October is Pennsylvania Wine Month and a perfect opportunity to explore the delightful wines being produced in our own backyard. For decades, it has been clear that Pennsylvania has tremendous quality potential and that white wines have an edge over red wines.
Chardonnay and Riesling were early leaders as local vintners searched for varieties that perform well in the eastern reaches of our sprawling state. However, a less-familiar European grape is proving itself exceptionally well-suited to our local terrain and climate — grüner veltliner, a white wine variety of Austrian origin.
Known as “grüner” for short, its tongue-twisting name translates as “the green one from Veltlin,” a reference to the Valtellina zone of northern Italy, which was formerly a part of Austria’s Südtirol. Pennsylvania’s seasonal weather patterns have much in common with those found in Austria’s wine lands. In both regions, there is plenty of warmth and sunshine to ripen fruit, but also dangerously high levels of humidity in late summer, to which grüner veltliner is well adapted.
Grüner is best known for its brisk, lightweight unoaked whites, like this one, which most closely resemble sauvignon blanc in flavor profile and food- pairing prowess. Pennsylvania’s grüner pioneers, such as Galen Glen in the Lehigh Valley, most often ferment this grape in stainless steel to preserve its distinctive garden-fresh flavors of white pepper, green apples, and celery leaves.