The wine buff: 'GrooVee' summer
When you picture vineyards you probably think of bucolic countryside and rolling hills, far from the hustle and bustle of busy urban life. But the beautiful, historic city of Vienna, Austria, is home to not only two million people but also 612 hectares of vines, the highest number of urban vineyards in the world, with its smallest vineyard located right in the centre, at Schwarzenbergplatz, in front of the Palace Wiener von Welten.
Wine is a huge part of the economy in Vienna, and has been for centuries. The Celts produced wine from wild vines, and during the Roman times, as salaries were partially paid in wine, Emperor Probus had the bright idea of importing grafted Italian grapevines to be planted there so that wine could be made locally, rather than transporting wine from Italy.
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If you've been to Vienna, you may have visited a Heurigen, one of the small inns or taverns. Typically they have outdoor as well as indoor space for eating and drinking, and serve simple food and local wine. The word comes from heurige, meaning "this year's", and refers to the wine made from the recent harvest. It's a dry white wine called Wiener Gemischter Satz, made from a blend of at least three grapes from the 20 varieties that are permitted to be grown within the city limits. It is a fun wine, made for early drinking.
More serious are the single varietal white wines made from the Grüner Veltliner grape, the most planted grape in Austria, which accounts for nearly a third of the grapes grown there. Very much associated with the country, it's been growing in popularity for quite a few years, so chances are you've tried it. Don't be put off by the slightly tricky looking name, it's pronounced groon-er velt-LEEN-er, or you can simply call it "GrooVee", a moniker that was quickly adopted in the US. It's a grape that reflects its terroir. The wines from the relatively warm Weinviertel region in the northeast, which borders the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are easy drinking, with peach flavours and the characteristic touch of white pepper. But as you head into the cooler regions along the Danube, where the vines are planted in the loess soils which date back to the Ice Age, the wines have a more pure, mineral structure.
Over the last 30 years, Austria has put a huge focus on producing premium wines, and now, three quarters of vineyards are farmed according to the principles of integrated viniculture, meaning use of herbicides is kept to a minimum, and an increasing number are certified, organic, biodynamic and sustainable. These are serious wines, and although they are not everyday drinking prices, they represent very good value for the quality level they offer. They can age beautifully, and in a now famous blind tasting, which was held in 2002, Grüner Veltliner proved itself to be a grape that can compete with the best, beating Grand Cru wines from Burgundy.
To mark the 150th anniversary of Moët Impérial, a limited-edition bottle and newly-designed gift box has been released. A favourite of Jerry Hall, David Bowie, Lauren Bacall and Diana Vreeland, Moët Impérial is also the Champagne that Marilyn Monroe reportedly bathed in. It would have taken 350 bottles to fill her bathtub with bubbly. So much better to drink it, don't you think? Available exclusively in SuperValu, from €58.
Rabl Grüner Veltliner Löss
€18.95, 11.5pc, from O'Briens and obrienswine.ie
Delicate and fresh, green apple and pear is punctuated with a hint of pepper on the finish making this vegan-friendly wine a beautiful summer tipple.
Schloss Gobelsburg Domaene 2018
Approx. 12.5pc, from 1601 Off Licence, 64 Wine, Baggot St. Wines, Blackrock Cellar, Green Man Wines, Higgin's Off Licence, McHugh's, Mitchell's, Nectar Wines, On the Grapevine, Dublin; Wicklow Wine Co, La Touche, Wicklow; and Morton's of Galway
Zingy with the fresh crunch of a crisp green apple, this has a classic kick of spice and white pepper.
Claus Preisinger Kalkundkiesel
€27, 11.5pc, from Loose Cannon, Green Man Wines, Baggot St. Wines, Corkscrew, First Draft Coffee, Ely 64 Wine and Ely Maynooth
A Biodynamic wine made by a top producer, this is a blend of grapes which includes Grüner Veltliner. Fermented on the skins, matured in old oak barrels, bottled unfined and unfiltered, there is a nutty complexity to the green apple flavours.