It reminded me of an old-fashioned bottle of ginger ale: green glass, a full liter in size, with a cap that you pry off with a bottle opener. Only this was not some sweet, fizzy soft drink. Inside this unlikely bottle was one of the best wine values I’ve found in recent months — the 2006 Grüner Veltliner from the Hofer winery in Austria.
Grüner Veltliner, which is the name of the grape and the wine, is Austria’s signature white, and has become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years as more examples of it are exported here. With Hofer’s wine, it’s not hard to see why.
It’s fresh and crisp, has decent complexity and is all of $10 — and that’s for a liter, which is one third more than a standard bottle of wine. Clearly they were thinking of wine for a crowd with this bottle, kind of a jug wine with class. And no need for a corkscrew. The bottle cap is a really cool, informal feature that’s innovative and practical for a wine meant for quick use, and it made me wonder why the caps aren’t used more widely on inexpensive wines.
I came across the Grüner Veltliner and some other light and refreshing whites and reds at Chambers Street Wines in New York City, where we were shooting a TODAY show segment on navigating a wine store, which you can see by clicking on the video on this page.
Jamie Wolff, one of the owners, explained how Grüner Veltliner first started making its way onto restaurant wine lists because of its versatility. Hofer’s wine shows that well with its delicious fruit, mainly pear with a bit of citrus, on one hand, and then a spicy endnote, which, in Grüner Veltliner, is often described as white pepper. It will match well with fish, chicken, dishes with tomatoes and spicy foods, including Japanese and Chinese. It was perfect at a dinner with friends the other night when I served it with a seafood and tomato pasta sauce.
Beyond the Grüner Veltliner, here are the other wines I talked about:
Luneau-Papin Muscadet “Clos des Allées” 2005. From France's Loire Valley, this is another crisp white with pretty fruit and minerals; a quintessential wine for fish and shellfish; $12.50.
Vissoux Beaujolais “Pierre Chermette” 2005. A beautiful example of the underappreciated gamay grape, which is the signature variety of the Beaujolais area just south of Burgundy; notes of cherry, spice and earth; serve cool with chicken, pork and beef; $13.50.
Borgogno Barbera d’Alba 2006. Made from the barbera grape of Italy’s Piedmont region; young, grapey and robust, it will pair well with grilled meats and tomato and other pasta sauces; $14.
Edward Deitch’s wine column appears Wednesdays. He is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at