A focus on Gruner Veltliner at Hahndorf Hill Winery
Q&A with Marc Dobson, owner at Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills
Gruner Veltliner is originally from Austria with some plantings in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. British wine writer Jancis Robinson refers to Gruner Veltliner as ‘Austria’s signature white wine grape’ It is a food friendly wine with a touch of spice, minerality and a richness to it that will increase over time. In terms of pronunciation, read it as ‘GROO-ner velt-LEE-ner’. We love this wine at Swanny Cellars and wanted to find out how Hahndorf Hill Winery were able to become pioneers in bringing this grape over to Australia.
What inspired you to look into bringing in Gruner Veltliner into Australia especially with the quarantine and restrictions?
“There was no Gruner Veltliner plant material available in Australia when we started looking to plant it in 2005, so by necessity we had to import cuttings material from Austria, which went into quarantine here in Australia. In quarantine they conducted multiple tests for possible viruses and diseases on our material over the course of two years, but all our Gruner Veltliner clones were eventually given the all-clear and were released to us, to be propagated and planted in our vineyard.”
Three clones of Gruner Veltliner: Where in Austria did you source the 3 different clones in 2006 and in 2009? Had you worked with these producers before?
“We sourced our six clones of Gruner Veltliner from reliable vignerons in the wine regions of Lower Austria. These vignerons recommended to us that we import a selection of old and new clones.”
Why Austria? Had you both lived in Austria or travelled there/tasted Austrian wine (which gave you a taste for it?)
“No, we had never lived in Austria but we had visited there many times, doing intensive wine tastings and explorations of the wine regions.
Many people when they think of Austria think of the ski-fields and the Alps and so they assume that Austria has a cold climate, but the wine regions of Austria are situated mostly in the plains in the east of the country where the climate can feature very hot days in the summer. During our past two visits to Austria the summer days were in the very high 30’s, but, like the Adelaide Hills, the summer nights were cool.
Our thirst for Gruner Veltliner really grew out of our familiarity with Blaufrankisch, the prestige red grape of Austria, which was planted in our vineyard over 25 years ago and which has made itself quite at home in the Adelaide Hills.”
What quantities do you produce of the four different styles of Gruner Veltliner (Gru, White Mischief, Reserve Gruner and Green Angel)?
“We currently produce around 1100 cases of ‘Gru’ Gruner Veltiner (our classic style); about 900 cases of ‘White Mischief’ Gruner Veltliner (our fruit-driven style); about 300 cases of ‘Reserve’ Gruner Veltliner (our opulent style); and about 800 cases of ‘Green Angel’ Late Harvest Gruner Veltliner (our dessert style). Our Gruner Veltliner production is increasing every year.”
What made you decide to take the risk and make a 100% Blaufrankisch wine?
“For many years we had used our Blaufrankisch in a blend with our red Germanic grape, Trollinger, for our very popular dry-style Rose. We decided to make a 100% Blaufrankisch wine after falling in love with the wonderful Blaufrankisch wines from Burgenland, the top red wine region of Austria. Our faith in this grape paid off because our Blaufrankisch wines have won gold medals in Austria, Germany and Australia.”
What are your hopes for St Laurent? Do you want to make single varietal wine?
“Our aim is to make a single varietal St Laurent and we will pick our first small crop of this grape in the 2019 vintage. St Laurent makes a delicious wine that will hopefully appeal to all Pinot Noir lovers as it has a natural elegance with a brooding core of dark cherry fruit.”
What was your inspriation for Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Nouveau 2017?
“We were actually inspired by the exuberant fruit of the Zweigelt grape itself! In Austria they mostly use the Zweigelt grape to make light or medium-bodied red wines, some of which can be oaked, but we felt the grape on our vineyard was crying out to be made in the Beaujolais style.”
“We have an equal focus on both the on and off premise in Australia as each sector enables consumers to have special access to our wines. With the off premise we are available only at select, independent liquor stores.
Which is your largest export market?
“At present our largest export market is Japan followed by the UK. Our Gruner Veltliner wines are exported to both of these countries.”
If you ever head to the Adelaide Hills, drop in for a tasting, a view of the vineyards or their famous wine and chocolate pairings!