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Gewürztraminer is a very expressive and aromatic grape variety which produces high-alcohol wines as the grapes have a tendency to build sugars that ferment to make dry styles. The wines have pronounced blossom or floral aromas, along with those of sweet spices, lychee, musk and rose petals. The distinct lychee aroma in the grape variety is due to the presence of an aromatic compound called linalool, which is also found in cinnamon, lavender and basil. Another grape variety that has this aromatic compound is Muscat.
This heady mix of aromas makes Gewürztraminer stand out when poured among other wines. The wines made using this grape have low to medium acidity and are full-bodied, which makes them all the more imposing on the palate.
The combination of low to medium acidity and high alcohol makes Gewürztraminer a tricky grape variety to grow successfully in many parts. But it typically thrives well in cool and moderate climates.
Gewurztraminer has a tendency to usually start budding early. While it ripens mid-season, sometimes the grapes need a little extra time on the vine. This variety is prone to noble rot (botrytis cinerea) and while that is encouraged by producers of sweet styles of wine, those who are making leaner styles have to be wary of it.
Wines made from this grape variety are usually unoaked to preserve their primary characteristics.
Fun Wine Fact: Semillon, often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts, is a white grape with a hidden talent. While it may not hog the spotlight, it plays a crucial role in creating some of the world's finest dessert wines, lending its unique character to Sauternes and other lusciously sweet concoctions.
There are several Gewürztraminer wines with sweet and floral aromas that are completely dry in style. Such wines are especially found in Alsace AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in France, Trento Alto Adige in Italy and cooler areas of California like Mendocino and Monterey. The grape variety is also found in Germany and Austria.
The dry Gewürztraminer from Alsace is known for its rich, oily texture and salinity. The grand cru vineyards in this appellation are known to produce some of the best examples of Gewürztraminer. Many winemakers ferment their wines in traditional large wooden vats before ageing them in stainless steel vessels. Meanwhile, the wines from Alto Adige are lighter and breezier, with aromas of roses and cloves.
The Alsace region also produces two very high-quality dessert wines with Gewürztraminer – Vendanges Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN). SGN is produced with noble rot grapes, while Vendages Tardives is made using grapes from late harvest. Both these wines are sweeter in style and fuller in body, giving aromas and flavours of rose petal, lychee and other tropical fruits. As these wines are rare, they command premium prices.
Since 2020, it is mandatory for winemakers to display the level of sweetness levels in all Alsace wines. So, you’ll find either of the following displayed on a Gewürztraminer from Alsace: sec (dry), demi-sec (off dry), moelleux (medium sweet) or doux (sweet).
Serving Temperature – 7 to 12 degrees Celsius
Glassware - Standard white wine glass
Salty and savoury foods really temper the fullness and sweetness of Gewürztraminer. So, pair this wine with salty olives and nuts, cold cuts, etc. Oriental dishes that are loaded with umami flavours too work really well with it.
Since Gewürztraminer is a strong-flavoured wine, you can try and pair it with foods that can match its robustness, like a dish with distinct mustard flavours.
The dessert styles of this wine go well with sweets that have a spicy and nutty flavour to them, like a Christmas cake that is loaded with cinnamon and nuts. The tropical and floral aromas in this wine also make it fit to be paired with a fruity mango sorbet or baklava that has been scented with rose water.
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Originally published 26st September, 2023
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