Lychee, rose petals, honey, orange blossom, ginger, and bergamot are some of the adjectives used to describe Gewürztraminer wines. Its name comes originally form the German Gewürz, which means spicy. Yet for me, this wine is not so much spicy, as it is perfumed and very floral.
Gewürztraminer comes from the village of Tramin, located in North Italy’s Alto Adige region, where it is known as Tramino Aromatico, and according to ampelographer Pierre Galet, it is a mutation of Savagnin Rosé. Gewürztraminer belongs to the group of aromatic grapes. We can consider this grape, an extrovert, always forcing you to pay attention, this is due to its intense and unique nose that jumps out of your glass, and makes it super easy to identify, when tasting this blind.
The three best places to find Gewürztraminer are in Alsace (France), Southern Germany & Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy). All these spots have one thing in common, they are cool but sunny places, which is exactly what this grape needs. Too much sun or heat will sweep away its acidity and its fine aromas. For this reason only, it is not planted in warm climates, meaning, most of the new world. It buds early so it’s susceptible to frosts and viruses and ripens in mid season, preferring to mature very slowly. It also suffers from uneven ripening, that can seriously affect yields.
In Alsace, it is considered one of the four noble varieties, next to Riesling, Muscat and Pinot Gris. There, it yields full bodied wines with more alcohol than their German or Italian counterparts. In Germany, it does best in the southern appellations of Pfalz and Baden, where it’s warmer than in the Mosel. And of course, it does very well in its birthplace the Alto Adige, where wines tend to be lighter and more acidic than Alsatian styles.
In the new world, we must stick to a few cool climate spots. New Zealand is a good match, with good wines coming from Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. In Australia, there are good spots in Tasmania and Victoria. In California, it can do well in Monterey, Sonoma, Mendocino and Russian River Valley (all places that enjoy the cool Pacific ocean influence). Good results can be also found in Oregon and Washington state.
Gewürztraminer prefers well drained soils with plenty of minerals, especially limestone. Different soils will affect the color of its skins, limestone yields pink skinned grapes, while gravel yields purple skinned grapes. It’s a very vigorous variety, so its yields must be kept very low, with serious pruning.
Stylistically, Gewürztraminer produces full bodied whites with high alcohol, it is easy to find wines with 14.5 plus % alcohol levels. Acidity is usually low or balanced, this is the reason why, all malolactic fermentation is avoided in an effort to keep the wines fresh. Wines can be dry, even though their floral nose, and also off-dry and sweet. Make sure to ask your wine store clerk before you make your purchase, if you have doubts.
Wines marked as SGN (Sélection de Grains Nobles) or VT (Vendange Tardive) are categories designated as dessert wines and are always sweeter styles. This is due to the extra hang-time these grapes get to make them. In the case of SGN, the grapes are affected by noble rot, concentrating the aromas, flavors and sugars even further.
Because of Gewürztraminer's fine and intense aromatics, most wineries avoid oak aging. Most wines are designed to be consumed young, but best samples can age for up to 10 years. Late harvest wines (Vendange Tardive) or Sélection de Grains Nobles can age for much more (20 years+).
New releases I have tasted lately:
I'm such a girly girl, I admit it, I love floral wines! Many thanks to Broadbent Selections, Taub Family Selections, Vineyard Brands and Kobrand Wines & Spirits for such a fine selection of samples, you spoiled me! (I should have asked for 2 bottles, instead of my usual 1, love to enjoy some of these during Summer!).
Spy Valley Gewürztraminer 2018, Marlborough, NZ $24.99
Divine nose full of lychee, white peach and rose notes. This full-bodied white features 14.5 % yet very balanced alcohol. Simply delicious and refreshing!
Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2020, Alsace, France $29.99
Textbook Gewürztraminer nose filled of red grapefruit, spicy ginger and rose petals. Medium plus bodied and very flavorful, featuring a very mineral laden finish. From biodynamic grown grapes.
Trimbach Gewürztraminer 2017, Alsace, France $29.99
Intense yet harmonious featuring expressive melon, bergamot, lychee and cinnamon notes. Very luscious structure, with a seductive but dry finish.
Kurtatsch Kellerei Cantina Brenntal Gewürztraminer Riserva 2018, Alto Adige, Italy, $45
Delicious notes of mango, lychee and candied orange peel in this full-bodied white, made from organic grapes. Ageing on its lees for a full year, makes this wine extra creamy and dense, a true white Powerbomb!
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