Wine Profile Series: Gewürztraminer 

Gewürztraminer is certainly a unique varietal. The white wine grape is known for its intense perfume, exotic bouquet, and rich extract. Wines made with Gewürztraminer can range from super sweet dessert wines to bone dry wines, with everything in between. They are often higher in alcohol, with lower acidity levels. 

Did you know:

Gewürztraminer is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz.

Origin and history of Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer, literally the “spicy” Traminer, is a member of the Traminer family, a genetically unstable Vinifera family that has produced many clones throughout the ages. Traminer grapes are ancient, but they’re believed to have originated near the village of Tramin, in South Tyrol, in German-speaking Italy. Some sources state that Traminer grapes have been grown in the area since the 11th century

Traminer’s precise origin has yet to be proven, but experts believe the family of grapes has its origin somewhere in Southeastern Europe or Egypt. On the other hand, some researchers believe Greece is the true birthplace of the Traminer.

The German botanist Johann Christian Metzger first mentioned the Gewürztraminer under its current name in 1827, as a rare variety from the Rheingau. Along with Muscat grapes and other ancient varietals, such as Pinot Noir, Traminer grapes are some of the oldest grape varieties still used for commercial wine production.

Gewürztraminer is planted in Northern Italy, Germany, Northern France, and, to some extent, Austria and Hungary — the grape certainly likes the cold Alpine weather. Still, it has also found suitable terroirs in the New World.

Gewürztraminer 

How to serve Gewürztraminer:

Wine made with Gewürztraminer can be dry, semi-sweet, or lusciously sweet. Still, all its versions are highly aromatic, so it’s best to served a bit warmer than the fridge temperature (7°C.) The colder the wine, the more subdued the aromatics. 

Gewürztraminer grapes also accumulate high amounts of sugar, which becomes alcohol in the fermentation process, so Gewürztraminer wines are often higher in alcohol. This means you don’t want to serve the wine too warm, or the evaporating alcohol might overwhelm your senses.

Fun Facts of Wine Profile Series: Gewürztraminer 

  1. Alsace, France is the world’s most important region for Gewürztraminer.
  2. Gewürztraminer is a very aromatic wine, with scents ranging from rose, lychee, marmalade, fruit cocktail, and spices.
  3. Even dry versions of Gewürztraminer can have some residual sugar. 
  4. Gewürztraminer is almost never aged in new oak barrels, as the grape’s aromas often clash with new oak aromas. 
  5. Gewürztraminer pairs well with white meat and shellfish. It also goes well with Asian food, especially a stir-fry with a sweet & sour sauce. Curry is another dish that makes a great pairing for Gewürz. 
  6. Other names for Gewürztraminer include Traminer Aromatico, Diseci Traminec, Traminer, and Traminer Roa. 

Where is Gewürztraminer grown?

Alsace, France.

Gewürztraminer is one of the region’s “noble” grapes, along with Riesling, Muscat and Pinot Gris. This means producers can plant the aromatic grape in the most prestigious plots of Grand Cru Status. Gewürztraminer is often left with a bit of residual sugar to balance out its natural bitterness. Sweet wines made with the grape are labeled as Vendanges Tardives or Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN), depending on how they are made. 

South Tyrol, Italy.

Gewürztraminer is widely planted in the high-altitude vineyards in the Alps foothills. The grape benefits from higher altitudes as its acidity is enhanced and alcohol potential kept in check. Most wines made with the grape in the area are dry and pleasingly aromatic. 

Germany and Austria.

Despite the grape’s deep-rooted history in German-speaking countries, Gewürztraminer plays a minor role in Germany and Austria. Still, the grape is well suited for the countries’ cold terroir. 

New World.

Gewürztraminer is successful in several wine regions in the new world, from the coastal areas of Chile to California, Oregon, and Washington. Relatively small Gewürztraminer plantings exist in Australia as well. 

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Key dates in Gewürztraminer history

1500: Traminer was first found in Tramin sometime around 1000 to the 16th century.

1870: In the 1870s, the term Gewürztraminer was first used in Alsace during German rule.

1932: Georg Scheu crossed Gewürztraminer with Müller-Thurgau in 1932 to create Würzer, which is grown in Rheinhessen and England in small quantities.

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References:

Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. Jancis Robinson 2012

Wine. Years. People. Events. Massandra Wine Collection 2010

The World Atlas of Wine: 8th Edition. Johnson, H & Robinson, J. 2019

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