Looking Behind Our Flagship Label: The Society's Exhibition Grüner Veltliner

The Society's Exhibition Grüner Veltliner 2015

The new Society's Grüner Veltliner from the excellent Stadt Krems winery, which you can read about here, is exciting news indeed, offering members a great-value, authentic expression of Austria's signature white grape. However, it is by no means the first grüner to wear our livery, as followers of our flagship Exhibition cuvée will know.

The Exhibition range offers members a step up in quality from the Society-label bottlings; these are altogether more serious expressions of the regions in question, and are chosen on the basis of typicity as much as taste.

Sourced from Willi Bründlmayer, our Exhibition Grüner Veltliner has been a fixture on The Society's List since the 2004 vintage.

'It was chosen,' the tasting note for the maiden vintage proclaimed, 'for its sheer quality as a benchmark grüner veltliner, and to add variety to our range of Exhibition whites.'

Eleven vintages on, I found myself sitting in his extraordinary winery (of which more later), tasting the new wine from the highly successful 2015 harvest.

Willi Bründlmayer - the family estate and the man himself - is an Austrian icon, at the forefront of Austria's fine wine revolution of the last 30 years. He produces a huge range of wines, many of which are exported. His wines were the very first Austrian bottles I ever drank, and as a longtime fan it was a personal privilege to meet him, not to mention a pleasure: he was the most warm, considerate and erudite host we could have hoped for.

The gleaming Bründlmayer winery is renowned throughout the country and beyond as one of the most technologically pristine. Our own quality control inspector, David Bird MW, noted that the winery was one of the most impressive he'd ever seen. Spend too long here and you run the risk of sore eyes, with so much light shining off so many immaculate stainless-steel tanks.

As I'd been made keenly aware of during our other visits in Kamptal, though, it is the vineyard where these wines are truly made. This astonishing winery is designed solely to extract every drop of goodness out of his grapes.

The pristine Bründlmayer winery - photographed without flash to avoid an opticians' appointment!

Willi's vineyards are situated in the Kamptal sub region of Langenlois. Mostly terraced, they run along the edge of the Danube river across a multitude of soil types, giving Willi an enviable palette from which to blend our flagship wine.

Indeed, the Exhibition wine has always been blended from a combination of young, terraced vineyards giving mineral notes and good ageing potential, and some lower-placed sites on more fertile soils that produce wines more expressive in their youth. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, giving an adaptable, fresh, food-friendly and yet thoroughly distinguished example of Austria's signature grape.

We tasted the 2014 Exhibition wine alongside a sample of the 2015, which at that point had three more weeks' ageing on its fine lees to go, in order to lend a little extra complexity and texture. The hallmarks of the superb 2015 vintage that'd I'd come to recognise from our other tastings were evident - a generous peachy character and greater palate weight and depth than the more linear, reserved, yet also delicious 2014.

From its launch, The Society always noted the Exhibition wine's remarkable aptitude for, and versatility with, food. It's no surprise that grüner veltliner is a pet love of sommeliers the world over.

However, this is only a relatively recent development.

Willi told us a fascinating story about how his, and Austria's, grüners first found favour in America's smartest restaurants: in the early 1990s, a friend of his was working in a New York wine bar frequented by the city's top sommeliers. Dismayed by their lack of knowledge of his country's best and brightest, he shipped a small quantity in from Austria. He advertised the new arrival at the very top of the blackboard of wines to sample by the glass.

'When the sommeliers noticed a wine they'd hardly even heard of at the top of the bill, they scrambled to try it!' This cunning stunt helped the qualities of these wines to shine, and established some of the momentum that has kept grüner at the top of some of the finest wine lists thereafter.

I hope that wines such as the Exhibition bottling strikes a similar chord with those who try it.

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