Gruner Veltliner in the Adelaide Hills

At Hahndorf Hill we are passionate about Austrian varieties and are pioneering Gruner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent in Australia.

It is our familiarity with Blaufrankisch, which has grown at Hahndorf Hill for nearly 35 years, that led us ultimately to its exciting white counterpart - Gruner Veltliner.

Having been unable to source Gruner plant material in Australia, we managed in 2006 to import three different clones directly from Austria, and again in 2009 a further three clones/clonal selections from Austria, all of which passed successfully through the Australian quarantine system.

In 2010 we released our debut vintage - which we affectionately named Gru. This was the first production of Gruner in South Australia (and the second within Australia, the first being Lark Hill from the Canberra wine region in 2009).

Gruner Veltliner defined

Gruner Veltliner is a noble white grape variety whose spiritual home is in Austria but, because of its extraordinary qualities and complexity, is now being planted around the globe.

Stylistically, this variety is amazingly versatile with wines ranging from the fine and refreshingly vibrant, all the way through to rich, seductive and layered wines of glorious complexity and deliciousness that are also profoundly age-worthy.

The two most important defining features of Gruner Veltliner wines are that they have texture and savouriness - and it is this texture that gives this variety that fantastic mouthfeel and makes this variety such a killer match at the dinner table!

The savouriness can include features such as salty soy sauce, dried sage, loose tobacco, fennel seed and wild thyme.

There can be - but is not invariably so - a white pepper component which is related to this variety's high levels of Rotundone. Some Austrian commentators believe that the absence or presence of this white pepper may be yield related, temperature related or to other possible factors.

Being an aromatic grape variety, there will be additional charms playing a supporting role to the textural and savoury elements. A range of citrus - from bright lime through to ruby grapefruit - can join the joyous tumble of stone fruit, apple, pear or even tropical notes such as guava or pineapple.

Happily match this wine to all seafoods and white meats and it's exceptionally exciting with the most hard to match vegetarian food options. Our classic style, Gru Gruner Veltliner, is also startlingly good with rare beef!

Gru becomes a hit

After 13 vintages our Gru continues to be enthusiastically received by the wine critics, who applaud its fresh feel and varietal authenticity.

In The Sydney Morning Herald, Huon Hooke wrote of our debut vintage: 'I was shocked by how authentic an Adelaide Hills gruner veltliner tasted. It's a strikingly close replica of the Austrian model.'

Since then, our Gruners have been awarded Gold Medals at the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge in Austria, at both the Frankfurt International Trophy and the Berlin Wine Trophy competitions in Germany, and at the Decanter World Wine Awards and the London Wine Competition in the UK. In addition, they have been awarded 17 Trophies within Australia, including the Best Wine of Show Trophy at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show 2020 and also Best Wine of Show Trophy at the Australian Cool Climate Wine Show 2022. Both our Gru Gruner Veltliner and White Mischief Gruner Veltliner have been honoured by being included on James Halliday's Top 100 Wines list on several occasions.

Commenting on our Gruner Veltliner journey, James Halliday wrote: '2010 marked the first release of a South Australian gruner veltliner and Hahndorf Hill has led the way ever since.'

The HHW Gru has made waves on the international stage, too. Austria's influential Falstaff magazine rated our 2012 Gru as the best Gruner Veltliner outside of Austria in its 2013 International Gruner Veltliner Tasting. For the full results, click here. And in 2022, Falstaff International magazine included the Hahndorf Hill Gru Gruner Veltliner 2018 on their list of 'The Best Of Global Grüner Veltliner'.

In addition, our Gru Gruner Veltliner 2017 was ranked as the joint top-rated example outside of Austria, together with another winner from Germany, in the Global Gruner Challenge 2019. The Challenge was held in Austria by the country's influential Vinaria magazine in conjunction with Winestate magazine. 170 Gruner Veltliners wines from both within and outside Austria were tasted in this international competition. The top 12 wines included 10 Gruners from Austria, one from Germany and one from Australia (the Hahndorf Hill Gru Gruner Veltliner 2017). This Hahndorf Hill Gruner achieved 4˝ stars and was ranked alongside top Gruner Veltliners from Austria's most famous and iconic wineries in the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal wine regions.

Recent international awards

In 2020 our Gru Gruner Veltliner 2019 was rated as the top Gruner Veltliner, with the only Gold Medal awarded in the Gruner Veltliner category, at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards 2020, London. This was despite competition from celebrated Gruner producers in Austria. More recently, at the London Wine Competition 2021, the Gru Gruner Veltliner 2020 was the highest rated Gruner Veltliner with a Gold Medal and the Hahndorf Hill Reserve Gruner Veltliner 2019 was the second highest rated Gruner Veltliner, also with a Gold Medal award.

Our different styles of Gruner

We now produce four different styles of Gruner Veltliner:

  • The classic and traditional style as reflected in our Gru Gruner Veltliner;
  • An exciting New World style as expressed in our White Mischief Gruner Veltliner, where we encourage this variety to express the exuberance of all its aromatic and fruit-flavour potential;
  • The Reserve Gruner Veltliner which is an opportunity to showcase a more rich and opulent version reminiscent of a smaragd-style Gruner Veltliner from the Wachau or a reserve-style from the Kamptal region;
  • And our Green Angel Late Harvest Gruner Veltliner which harnesses the natural acidity and spice of this variety to produce an appealingly balanced dessert wine.

  • Gruner's new home - putting down roots in the slate

    At the top of the hill where our vineyard lies, is an old and now defunct slate mine. The slate from this mine was harvested over 100 years ago to be used as water-proofing between the foundations and walls of the homes that the new settlers were building. Testimony to this mine is the abundant red-blue slate in the loamy topsoils of our vineyard - plus generous intrusions of quartz and ironstone. This forms the perfect foundation for our Gruner vines and helps underpin the great minerality for which this variety is famous.

    The importance of climate

    It's all about choosing the correct location when planting Gruner Veltliner. "Grüner is definitely much more terroir-sensitive than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling," says Bertold Salomon, owner of Salomon Undhof in Austria. This is something we fully agree with and we also believe the Adelaide Hills offers the perfect terroir for this grape. This is a variety that thrives on the dynamic pull between warm days and cold nights during the growing season.

    The Adelaide Hills wine region is defined as being a premier 'cool-climate' region, not because it has particularly cool days during the growing season, but because of the cold nights. It is these cold nights during the summer growing season that significantly reduce the mean daily temperature - see The secret behind Gruner Veltliner success in the Adelaide Hills

    The Adelaide Hills is a wine region with one of the biggest diurnal temperature variations. (Diurnal variation is the difference between the maximum day time temperature and the minimum night time temperature.) The growing conditions in our region are thus very similar to the growing conditions in Austria. On a research visit to Austria's Gruner winelands, the producers all emphasised to us that this diurnal variation is an essential ingredient for quality wine production.

    It is precisely because of the dynamic interplay between the warm days and cold nights during the ripening season that our wines have the ability to possess the sublime contradiction of being both opulent yet fleet-footed, or elegant but also deep and complex.

    Gruner Veltliner Project

    In 2009 we initiated - together with the Adelaide Hills Vine Improvement association - the Gruner Veltliner Project whereby our clonal material was made available to other growers in our region. This was to assist these growers who were keen to access Gruner plant material, and also to facilitate the Adelaide Hills' effort to become the premier Gruner producing region in Australia.

    Part of the Project was the establishment of the Adelaide Hills Gruner Growers Group (GGG). This Group meets regularly to discuss and swap information regarding viticultural and oenological issues that arise with this variety, and to taste local Adelaide Hills Gruners as well as international versions. The aim of the GGG is to promote Gruner Veltliner in the Adelaide Hills, with the hope it will one day become a star variety for our region.

    The Adelaide Hills now has the largest concentration of Gruner vines in Australia, with approximately 30 different labels being produced. As wine journalist and influencer Dan Traucki states: 'The Adelaide Hills has become the epicentre for Gruner Veltliner in the Southern Hemisphere.'

    Discover more about Gruner

    Keen to learn more about Gruner Veltliner? Click on the links below to read a selection of interesting articles spotlighting this wonderful wine and its key attributes, including its remarkable food-friendly nature. You can also learn more about Gruner Veltliner (and other Austrian varieties) at The GRU Files blog.

    Wikipedia Gruner Veltliner
    About Grüner Veltliner
    Discover Grüner Veltliner wine
    Grandfather of Grüner
    G'day Gruner Adelaide Hills
    Australia's best Gruner Veltliner
    A taste of Austria in the Adelaide Hills
    Adelaide Hills winery award for alternative wine
    The Genius Of The Field Blend
    The one to watch: Grüner Veltliner
    Get to Know Austria's Wine Regions
    The Five Best Vineyards of Austria's Wachau Valley
    Gruners of the Danube
    Austrian Gruner & Terroir