Parents & Origin: Savagnin (Alsace, France) Grape: Small, spherical, yellow-red skin Flavors: Lychee, grapefruit, pineapple, peach, apricot, orange, cantaloupe Notable Regions: France, Germany, Italy Sweetness: Off-dry Body: Light Tannins: None Acidity: Medium-low ABV: 11-13%
The History of Gewürztraminer
Gewürztraminer is a European aromatic white wine grape. It is likely indigenous to Austria, a widely planted grape variety. In terms of DNA, the varietal likely originated from the Traminer grape, which is mostly synonymous with Savagnin (though some suggest that Savagnin took on unique characteristics later on in France).
At some point, Traminer mutated into Roter Traminer, a reddish grape often used in rosé wines. Gewürztraminer likely originated from a subsequent mutation of Roter Traminer, where it took on a more aromatic and sweet profile compared to its predecessors.
Traminer grapes have been present in Austria since at least 1000 AD. The Gewürz- prefix was added around the 19th century, which is likely when one of these mutations took place. Gewürz means spice, thus reflecting the change in flavor. Some speculate that due to a European phylloxera outbreak at this time, the development of Gewürztraminer was due to an attempt to save the Traminer vine with clippings from what became the Gewürztraminer mutation.
Gewürztraminer’s main production area was France’s Alsace region, though the grape is now planted widely in Germany, Northeast Italy, and some new world regions such as the United States. Partly due to its difficult and unappealing name to English speakers, the popularity of Gewürztraminer suffered internationally for much of its history. Recently, however, more attention has been paid to this variety’s unique flavors and low price tag.
Interesting Fact: Despite Gewürztraminer’s rarity and lack of international popularity, the grape is one of the 18 Noble Grapes, a selection of wine grapes celebrated for their perceived quality and superiority. So if anyone doubts this Alsatian wine’s muster, just remind them that it is just as noble as any other!
Gewürztraminer Food Pairings
Due to its pleasing flavors and slight sweetness, Gewürztraminer is can be a great wine with food, especially when paired with more unique dishes.
The Best Gewürztraminer Food Pairings
While Gewürztraminer goes with a wide variety of dishes, it works wonderfully with anything that can bring out its core notes of rose and ginger—exotic foods (such as that of the Middle East) work great for this.
Food Pairings to Avoid with Gewürztraminer
Like any white wine, Gewürztraminer is not ideal for your heaviest dishes, particularly red meat, in which red wine would be a better choice.
Gewürztraminer Tasting Notes
Gewürztraminer offers aromas of rose, honey, ginger, incense, allspice, cinnamon, and smoke, followed by primary flavors of lychee, grapefruit, and pineapple, peach, apricot, orange, and cantaloupe. This wine is unique for its off-dry flavors, meaning a slight sweetness is present but without the overwhelming sugar of dessert wines (similar to Moscato). It is best served chilled to “fridge cold” at around 43 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to its off-dry nature, Gewürztraminer offers a light body and medium-low acidity.
Gewürztraminer's Grand Cru Designation
Gewürztraminer is one of the four grapes found in the Alsace Grand Cru AOC, along with Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Gris. Gewürztraminer from this appellation is often considered the best, called Vendange Tardive or “late harvest.” These wines are usually made in a sweeter style and are more suitable for dessert wines, though they bring out complex nutty and spicy flavors. If you desire more of a classic off-dry taste, look for known dry vineyards such as the Trimbach house, or look for Gewürztraminers from outside the Grand Cru.
Gewürztraminer's Unique Flavors
Gewürztraminer has a reputation for its powerful aromatics and flavors, some of which allow the wine to be almost instantly identifiable in blind taste tests. The wine’s lychee aroma (think “sweet rose” if you’ve never tried lychee) is the most tell-tale of these powerful flavors. While these flavors might be too intense for some, they also provide a pleasant drinking experience and more unique food pairings!
Gewürztraminer in a Nutshell
Gewürztraminer has had a mixed reputation over the years, but wine enthusiasts are finally giving it its due. Whether a classic from Alsace or a more modern New World bottle, any Gewürztraminer is sure to impress with its intense aromas and unique flavors of lychee, grapefruit, pineapple, peach, apricot, orange, and cantaloupe, with a light body and medium-low acidity. Pair a chilled glass of off-dry Gewürztraminer with flavorful and exotic dishes or a nice dessert.