Gewurztraminer is an aromatic wine grape variety that performs best in cooler climates. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz, and in French it is written Gewurztraminer (without the umlaut). Gewurztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a "white wine grape" as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as "red wine grapes". The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Indeed, Gewurztraminer and lychees share the same aroma compounds. Dry Gewurztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz(fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).
|Wine description||aromatic wine grape, crisp and spicy, full-bodied wine, styles range from the very dry Trimbach house style to the very sweet.|
|Food pairing||chicken and fish dishes, pairs well with spicy Asian style dishes|
|Origin||Along the Rhine in Alsace between the Vosges and the Black Forest|
|Notable regions||Alsace, Germany, Northeast Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland, USA, Canada|
|Notable wines||From Alsace, especially the Vendange Tardives|
Its aromatic flavours make Gewürztraminer one of the few wines that are suitable for drinking with Asian cuisine. It goes well with Hirtenkäse, Münster cheese, and fleshy, fatty (oily) wild game. Smoked salmon is a particularly good match
The name literally means "Spice Traminer", or "Perfumed Traminer".
The history of the Traminer family is complicated, and not helped by its rather unstable genome. The story starts with the ancient Traminer variety, a green-skinned grape that takes its name from the village of Tramin (Termeno), located in the northeastern region of Alto Adige/South Tyrol, the German-speaking area in Northern Italy. The famous ampelographer Pierre Galet thought that Traminer was identical to the green-skinned Savagnin Blancthat makes vin jaune in the Jura. More recently it has been suggested that Savagnin Blanc acquired slight differences in its leaf shape and geraniol content as it travelled to the other end of the Alps.
Frankisch in Austria, Gringet in Savoie, Heida in Switzerland, Formentin in Hungary and Grumin from Bohemia are all very similar to Savagnin Blanc and probably represent clones of the Traminer family, if not Traminer itself. The Viognier of the Rhone Valley may be a more distant relative of Savagnin Blanc.
At some point, either Traminer or Savagnin Blanc mutated into a form with pink-skinned berries, called Red Traminer or Savagnin Rose. Galet believed that a musqué ('muscat-like') mutation in the Red Traminer/Savagnin Rose then led to the extra-aromatic Gewürztraminer, although in Germany these names are all regarded as synonymous.
With these convoluted genetics happening in the area that has been the front line for a millennium of wars in Europe, it is maybe not surprising that vines have been misnamed. Given that the wine made from 'Gewürztraminer' in Germany can be much less aromatic than that in Alsace, some of the German vines may well be misidentified Savagnin Rose. The Baden vineyard of Durbach claims its own type of Red Traminer called Durbacher Clevner (not to be confused with "Klevner", an Austrian synonym for Pinot Blanc). The story goes that in 1780 Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden brought vines from Chiavenna in Italy, halfway between Tramin (Termeno) and the Jura, which was known to the Germans as Cleven.
The Klevener de Heiligenstein or Heiligensteiner Klevener found around Heiligenstein in Alsace may represent an outpost of the Durbach vines. They are often described as a less aromatic form of Gewürztraminer, which sounds just like the Red Traminer!
Traminer is recorded in Tramin from ca. 1000 until the 16th century. It was spread down the Rhine to Alsace, by way of the Palatinate, where Gewürz (spice) was added to its name - presumably this was when one of the mutations happened. The longer name was first used in Alsace in 1870 - without the umlaut. It is not clear what this name change represents, as it seems too great a coincidence that the musqué mutation happened just after the arrival of the great phylloxera epidemic. More likely, an existing mutant was selected for grafting onto phylloxera-resistant rootstocks when the vineyards were replanted. In 1973 the name Traminer was discontinued in Alsace except for in the Heiligenstein area.
In Europe, the grape is grown in Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Luxembourg, Moravia in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the New World, the grape is perhaps most successful in New Zealand and in the far south of Chile.
Australian Gewürztraminer is more notable for its occasional use of old names like Traminer Musqué and Gentil Rose Aromatique than the actual quality of the wines. However those from the country's coolest regions can be fine examples. These include Gewürztraminers from the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley, the island of Tasmania, Clare Valley, Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley and the vineyards scattered in the Australian Alps.
Canadian wine regions where it is grown include Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula, and the north shore of Lake Erie and Prince Edward County wine regions of Ontario.
Gewürztraminer reaches its finest expression in Alsace, where it is the second most planted grape variety and the one most characteristic of the region. It grows better in the south of the region. Styles range from the very dry Trimbach house style to the very sweet. The variety's high natural sugar means that it is popular for making dessert wine, both vendange tardive and the noble rot-affected sélection de grains nobles. As mentioned above, around Heiligenstein there is a grape known as Klevener de Heiligenstein, which is probably Red Traminer (Savagnin Rose) rather than a true Gewürz; the Heiligenstein wines are certainly more restrained than other Alsace Gewürztraminers.
Germany has about 10 square kilometres of the variety, but it is very different from that of their neighbours across the Rhine, as suggested above a lot of their "Gewurztraminer" is probably Red Traminer. The Germans go for a relatively dry style, that tries to subdue the natural flamboyance of the grape.
The Traminer is native to the cool Alpine slopes of the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in northeastern Italy. Whether the Gewürz- mutant originated there or not is an open question, but it is certainly grown there today. Confusingly, both pink and green grapes may be called simply Traminer. This wine is aged in Austrian oak rather than the Slavonian oak used for most Italian wine.
In the United States, it is concentrated in Monterey, Mendocino and Sonoma in California, the Columbia Valley of Washington and Oregon. It is also grown in Michigan, Rhode Island, Caddo County, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, Virginia and the Finger Lakes and Long Island Regions of New York.
Although not native to the Israeli climate, growing Gewurztraminer grapes became somewhat of a trend in the late 1990s and the beginning of 2000s. It is grown in different growing areas all over Israel. Most notable examples come from the Golan Heights and the Gallilee. All kinds of wines, from dry aromatic ones to very concentrated sweet ones, are produced.
Gewuztraminer is particularly fussy about soil and climate. The vine is vigorous, even unruly, but it hates chalky soils and is very susceptible to disease. It buds early, so is very susceptible to frost, needs dry and warm summers, and ripens erratically and late. Its natural sweetness means that in hot climates it becomes blowsy, with not enough acidity to balance the huge amounts of sugar. On the other hand, picking early to retain the acidity, means that the varietal aromas do not develop, and these aromas may be further diluted by overcropping in an attempt to overcome the low yields.
RED GRAPE VARIETIES