Gewürztraminer (guh-VURZ-tra-meen-er)


More than almost any other wine we might regularly encounter, gewürztraminer’s nose is heady (sorry, couldn’t resist). In fact, the explosive aromas of gewürztraminer—roses, litchis, gingerbread, orange marmalade, grapefruit pith, fruit-cocktail syrup—come vaulting out of the glass. Gewürztraminer is nothing if not extroverted. Even novice drinkers easily recognize it. The prefix “gewürz” means spice in German, though the meaning is more along the lines of outrageously perfumed than anything that might come out of a kitchen spice rack. The grape is not actually a distinct variety but rather a pink-berried, highly aromatic clone of savagin, one of the so-called “founder varieties.” (Traminer aromatico, a specialty of the northern Italian province of Trentino-Alto Adige, is another clone of savagin). It’s important to note that gewürztraminer’s pungent aromatics and massive fruitiness can be confusing, leading you to think that the wine you’re drinking is sweet. That’s usually not the case (the telltale edge of bitterness at the finish is evidence). Needless to say, the world’s best gewürztraminers are decidedly dry (unless, of course, the wine in question is specifically a dessert wine made from this grape). The most intense and breathtaking gewürztraminers are made in France, in the northeastern region of Alsace. Here the wine is legendary—deeply yellow with a coppery cast, superbly concentrated, exquisitely balanced, full bodied, full of extract, just enough acidity to hold it all together, and a megamouthful of flavor. (Because the wine tends to be naturally low in acidity, poor quality examples can come off oily). No surprise that top gewürztraminer is usually drunk with rich, complex pork dishes. Outside of Alsace, there’s only one place in the world where gewürztraminer is reliably sensational: the region of Trentino Alto Adige in Italy.

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