The Stockman’s Ridge Grüner Veltliner

The Stockman’s Ridge Grüner Veltliner

When it comes to white wine varietals, Gruner Veltliner is not one that sits on the tip of Australians’ tongues. But this Austrian grape has found a new home in the vineyards of cool climate Australia where it is experiencing a remarkable surge in popularity. In recent years, Gruner Veltliner has captivated wine boffins and pundits alike with its unique flavour profile and impressive adaptability to the Australian terroir.  

Grüner Veltliner is thought to be native to Austria where it accounts for over 30% of the nation’s planting of grapevines. It thrives in cool to cold climates and can also be commonly found in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as the famed regions of Kremstal and Kamptal above the Danube River. Although plantings of the varietal have decreased over the last 25 years, it remains the dominant varietal in the Austrian wine scene. 

In Australia, the grape first appeared in about 2009 when the Lark Hill winery near Canberra released their “Estate” Gruner, a wine which sells at $45 a bottle cellar door for the current release. Hot on the heels of the Lark offering was one from Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills; a region which now boasts over 30 different versions of the style. Such was the prevalence of Gruner Veltliner in the region, that in 2014 the Adelaide Hills Wine Show created a specific category for Gruner wines. The success of the wine in the region is attributed to the cool nights and relatively modest summer maximum temperatures which ensure great natural acidity and lifted aromatics.  

Gruner Veltliner, known for its lively acidity, vibrant fruit flavors, and distinctive peppery notes, is a crisp and refreshing wine that is well suited to the Aussie summer. Stylistically, it can be made in many different ways; a fact that was accentuated by a recent tasting of two vastly different Gruner Veltliners made by Orange based winemaker Johnathan Hambrook. 

“Johno”, as he introduces himself, is another of those frustrated farmers trapped in a city slicker lifestyle. The former IT and data analytics consultant defied his Manly birth-roots and bought his first farm at Bathurst in New South Wales to grow cherry trees and later grapes before eventually settling with wife Lisa at “Stockman’s Ridge” – a small six and a half hectare vineyard outside of Orange on the NSW Central Tablelands. These days, he focuses on making aromatic whites and complex reds using what he describes as a “down to earth and sustainable approach”. 

Johno’s “Rider” Gruner Veltliner 2022 ($35) is made in more of the traditional Austrian way. It’s a leaner style with restrained lemon, nectarine and loquat through the palate, tightly bound by a balanced lime acidity through the finish. On the other hand, the “Signature” Gruner Veltliner 2022 ($40) is a more robust and mouth filling offering. It’s a much brighter yellow colour in the glass and offers hints of spice and cinnamon on the nose before nashi pear, pineapple and ripe nectarine embrace a honey toast edge through the voluptuous middle. Zippy acids and a sultry herbaceousness ensure that the aromatics don’t dominate and that there’s a refreshing “morishness” to the lengthy and palate pleasing conclusion. It may not be made in a style that the Austrians would recognise, but the Signature sure is a wine that would be perfect with spicy Asian cuisine or simply served on its own at a summer Sunday lunch. 

The Stockman’s Ridge Gruner Veltliners demonstrate the versatility and attractiveness of the grape. From lean and linear to textural, spicy and expansive. It just may be the perfect compromise for those who struggle with the raciness of a Clare Riesling, but eschew the opulence of an oaked and buttery chardonnay or the fruit cordial dominance of a Marlborough savvie. 

With its rising popularity, the future of Gruner Veltliner in Australia seems assured. As more winemakers experiment on cool-climate sites and challenging their winemaking techniques, the diversity and quality of Australian Gruner Veltliner continues to expand. The grape has already established a loyal following among wine enthusiasts and consumers, and its trajectory certainly suggests that it will become a staple in the Australian wine scene. 

As published in The Courier Mail.


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