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Groovy GV
Eric Berger's GV, yeah-huh

I recently steered you toward some great wine bargains from Spain, but let’s not overlook Austria when shopping for a rock–star bottle of wine on a bar band budget.

What makes affordable wines catch my attention is when I taste one that not only varietally correct, but also incredibly expressive of its terroir.

Do you think I’m talking about Riesling? Nope, it’s Gruner Veltliner that captured the attention of my taste buds. In the trade and around savvy wine drinkers, it’s OK, to call it Gru–V, or simply GV.

Gruner Veltliner comprises more than 35 percent of vineyard lands planted in Austria. Its terroir ranges from steep Rhine–like terraces along the Danube to clay enriched lands near Vienna. It has been compared to the great white wines of Burgundy, which are made from Chardonnay, and has even beaten out world–class Chardonnay in blind tastings.

With all that rock and clay in GV, you’d be correct if you are expecting minerality in these wines. The pleasurable sensation is akin to smelling, or tasting, wet stone. GVs are amazingly food friendly, even for hard to pair dishes like asparagus.

Importer Terry Theise admits he’s almost embarrassed by the amount of Eric Berger’s GV that he sells. Berger makes much bigger, much more complex wines, but this entry level Gruner remains the flagship.

Hailing from the village of Kremstal, downstream from Wachau on the Danube, this region begins the transition from the Alps to the Hungarian plains. That geological shift and climatic differences create lots of microclimates and the perfect growing region for Rieslings and Gvs.

Berger 2009 GV is soft, bright and feminine. Here, sandy soil tempers minerality and allows the fruit’s sweetness to shine. You might even pick up a hint of banana or other tropical fruit with this easy drinking wine — what a joy to sip!

And, at $14.99, it’s a particularly good bargain — this crown capped bottle is one full liter!

Brandl Gruner Veltliner hails from Kamptal, a south Austrian city anchoring the Kamp River valley. Here, steep sandstone slopes have barely retained any soil, meaning big minerality and lip–smacking tartness. Think fresh green apple with a hint of mint. About $15.

Both wines are drinkable now — and for their differences will pair equally with ham, grilled or baked fish, shellfish or light pasta dishes.