Facts on Gewürztraminer
Spice up your white wine choices by getting to know the alluring, spring-perfect Gewürztraminer.
Without wanting to insult either the grape variety or wine novices, Gewürztraminer is known as a ‘beginner wine’. That is, it is one of the easiest varieties to recognise. Sauvignon Blanc is another ‘beginner wine’, but it has a much stronger fan club than the fairly obscure Gewürztraminer. Yet being easy to recognise is not a crime and this intriguing white is well worth getting to know.
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Gewürztraminer Outside Australia
Alsace in north eastern France (skirting the German border) is Gewürz’s spiritual home. Here it has a natural affinity with the heavy clay-based soils and it is one of the four noble varieties permitted to be produced as Alsace Grand Cru. Pinot Gris, Riesling and Muscat are the others.
You can find it blended with other white varieties and labelled as Gentil d’Alsace, but the most captivating wines are the full bodied dry Grand Cru wines, the powerful late harvest wines (known as Vendange Tardive) and lusciously sweet botrytis affected wines (known as Sélection de Grains Noble).
Gewürz is grown sparingly outside of Alsace. Germany, where they call it (Roter) Traminer, Austria, and Spain all have it, as does northern Italy’s Alto Adige region. Closer to home, New Zealand produces some stunning examples.
Gewürztraminer In Australia
Do you remember savouring a Traminer Riesling? Well, Traminer is another name for Gewürz in Australia and in decades past, we drank it in bucketloads.
At the height of its popularity, Traminer was planted in warm climates, bringing fruit generosity to the blend, while the Riesling added a zesty acid backbone. Australia has the potential to make high quality examples of Gewürz, but the market demand is low, so you have to look harder for it than you do other varieties. The best examples are planted in the cooler regions. Mirroring the practices undertaken in Alsace, you can find winemakers using the variety in blends or for straight varietal wines that are either dry, off-dry or sweet.
Did you know?
Gewürztraminer is part of the ancient Savagnin-Traminer group of grape varieties, which have identical or near-identical DNA profiles.
It is common for the aromatic profile of Gewürz to be described as spicy and in fact, that’s what it means in German. But this is perhaps lazy as it does not smell like any single spice. Instead, its powerful aroma and flavour profile that makes it so distinctive includes lychee or rose petal, notes of Turkish delight, stone fruit, ginger and tropical fruit. The wines are full bodied and rich, with the combination of fruit richness and lower acidity levels giving a smooth, silken mouthfeel, sometimes bordering on oily.
Gewürztraminer Food Match
Gewürz is often cited as being good with Asian food, which is true for some styles. Try with a mild laksa, pad Thai, or san choy bau, but if the wine is dry, steer away from anything too spicy. Pair with full flavoured washed rind cheese or onion tart as they do in Alsace. For sweeter styles, pair with fruit-based desserts like tarte tatin or savoury dishes such as pâté.