While wine snobs are still sipping on Riesling, the cool kids are once again ordering up Grüner Veltliner.
In the 1990s, Austria’s beloved Grüner Veltliner announced its arrival on the North American wine scene with an easy to pronounce nickname, “Groo-Vee” and became the new “it wine”. After its moment in the spotlight faded, "Grüner" as one of the world's most food-friendly white wines, remained a favourite with sommeliers and stayed on North America's top restaurant wine lists.
Extremely versatile, the Grüner Veltliner grape can produce a wide range of terroir-driven wines ranging from light and easy-drinking to rich and full bodied, especially when aged. Grüner is often referred to as the exotic Sauvignon Blanc but when made in the rich, full-bodied style it is a wine that converts Chardonnay lovers. Now considered a classic old-world wine, Austria’s claim to making the world’s best Grüner Veltliner is being challenged by the new world including British Columbia.
Vancouver Island’s Devine Vineyards was the first to showcase Grüner Veltliner in British Columbia, producing their first vintage in 2008. However, the credit for putting Gruner Veltiner on B.C.’s wine varietal map belongs to Canadian wine industry legend, Don Triggs. In 2007, Don, along with his wife Elaine and daughter Sara, chose the Okanagan to open their own winery, Culmina Family Estate Winery.
After careful and meticulous research, the Triggs added the “surprise” white varietal of Grüner Veltliner to their Culmina Winery portfolio which also included Chardonnay, Riesling and Viognier along with classic red Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petit Verdot. In 2013, they released their first Grüner Veltliner vintage under the name Unicus to serious acclaim and this new Okanagan varietal became the talk of B.C. winemakers.
Culmina’s Unicus continued to rack up the awards and top wine critics approvals with the release of their 2015 vintage. In 2016, along with Unicus, Culmina also released the very special “Wild Ferment Grüner Veltliner” with only 42 cases made. With each following Unicus vintage, a sold-out success, Culmina’s Grüner became a B.C. cult wine.
Sadly, Culmina winery was sold in mid-2019 to wine conglomerate, Arterra Wines. While Don Triggs leaves behind a Canadian wine legacy including co-founding Jackson-Triggs Winery, his greatest gift to the Okanagan was proving that Grüner Veltliner was a varietal that could rise to be among the very best of B.C. Wines.
Today, seven additional Okanagan wineries are now growing Grüner Veltliner along with Lillooet’s Fort Berens Estate Winery and the Lower Mainland’s Singletree Vineyards.
Five fabulous B.C. Grüner’s to sip on this holiday season:
2018 Culmina Unicus $27
“Delicate floral notes of acacia, slivered almond, and leavening bread accompany classical ‘Unicus’ notes of chalk and citrus, with this vintage centring around white grapefruit pith and lemon-lime aromas. Focused and vibrant, Granny Smith apple and citrus flavours carry and support Unicus’ mid-palate weight right through to the subtly-mineral finish.”
2016 Bordertown Grüner Veltliner $22
“Aromas of pineapple and honey with a tinge of minerality, followed by flavours of white peach and apricot.”
2017 Summerhill Vineyard Grüner Veltliner $28
“Textured mouthfeel with notes of starfruit, celeriac and cracked peppercorn. Rich, complex and refreshing.“
O’ Rourke’s Peak Cellars 2017 Grüner Veltliner $24.00
“Delicately complex aromas of white peach, fresh cut apple, hints of vanilla and a savory, herbaceous character. Medium bodied and rich with lemon and soft pepper finishing with a subtle, lightly toasted macadamia note.”
Singletree Winery 2018 Grüner Veltliner $17.30
“A refreshing white wine with aromas of citrus, peach and honey. The wine is amazingly smooth and well rounded.“
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