Gewurztraminer, meaning ‘spiced or perfumed traminer’ is a wine grape variety grown in cooler wine growing areas of the world. Often referred to simply as Gewurtz, the grapes have a pink to red skin colour which produce a white wine with a high natural sugar content. The style of wine made is usually off dry which emphasises the flavour of exotic fruits.
The Gewurztraminer grape is grown in Alsace in France, as well as in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. The advantage of any vine grown at altitude is the long slow ripening period which concentrates the sugars without losing much of the valuable acidity. This prolonged ripening process is what gives varieties like Gewurtz their uniqueness.
Like Riesling, Gewurztraminer is a challenging grape variety to grow. It buds early in the spring, so is vulnerable to frost damage, which in turn causes a reduction in yields (though desirable for quality), but can make the wines more expensive. Harvesting at precisely the right time is vital to capture the fresh acidity as well as the luscious flavours. Get this wrong and the typical Gewurtz character of a flamboyant bouquet of lychees, passion fruit and roses will be lost.
Hygiene during winemaking will ensure that some carbon dioxide bubbles from the fermentation may be captured giving the the wine a slight ‘spritz’ or fizz. This is highly desirable as it gives the wine an attractive, delicate, citrus freshness, which complements the spicy food flavours.
In Alsace, the traditional home of Gewurztraminer, rich foods such as duck, roast goose, onion tart and chicken liver pâté all make the perfect accompaniment to this aromatic wine. But it is with Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine that Gewurtz has found some perfect matches. The spices in these eastern foods are beautifully balanced by the aromatics and low acidity in this wine, while the underlying sweetness of the fruit softens any heat.
Gewurtztraminer really is the perfect wine to accompany Indian, Thai or Chinese meal. So if you haven’t tried it before, next time you have a curry, instead of washing it down with a beer or glass of water, pour out a glass of Gewurtz and see for yourself. You will be surprised by the balance and interaction of flavours.
Rob Hemphill has been a professional winemaker for over 20 years, and is now a freelance marketing writer living in the UK. He specializes in wine consultancy and has a wide knowledge in vines, vineyards and wine growing techniques as well. His favourite varietals are Gewurztraminer and Shiraz.