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Jul 22, 2020

That's right, no umlaut for my show notes on this grape. I consider Alsace the true home of this grape and the place we should be looking for the most spectacular versions. For that reason, I stick with the French way of spelling it ­čśë

Gewurztraminer (guh-VERTZ-tra-MEEN-ah)is one of the most distinctive grapes and makes one of the most overtly perfumed, full-bodied whites in existence. The lychee, rose, citrus, incense, and smokey notes can be intoxicatingly fantastic or WAY too much.

Here are some quick show notes on the grape's past and regions where it's grown. 

Gewurzt grappes@2x

 

Aromas and Flavors

  • "Gew├╝rz" means ÔÇťspiceÔÇŁ or "herb" but the grape was named so because of it's high levels of perfume and aromatics (it can smell like warm spices and pepper, but that's not the origin of the name)
  • The Gew├╝rztraminer grape is actually pink to red in skin color and it generally makes deep gold wines, sometimes with a copper tinge

 

  • The grape has high natural sugar, so sometimes sweetness remains in the wine and many times the ABV reaches 14%
  • The most distinctive aromas and flavors of Gew├╝rztraminer are: lychee, peach, melon, oranges, tropical fruit, roses, ginger, incense, smoke, pepper and sweeter spices

 

  • The effect of the aromas and flavors are so strong, they are sometimes too much for people, especially because bad versions of the wine have low acidity and can be flabby. Good versions strike a BALANCE between richness and acid, and avoid the bitterness possible from the phenolics of the darker skins. 

 

DNA/Parentage

  • The grape is a derivative of the ancient Traminer grape from the village of Tramin in South Tyrol, which is in Alto-Adige in the northeast of Italy
    • Pinot is its parent
    • Gewurztraminer is an aromatic (musqu├ę) version of Savagnin

 

In the vineyard

  • Gew├╝rztraminer is extremely picky. It's hard to grow, needing cool sites and limestone, marl, or granite soils to shine.
  • If picked too early, the resulting wine will have acidity but be missing the beautiful aromatics we expect from Gew├╝rztraminer. If picked the overripe, the aromas are too strong, the acidity too low, and a bitterness creeps in, that makes the wine completely unpalatable

Regions:

  • Alsace in France makes the best Gewurztraminer.  There are only 7,000 acres or so but this is the best there is. The styles range from very dry to very sweet (Vendange Tardive, Selection de Grains Nobles).
    • Top Alsace Producers of Gew├╝rztraminer: L├ęon Beyer, Zind Humbrecht, Mur├ę, Schlumberger, Cattin, Domaine Weinbach

 

  • Germany makes Gew├╝rztraminer (with the umlaut!) but it is very different from the wines of Alsace. There are about 2,000 acres here and much of it is in a relatively dry style, that seems to unfortunately crush the flamboyant nature of the grape. In a cool country like Germany, the grape needs warm sites to avoid spring frost and assure fruit set, so 2/3 of German "Traminer" is in Baden and Pfalz.

 

  • Italy is the native home of the grape -- it began on the cool slopes of the Alps in Trentino Alto-Adige and the grape is named after the town of Tramin. Styles run the gamut so it's important to buy from good producers. Elena Walch and Hofstatter are two solid ones. 

  • Other places the grape grows in Europe include: Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, Austria (in Styria, specifically), Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and all over Eastern Europe, although likely it is not the clone of Gew├╝rztraminer we see in Alsace, but some less aromatic version. 

 

New World:

  • Australia has plantings in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales

 

  • New Zealand has had success on the North Island, near Gisbourne and Hawkes Bay

 

  • Chile has some promising spots in the south

 

  • Canada grows Gew├╝rztraminer in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, and in Ontario, Prince Edward County, the Niagara Peninsula, among other spots

 

  • In the US: Washington, Oregon, the Finger Lakes of New York, and my favorite spot: Navarro Vineyards in Anderson Valley

To wrap, we discuss good food pairings: spices like ginger, tamarind, coriander, and salty things like soy sauce or tahini are great with Gewurztraminer. 

 

We decide that Gew├╝rztraminer is like our dog, Ellie. Very cute, awesome when awesome, but kind of a diva about everything! 

 

Go and try some great versions of this wine! I promised MC Ice we would get a Grand Cru of Alsace to try so I could prove that there IS a version out there he would like. I will keep you posted! 

 

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