If we had to describe Gewurztraminer with one word, it would be: sumptuous. It’s shining, rich of exotic flavors, flamboyant in the mouth, persistent, vigorous and with a pyrotechnical bouquet ready to explode, but behind this feast there is a problem, common to all aromatic grapes. You will recognize our friend as soon as you bring the glass to the nose and if you are one of those who likes mysterious wines that slowly unveil themselves, well you should turn to something else…
Gewurztraminer’s exuberance is easily recognizable, palpable and alcoholic, even if its spiciness based on pepper, gingerbread and cloves, so unusual for a white wine, intrigues and calls for a never trivial analysis. Sure, once you will have tasted ten of them, you could blindly identify it, but not for this reason it will stop amazing you with its complexity.
Is often told that Gewurz is hard to pair with food, because it’s not the usual flexible white wine: it should have more acidity and less intrusive aromas. It is not supple as Pinot Grigio nor gorgeous as Riesling nor trendy and oak-able as Chardonnay. That is complete nonsense! Gewurztraminer is the right wine to tame food that other white wines can only dream, like truffles, foie gras and egg dishes.
Where is Gewurztraminer born?
But let’s move on and start from Termeno, Tramin, from which comes Traminer Aromatico, the first reports date back to 1145. In this sandy land, empowered by clay and silt, it has found the ideal conditions to thrive. Particularly remarkable is the grand cru of Sella’s plateau, height 450 meters, specular to the Mazzon’s one, so there is no doubt about the terroir’s quality.
If we broaden a little our horizon, we will notice that the strip of land between Tramin and Appiano is all draped with Gewurztraminer’s vineyards and with outstanding results. Going further north, Isarco, Venosta and Adige valleys produce very different wines, but not less interesting. The colder and stonier soils lighten the wine, adding sharpness and a delicious saltiness. In Trentino, is once again the area between Lavis and Cembra to produce the best bottles, featuring a fine and dry style.
If we wanted to draw a Gewurztraminer grape variety map, we could define the Termeno’s belt as the most generous, with warm wines, from which emerge thick spiced aromas with a prevalence of ripe fruits, while on the contrary in both north and south valleys the wines are tempered by the rocks: consistency gets subtle, acidity starts biting and the spices fade away to make room for an avalanche of flowers.
Outside of Italy, Rhine’s wines deserve a mention. The Alsatian are infused with spices, intense, dry and piercing, with strong tropical nuances and a stellar acidity. Those that come from the German side, Wurze (spice) after all comes from German, are less pugnacious and often you can detect a little bit of sugar, which make the wine more fluent.
The connoisseur’s corner: Gewurztraminer taste, wine characteristic and description
How do we recognize Gewurztraminer? In the glass it’s very consistent, flowing thick with big and slow tears. The richest ones, such as raisin wines, are oily and slide like syrup. The color is golden yellow, inviting; golden amber if it comes from a late harvest.
Sniff the glass and you will be catapulted into a tropical plantation. Mango, pineapple, banana, passion fruit and litchi, but always tenderized by a marinade of rose petals, broom, honey, rosemary, anise, wisteria, sage echoed by pepper, cloves and cinnamon. All kind of apples are a significant trademark of Gewurz.
Other possible clues are peaches, pears, tangerine, orange and citrus, sometime is the skin, caramelized or glacé, to pop up. And the most fascinating is a triad: apricot, raisin and date mixed in a whirlwind of pleasure. Butter and panettone in the most lustful bottles.
But let’s tackle the last and most delicate argument. It’s not easy to find balance in a powerhouse symphony like Gewurztraminer. If the wine didn’t have the right balance between the acid/salad—sometimes weak—and sweet—always beefy—features, it could be flaccid and all the aromatic seductions would turn into a doughy jumble and there is nothing so disappointing as a chalice of regrets. But don’t worry you will not forget the satisfaction that this wine can give you, especially if it’s a botrytized Gewurztraminer, liquid gold able to withstand long aging.
How to serve Gewurztraminer
The serving temperature for Gewurz is the same of the other highly fragrant white wines: 10°-12°C, but remember that this is the right wine to experiment with, try two degrees less to help a lacking acidity or two more to pump up the scents of a particularly acid bottle.