summer, I made a plea on behalf of rosé. Now, as Labor Day is around the corner and the warmer weather starts to wane, I want you to get to know two more delicious wines that will help you celebrate the season’s end — before we make the inevitable turn to heavier vino as autumn descends.