Grüner Veltliner: The Perfect Wine to Pair with Roast Chicken

Or, getting my Grüve on with Grüner Veltliner.


[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Roast chicken is one of the few dishes I have absolute mastery over in my kitchen. Other recipes may come and go with varying degrees of success, but roast chicken has become my go-to comfort meal during dark winters and blustery, rainy springs.

Now, what wine to pair with crisp, golden skin and moist meat scented with rosemary? Grüner Veltliner.

Until a few weeks ago, I'd never heard of this crisp Austrian white. But now, I'm seeing it everywhere, and apparently it's a great wine to have in the back pocket for spring.


[Photographs: daniel-weber]

A quick overview:

  • GV is Austria's most widely-planted grape, accounting for over one-third of the vineyard plantings in the country. Grüner means "greener" in German, a nod to the deep green of the grapes.
  • The wine is typically dry, medium-to-full bodied, has a good deal of acidity and that "mineral" expression I love in wine (but not everyone does).
  • Sometimes it is made into sparkling wine (sekt, Austria's national bubbly), other times it is aged, which teases out honeyed notes some compare to Riesling or Gewirtztraminer. Many experts recommend going with the most recent vintages.

Just weeks ago, I was in Portland, Oregon ("this is a beer city wrapped in wine country," I was advised by a local), and stumbled past a restaurant called, wait for it...Grüner. The restaurant "draws on the affinity between the geographies of the Pacific Northwest and the alpine regions of northern Europe." I'll suspend my disbelief on that for a moment, to focus on their wine list, including four GVs:

Grüner Veltliner, Birgit Eichenger, Hasel, Kamptal AT 2008 ($35)
Grüner Veltliner Reserve, Forstreiter, Tabor, Kremstal, AT 2007 ($63)
Grüner Veltliner, Pichler-Krutzler, Klostersatz Wachau, AT 2007 ($58)
Grüner Veltliner Federspiel, Alzinger, Muhlpoint Wachau AT 2008 ($50)

(The words in italic are various wine areas.)

At Wallse, one of the restaurants in Kurt Gutenbrunner's New York empire, they have 12 different bottles of Grüner Veltliner on the wine list, ranging from $48 to $147. The most expensive ones are aged, either 2002 or 2003 vintages. I suppose that might be an experience worth having, but most of the others on the menu in the double-digit price ranges are 2007 or 2008 harvest years.

But in general, there's no reason to overpay for GV, or GruVe (the shorthand some enthusiasts prefer to use). Producer Franz Etz has a 2008 GV retailing for around $12 to $15, depending on where you buy it. It has all the qualities I like in wine: freshness, floral notes, and the quality known as "minerality." Certainly there are lots of lovely light reds that would pair well with roast chicken too. But this particular pairing of roast chicken with Grüner Veltliner gets a big thumbs-up from me.

About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.



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