★★★Exceptional ★★Excellent ★Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
Austrian white wines, especially gruner veltliner, are easier to find today than they were just a few years ago as importers and retailers have discovered the tremendous value they represent. The best single selection in the Washington area is probably at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park, where importer Peter Weygandt features his own portfolio. He specializes in France but has made a strong effort in Austria. I’m especially fond of the wines of Birgit Eichinger.
Here are some other Austrian whites that are more widely available in the area. Don’t serve them too cold; they taste best with just a slight chill.
Kamptal, Austria, $19
“Textbook” makes this wine from importer Terry Theise sound ordinary, but it is indeed what gruner should be: crisp and refreshing, with hints of straw and lemon grass overlaying exotic tropical fruit flavors plus a long and enticing finish. Consider this a blanket recommendation for any wine from Schloss Gobelsburg.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cork Market, Dupont Market, MacArthur Beverages, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill; on the list at Central Michel Richard, CityZen, Corduroy, Cork Wine Bar, Hank’s Oyster Bar (both locations), Mintwood Place, Proof. Available in Maryland at Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington; on the list at 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring.
Kremstal, Austria, $16
Very few wines at this price level offer as much complexity and subtlety of flavor, which includes a faint but persistent lemon grass herbaceousness and the quince and apricot flavors dusted by a floral, talclike minerality. All without the excessive makeup of oak aging.
J.W. Sieg: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits; on the list at Westend Bistro. Available in Virginia at Unwined in Alexandria, Vienna Vintner; on the list at Alegria and Bazin’s on Church in Vienna.
★★1 / 2
Wachau, Austria, $18
Here’s a delicious Riesling from importer Klaus Wittauer of KW Selections: dry and bracing, with great focus to its lime zest, apricot and peach flavors. Think of a tuning fork, the purity of its tone ringing out, and as it fades you perceive the hidden harmonies of an unsung arpeggio. This producer makes one of my favorite bargain gruner veltliners, called Gmork; other gruners, called Rosenberg and Spiegel, are more serious and also highly recommended.
Select Wines in the District and Virginia; Prestige in Maryland: Available in Virginia at Balducci’s in McLean; Harris Teeter and Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria; Red, White & Bleu in Falls Church; Twisted Vines Bottleshop in Arlington; Vienna Vintner; Wine Cabinet in Reston; various Total Wine & More and Wegmans locations. On the list at Euro Bistro in Herndon, Lalou Bistro in Leesburg.
Wagram, Austria, $20
This Demeter-certified biodynamic wine is softer than other gruners, with scents of straw, lemon grass, lime and talc and flavors of star fruit and an apricot just on the cusp of overripeness. The wine has a meditative stillness.
Bacchus: Available in the District at Cork Market; on the list at Komi. Available in Maryland at North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits in Baltimore; on the list at Bolton Hill Bistro and Chesapeake Wine Co. in Baltimore.
★Niederosterreich, Austria, $20
Another fine gruner with flavors of star fruit and talc. It would be fun to sit down and examine the subtle differences among the bottles included here. But at this level, just enjoy.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Pearson’s; on the list at Proof. Available in Maryland at Finewine.com in Gaithersburg and the Perfect Pour in Columbia. Available in Virginia at German Gourmet in Falls Church, Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria.
★★ 1 / 2
Niederosterreich, Austria, $14 (1 liter)
Several Austrian wineries offer one-liter bottles of their basic gruner veltliner and zweigelt (red) wines. This one is relatively pricey; several are around $10. But it has excellent quality, with fruit-forward flavors of green apple and pear. Drink this, and you might wonder about the party you’re missing in Austria.
M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Best in Liquors, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Magruder’s, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, S&R Liquors. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick.