According to the latest research, Gewürztraminer is one of the oldest wines in the world. Their distinctive aromatic complexity make these wines perfect for pairing with food with similar aromatic characteristics. This grape variety with a German name is grown chiefly in France, but it is also popular in northern Italy and Germany as well as in New Zealand and the USA. Its characteristic aroma makes it ideal as a “beginner’s wine” as the intense flavour and unmistakable scent remain long in the memory.
An explosion for the palate and nose
Gewürztraminer is usually a full-bodied white wine with a rich bouquet and low acidity. “Spicy” or “perfumed” are the words most often used to describe the smell of this intensely aromatic wine. Rose scents and grapefruit are also apt descriptions.
Ripeness, terroir and vintage all affect this wine’s expression so it covers an extremely broad aromatic spectrum. As well as delicate floral notes, wine aficionados will also detect exotic fruits such as lychee and mango. It is also fascinating to discern restrained notes of marzipan and honey rising from the glass, or a bouquet reminiscent of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
There can hardly be a better wine than Gewürztraminer to stimulate our senses of smell and taste. This makes it the ideal accompaniment to food. As an aperitif wine it will stimulate the appetite when served with spicy starters. Dry and off-dry expressions perfectly complement poultry and ragouts with spicy sauces. Dry styles are also great paired with fish and seafood. Opulent Gewürztraminers with hints of exotic fruits on the other hand can be served with Asian cuisine and hot, spicy dishes. Sweet and noble-sweet late-harvest Spätlese and Auslese styles make ideal dessert wines, especially for ones involving chocolate sauce or marzipan flavours.
The creamy texture and “spiciness” of Gewürztraminer shows off cheese to its best advantage. It is especially good at bringing out the aromas of very pungent, salty and creamy cheeses. Enjoying a washed-rind cheese such as Munster or Appenzeller together with a glass of Gewürztraminer is a very special treat for the palate and nose.
Cultivation of the Gewürztraminer grape variety
This grape variety probably came from South Tyrol. It is documented in records in the small town of Tramin already around the year 1000. For a long time it was simply known as Traminer, and is still called this in eastern Europe. In the Jura region, south of Alsace, it is known as Savagnin or Naturé in the exotic vin jaune.
The three genetically indistinguishable types of this variety are: Gewürztraminer (red-orange berries), Red Traminer (reddish-brown berries) and White Traminer or Savagnin blanc (yellow-green berries). Prior to harvesting, the bright green grapes change colour and take on a bright red, sometimes orangey hue. The skins impart a strong yellow colour to the wine during vinification. The particular hue serves as a reference point for various quality levels, ranging from light straw-yellow through to a deep golden yellow. A golden sheen indicates a grape that produces top-quality Gewürztraminer wines.
When it comes to site, soil and climate, the Gewürztraminer grape is very fussy. It prefers slopes and thrives best in mild climates. To grow it successfully, the soil should not be too dry and should be as deep as possible. The soil type significantly influences the character of a Gewürztraminer wine. For instance, a Gewürztraminer cultivated on the granite soils of Alsace will have a different flavour profile than grapes grown on the shell limestone terroir near Lake Neusiedl.
Main growing regions of Gewürztraminer
Gewürztraminer wines are in demand. Only few regions are suited to growing this vine, however. The main growing regions are therefore found in France, Italy and Germany. Traminer grapes are also planted in vineyards in Switzerland, especially in canton Zurich. However, with just 50 hectares, Swiss production accounts for a very small percentage of plantings.
Traminer wines from Alsace
Globally, around two-thirds of Traminer is produced in Alsace, and rightly so as, alongside Riesling, Pinot gris and Muscat, Gewürztraminer ranks among the noble grapes of Alsace. This region usually produces dry wines where the must is fully fermented, but which seem sweet due to their high alcohol content. In comparison with other Alsatian white wines, its freshness is not so pronounced. It is enjoyed with regional specialities such as Munster cheese and foie gras. Alsace Gewürztraminers have their own appellation (AOC Alsace Grand Cru) which guarantees mouth-filling and full-bodied wines of the highest quality.
Cultivation in Germany
In Germany the grape is grown on around 900 hectares, predominantly in Baden and the Palatinate. Testament to the long history of German Gewürztraminer is an approximately 400-year-old varietal vineyard in the village of Rhodt in the Palatinate. There is also a scattering of individual plantings of the Gewürztraminer grape in Rheinhessen and Saxony.
In Italy the grape can be found in South Tyrol, where it is vinified to make the less bouquet-rich styles favoured locally. Most vineyards are in Tramin and Cortaccia. Every two years winemakers and other wine experts gather in Tramin for an international Gewürztraminer symposium. The alpine, Mediterranean climate and sandy-loamy soils on the slopes produce first-rate wines. DOC-Traminer wines from South Tyrol are regularly showered with awards.
Gewürztraminers from overseas
Warmer regions are not so ideal for imparting acidity, so it is surprising that this variety should enjoy greatpopularity in California of all places. It can even be found in Australia, which has the same problems as California.The cooler regions of New Zealand on the other hand offer ideal conditions for Gewürztraminer vines. Especially in the valleys of the Marlborough wine region where vineyards are well protected by a range of mountains, the vines thrive better on loamy soils with many hours of sunshine.No matter which country it comes from, a Gewürztraminer wine will enhance any meal. A wide selection awaits you in Mondovino’s online shop and in Coop stores.