Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Gewürztraminer is one of the most pungent wine varietals, easy for even the beginning taster to recognize by its heady, aromatic scent. While the French have achieved the greatest success with this grape, the history of Gewürztraminer began in Italy's Tyrollean Alps, near the village of Termeno (Tramin) in Alto Adige. Since the Middle Ages, the parent variety traminer has grown there. Traminer also is grown widely throughout Eastern Europe. Like Pinot Noir,however, Traminer vines have a propensity to mutate. A few centuries ago, this resulted in a vine that produces dark pinkish-brown, spotted berries and makes very distinctive and heady wine.

The French began calling this prized clone Traminer Musqué, Traminer Parfumé, or Traminer Aromatique; the Germans Roter Traminer; and the Italians Traminer Rosé, Traminer Rosso, or Termener Aromatico. In the late 19th century, the Alsatians began calling this vine Gewürztraminer, although it wasn't until 1973 that this name was officially sanctioned. Wine texts often report that "gewürz" translates from German as "spicy", but considering the list of various synonyms, the more likely contextual meaning is "perfumed".

As cumbersome as it is to pronounce, this wallflower white grape variety has a loyal following around the globe. So distinctive is its aroma and flavor that one either absolutely loves it, or loathes it. Known for its spicy, sometimes pungent aromas and flavors, in its best forms it exhibits pure essence of lychee (look for canned lychees in the supermarket or fresh in an Asian market). British wine expert Oz Clarke describes the varietal as having a taste of Nivea hand cream. At the lower end, violets and even a soapy quality are not unusual. Such boldness of flavor, however, is so thoroughly softened by the heady perfume of red and pink rose petals that despite all red flags, one throws caution to the wind and allows the seduction to take place.

Full-bodied and low in acid, the wine also coats the palate. The riper it gets the rounder and creamier it gets, and also the more bitter it becomes, which is why it is often made in a slightly sweet style.
Oak is not generally used.

In Alsace it is one of the “noble four” and this is where it shines. Northeast Italian versions manage to infuse it with a lively acidity, whereas in Austria, California, New Zealand, and Australia it becomes almost oily in texture.

Gewurztraminer: lychee, violet, rose petal, spicy, pungent, soft, bold, dry to sweet.

Gewurztraminer: Alsace, Alto-Adige, Friuli, Wachau, Willamette Valley, Columbia Valley, Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey, Marlborough.

Hugel Gewurztraminer “Jubilee Hugel-Reserve Personelle”, Alsace (France)
Trimbach Gewurztraminer ''Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre'', Alsace (France)
Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Kessler Grand Cru, Alsace (France)
Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Hengst Grand Cru, Alsace (France)
Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Quintessence, Alsace (France)
Hofstätter Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof, Alto Adige (Italy)
Abbazia di Novacella Gewurztraminer Valle Isarco, Alto Adige (Italy)
Navarro Vineyards Gewürztraminer, Anderson Valley, California (USA)

Best Value
Eola Hills Late Harvest Gewurztraminer Vin d’Epice, Willamette Valley, Oregon (USA)
Harvest Moon Sparkling Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley, California (USA)
Thomas Fogarty Gewurztraminer, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (USA)
Spy Valley Gewurztraminer, Marlborough (New Zealand)           

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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