Gewürztraminer: The often-forgotten noble white grape

Schott Zwiesel Vervino Collection
Schott Zwiesel Vervino Collection
Schott Zwiesel Vervino Collection
Schott Zwiesel Vervino Collection

Gewürztraminer, pronounced: ger-verts-trah-miner, is a noble white wine grape with a distinct floral bouquet that is grown in many different regions across the globe. The grape’s name came from the German word Gewürz, meaning “spice”, and Traminer, meaning “of Savigny”. Gewürztraminer wines are well known for their aromatic, spicy, and floral notes.

Many people associate Gewürztraminer with a sweet wine in late harvest style, but there are many examples of delightful dry or off-dry wines. It goes by different names depending on where it comes from, including:

  • Traminer
  • Aromatic
  • Gentil Aromatique
  • Savagnin Rose Aromatique
  • Traminer Musque

Gewürztraminer is a tan-pink-skinned grape that grows best in the Alsace region of France, but is also grown in the Alto Adige region of Italy, Germany and coastal counties in cool areas in the United States. It grows in areas that are hot or wet, producing small clusters and berries, so the vines are considered low-yielding.

This grape variety can be difficult to grow outside of Alsace, due to its tendency to start bud break early, making it vulnerable to spring frosts. Harvesting Gewürztraminer too early results in a shallow complexity in the final pour.

White Wine Glasses from IWA
White Wine Glasses from IWA

How to Serve Gewürztraminer

This wine can be served ice-cold (38-45 F), or directly out of your wine cellar (55-60 F). Gewürztraminer does not require decanting, although a decanter may open up its bouquet slightly.

Enjoy it in your favorite long-stemmed white wine glass. It’s best to place the bottle into an ice bucket or wine cooler after opening. Unless you have a preservation system such as WineKeeper, an opened bottle will only stay at its best for a couple of days.

Food Pairings

Gewürztraminer’s distinct flavor and high alcohol content (14%) makes it easy to pair with your favorite dishes. First, consider the sweetness of your wine. Dry Gewürztraminers pair well with spicy food like Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine.

If you’re looking for a wine to pair with curry, Gewürztraminer is a delicious choice. This wine is also fantastic with seafood and light summer meals. If you plan to serve richly flavored cheeses or dessert after dinner, bring out a bottle in the sweeter, late harvest style wine.

Mardi Gras Glassware
Mardi Gras Glassware

Selecting a Gewürztraminer

Shop at a trusted local wine shop, not the grocery store.

Cheaper Gewürztraminers tend to be syrupy sweet, with no complexity or structure, and are not true representations of the varietal. Wine shops are more likely to carry Gewürztraminer from different regions all over the world and can help you select the finest bottle. Think about which one to ask for: it can be sweet, semi-sweet, off-dry, or dry. Even though it may taste like there is a high sugar content, this wine only has a gram or two of residual sugar (RS).

Keep in mind that Gewürztraminer does not age well. It should be enjoyed in its first five years, when the acidity is at its peak.

Sensory Profile

Gewürztraminer offers aromas of:

  • rose
  • honey
  • ginger
  • incense
  • allspice
  • cinnamon
  • smoke

Flavors can include:

  • lychee
  • rose
  • grapefruit
  • tangerine
  • pineapple
  • peach
  • apricot
  • cantaloupe
  • ginger

Gewürztraminer is a versatile, food-friendly wine that is often overlooked. Pour yourself a crisply chilled glass to enjoy on a relaxing summer afternoon. I hope this article has inspired you to seek out this wine the next time you are looking for something new to try.
Cheers!

Italesse Festival Collection
Italesse Festival Collection

About the Author: Wesley Cable is a wine lover from California who hosts a weekly wine podcast called Obsessed with Wine and writes for his blog at wesleycable.com.