Gewürztraminer

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Of all the grape varieties in the World, the wine from the Gewürztraminer is easily the most identifiable.

It is highly aromatic, deliciously spicy and quite individual.

Most everybody will associate Gewürztraminer with Alsace and maybe Germany, but the origins of this grape lie not here or in the Middle East (see Shiraz etc) but in Italy. I will qualify that by saying it is the Tirol Region of Italy’s north east, which is historically a German speaking part.  The origin is the town of Tramin, also called Termeno in Italian. Google the town Termin and you will see that the town’s alternative name is “Tramin an der Weinstraße,“ (Tramin on the Wine Road).

As Termin is in an Alpine region the grape  Gewürztraminer will be one for cooler climates. Gewürz, means spicy. Simple really?

This explains why the grape can be grown much further North than Northern Italy , In Alsace and Germany as well as Austria and over the border from Tramin in the former republic if Yugoslavia.

Unlike the other grapes discussed before, the Gewürztraminer does take easily to warmer climates and is at its best in cool climate, especially with a longer frost-free autumn to bring the grape to full maturity.

Some people I have talked to say that the only wine, apart from lager, that is compatible with Chinese food is the Gewürztraminer. It also goes quite well with smoked salmon salmon and kipper. Mind you Guinness and Champagne have worked for me as a breakfast on more than one occasion. Who need the oysters?

The next thing to know about Gewürztraminer is that the simple climate differentiation of the expression of this grape in wine, cooler and warmer climates, is somewhat subdued. Cool and not so cool climates would be a better way of putting it.

However there variations of this grape in wine but they are nuanced by the residual sweetness of the wine, just like Riesling.

The classic expression of this grape is dry and medium with the third being sweet. This is a natural sweetness based on picking the grapes selectively and late in the season so that they have a higher sugar content and a lower acidity. This happens in Alsace and Germany only in certain special years and produces rich, spicy, heady wines worthy of being for deserts.

If you want, with respect to Riesling in Germany, please look at my article regarding sweeter Reislings and how they are differentiated by label in Germany. Gewürztraminer is much the same.

So, about 90/95% of Gewürztraminer wines are dry and the rest medium or sweet.

For the record here is a quick check chart for the type of Gewürztraminer you can expect from different regions of the wine world.

Country Region Vineyard / Area / Other Notes
     
  DRY  
Italy Trentinio Alto-Adige  
New Zealand South Island Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough
France Alsace  
Germany Rhein Pfalz, Baden (Kabinett wines)
Austria Burgenland, Styria  
USA Oregon  
France Alsace (grand Cru and most “vendange tardive” wines)
     
  MEDIUM  
Austria Burgenland, Styria Spatlaese wines
Germany Rhein Pfalz, Baden (Spatlaese wines)
Croatia Kutjevo  
Slovenia Lutomer  
New Zealand North Island Gisborne
Australia South Australia Usual Suspects, McLaren Vale etc
USA California Mendocino, Napa valley, Sonoma County
South Africa Paarl, Stellenbosch  
France Alsace Vendange Tardif wine in exceptional years only
     
  SWEET  
New Zealand North island Late harvest only
Germany Rhein Pfalz, Baden (Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese)
Austria Burgenland, Styria Beerenausklese and Trockenbeerenaulese
France Alsace Selection of “Grains Noble, individually selected infected grapes (cf Hungarian Tokai and French Sauternes)
South Africa Paarl, Stellenbosch Late harvest
USA California Late harvest
     

One last thought, if you ever get the chance to buy, steal or “borrow” a good bottle of Gewürztraminer from Austria, buy it. You will know it is good because it is expensive and you will see it comes in a blue “Hock” type bottle, not green. It will be difficult and expensive because most of these wines are consumed in Austria and very little is exported.