I spent the afternoon yesterday at the Cellar Door Wine Festival in Adelaide. There were just under 200 wineries represented, with the vast majority (all perhaps?) from South Australia, with a few beer and cider breweries along for the fun. It was a good chance to see what is happening in the local industry, though I did end up working for part of the day.
It didn’t look like many people were actually buying wine, and there were far too many people toward the end who were drunk (which obviously I don’t usually mind, except in this case when I couldn’t be one of them). Sadly, I stayed sober, but I did pick up a mixed half case from six different stands, only one of which I’d had before. I also bought a bottle of Kangaroo Island Spirits Gin, because nothing says you love wine like walking out of a wine festival with a bottle of gin. I asked them for a straw, but alas, they couldn’t help me.
Many of the bottles I bought will likely feature here in the coming week or two, and this is the first, the K1 Adelaide Hills Grüner Veltliner 2011. The others I picked up were likewise varieties less commonly found in Australia, and so with that, it’s time to talk about Grüner Veltliner.
You know you’re in the wine trade when you like Grüner Veltliner. Or you could be Austrian. Either way, you have excellent taste. Good Grüner Veltliner can be everything that a white wine should be, from austere to perfumed, from mineral to spicy, from light and refreshing to very concentrated. If you like Grüner Veltliner, and you know who you are, first off good for you. But second, do not be upset at the fact that no one drinks it outside of the trade (and Austria).
No amount of convincing will bring the wine drinking world as a whole together with Grüner Veltliner to live happily ever after. It is just not going to happen. I can hear Grüner Veltliner fans disagreeing with me, but in their hearts they know it’s true because they’ve been trying for years to convince people it’s the next big thing. Right after Riesling. Without success. The thing is, the problem is not with Grüner Veltliner. There is nothing wrong with Grüner Veltliner that needs to be changed so people accept it. People who like Grüner Veltliner need to accept that the rest of the world is not ready, and may never be.
So other than being the under-appreciated darling of the wine trade, and popular in Austria where it is the most widely planted white grape, Grüner Veltliner is actually gaining some traction. In neighbouring countries in Eastern Europe, as well as with some brave souls growing it in New Zealand and Australia as well, acres of vines are growing year on year. It is considered early ripening in warm climates, but within continental Europe, Austria is about the northernmost limit as to where it will ripen at all. At its best, it can produce wines that are both aromatic and substantial, with ageing potential and depth of flavour and character. Typical tasting notes stress minerality, body, and peppery spice.
I’ve covered so many wines from the Adelaide Hills, I don’t have much else to say about it as a region, except that it covers more area than most people might think. K1 is in Kuitpo, which puts it about as far from Hahndorf near the center of the region as it is from the sea.
K1, or K1 by Geoff Hardy as it says on the label, is a winery in the southern reaches of the Adelaide Hills, due east from McLaren Vale. The name Hardy is one of the biggest in the Australian wine industry, going back 125 years. Geoff Hardy is of that family, of Thomas Hardy and Eileen Hardy fame, but did not join the family firm, opting instead to grow grapes independently, and quickly began to supply fruit to some of the region’s best wineries. He also made small amounts of his own wine, and his reputation, independent of his family name, grew out of a cooler climate take on Shiraz. While still a relatively small, family run producer, K1 has at least 23 varieties planted, and makes a very wide range of wine, red white and rosé, still and sparkling, varietals and blends. Other less commonly seen varieties include Arneis and Gewürztraminer, and apparently there are Tannat, Fiano, and Teroldego vines planted though I am not sure they’ve made wines from any of the last three yet. Actually, it was pointed out to me that the Tannat may be for a Pertaringa wine, another winery Geoff Hardy runs. Maybe, maybe not as K1 is Adelaide Hills and Pertaringa Tannat is McLaren Vale. I picked up a bottle of it yesterday, and look forward to giving it a go.
This is the third Australian Grüner Veltliner I’ve tried, and apparently there are at least a couple more available that I should seek out. Unfortunately, I have yet to have one that lives up to what I think Grüner Veltliner should be, based on the Austrian wines I’ve had.
In appearance, it is industry standard pale white wine Pantone, clear and bright. On the nose there are elements of lime, melon, white pepper, though not with particular intensity. On the palate, there’s plenty of lime/citrus acidity, with a hint of lychee and green apple and a sour, candied fruit finish. However, I do not get minerality that is so key to what I think of as Grüner Veltliner. Also, it is lacking body, almost watery in texture.
Now all that said, when I see the K1 Grüner Veltliner 2012 on the shelves, I’ll likely buy a bottle. And the 2013. And the 2014. I think this is a great grape variety, and I really want to see it do well in Australia. If I hadn’t been spoilt by such excellent Austrian Grüner Veltliners, I might be happy with this wine. It’s certainly not as green as one of the other Australian’s I’ve tasted. But for now I think the vines need to mature, winemakers need to continue to work with the grape, and perhaps in time there can be an Australian Grüner Veltliner capable of rivaling its Austrian forebearers.