November 17, 2009 / 4:05 PM / 10 years ago

Austria's answer to Beaujolais Nouveau

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - France has the Eiffel Tower and Burgundy and Beaujolais, while England has Big Ben and its beers and ales, and just as the waltz is wedded to Vienna, Gruner Veltliner is synonymous with Austria.

And in the country known for its music, pastries and old European charm, Lenz Moser is Mr. Gruner Veltliner. He produces five white wines with a telltale hint of white pepper from that single grape variety.

“I wanted to focus on one thing and do it very well,” he told Reuters.

“We’ve been living in this area for 400 years,” he referring to the wine growing regions of Lower Austria.

His grandfather, also named Lenz Moser, is credited with creating the modern trellis system still used to grow Gruner Veltliner.

“I was raised next to the vine nursery and my grandfather brought me into the vineyards when I was five,” he said.

Back in the 1980s, when a scandal erupted after some vintners were found to have added a chemical found in antifreeze to make their wines sweeter, his family sold their vineyards, the winery with is 1,000 year-old cellar and their name.

Too young to retire and having been life-long friends with the Mondavi family, Moser went to work for them and eventually handled their European portfolio of wines. When Constellation Brands bought Robert Mondavi for about $1 billion in 2005, Moser decided it was time to return to his roots.

“The roots (of the vines) go very, very deep ... the acidity comes from the granite slate and the sand gives it elegance,” he said of his signature Laurenz V, which is also the name of his own winery.

He describes Gruner Veltliner as “having the perfume of German Riesling, the acidity of a Loire Sauvignon Blanc and the lusciousness of a Pinot Grigio.”

Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, who works for Remy Cointreau USA, said, “It’s got that reputation of being a very food-friendly wine.”

But Austrian wines, like German, present problems for Americans. The labels can be intimidating with long words in Gothic script and with German spelling.

“I wanted to take the mystery out of wine, but leave the magic,” said Moser.

He made his labels modern and written mostly in English. Another importer of Gruner Veltliner, Monika Caha, has gone even further. She simply calls her wine “Grooner” because, as she says, “that’s how Americans pronounce it, so why make it hard for them?”

Beaujolais Nouveau will be arriving shortly, timed in part for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday where they are usually served. But Austrians are hoping that Gruner Veltliner, which pairs well with the traditional turkey meal, will provide another choice. (Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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