Gewürztraminer presents a conundrum. From one perspective, the grape has all the mandatory credentials for world fame: one of many world’s most pungent white varieties is each attractively priced and innately food-friendly. Its spicy bouquet, with aromas of rose petal, face cream, lychee, and grapefruit, is immediately recognizable and arduous to dislike. Furthermore, as Sauvignon Blanc has categorically confirmed, there’s a nice demand for fragrant types in Western Europe and US eating places. Its reputation, due to this fact, must be a shoo-in.
So why aren’t extra customers excited by the grape? A part of the issue is solely a numbers sport; Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc dwarf its worldwide acreage. As well as, Gewürztraminer has lengthy been used to make late-harvest candy wines within the vineyards of Alsace – a class that’s hardly in vogue! However should you give this selection a correct likelihood, it’s going to dazzle and astound your dinner friends with its lovely fragrance, voluptuous palate, and racy acidity. Belief us: you don’t wish to miss out on consuming Gewürztraminer.
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Historical past and viticulture
It appears that evidently Gewürztraminer is as troublesome to pronounce – geh-vurtz-tra-meen-er – as it’s to review initially. Certainly, whereas the grape’s genetic ancestry has been the topic of intense debate, viticulturists aren’t any nearer to discovering a definitive reply. There are a number of theories: agronomists as soon as believed that Gewürztraminer was ‘born’ within the village of Tramin, located within the Alto Adige (Südtirol) area of northern Italy. Nevertheless, the Swiss ampelographer José Vouillamoz debunked this declare, arguing that there has by no means been a synonym for Traminer in Alto Adige.
As a substitute, Vouillamoz believes that Gewürztraminer is said to the traditional Roter Traminer selection, also called Savagnin Rose; the shared nomenclature with the village is only a coincidence, he says. Many viticulturists now consider the grape can hint its origins again to southwest Germany; nevertheless, there is no such thing as a definitive proof. Nonetheless, the identify Gewürztraminer interprets as ‘spiced Traminer’ in English, so we are able to in all probability assume that there’s a genetic hyperlink between this selection and its seemingly offspring. Over the centuries, Gewürztraminer traveled far and vast: it’s now cultivated in Alsace, Austria, Germany, northern Italy, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, and a smattering of New World international locations. If any nation exhibits the potential to problem Alsace’s crown, it’s in all probability New Zealand. Simply don’t inform the French!
But the grape’s full title was not used till the nineteenth century. It was a gardener from Germany, Johann Christian Metzger, who first referred to Gewürztraminer as a grape grown within the Rheingau. By this level, the variability was firmly established within the vineyards of Alsace, used to provide each distinctive dry and candy wine types. Nevertheless, a seismic occasion occurred within the latter a part of the 1800s that fully modified the face of European viticulture. Growers within the southern Rhone had recognized a illness that was killing their vines in alarming numbers, however they may not discover the trigger. Then, panic unfold like wildfire as phylloxera (as we now name it) was detected in each main French area. By the tip of the century, producers had been on their knees.
The reason for all this destruction was a toxic louse that had emigrated from the US into the vineyards of western Europe. Ultimately, winegrowers realized that grafting European vines onto American rootstock could be their salvation. An unprecedented regrafting program was initiated within the early twentieth century, though sure varieties had been sidelined – or deserted altogether – throughout this era. Fortunately, Gewürztraminer managed to outlive this viticultural cull; its acreage has remained pretty secure over the previous few a long time. There have been no main developments apart from a distinct segment curiosity in rising the grape in Chile and Marlborough.
That stated, Gewürztraminer captured the scientific neighborhood’s creativeness within the 1900s. They took it upon themselves to create a number of genetic crosses out of the grape. Whereas the French stay ambivalent about utilizing crosses, the Germans have been staunch advocates of genetically ‘splicing’ two completely different grape varieties (of the identical plant: Vitis vinifera) to make a brand new fashion. Thus, Gewürztraminer crossed with Muller-Thurgau to make Würzer, whereas Semillon crossed with Gewürztraminer within the Thirties to create Flora. However because the German expertise with Muller-Thurgau demonstrates (the grape yields completely drab wine), expertise mustn’t ever be allowed to develop into an finish in itself. However, the motivation of German viticulturists like Georg Scheu is evident. They needed to beat the immense challenges of rising this capricious grape.
The place to begin? Gewürztraminer is an early-ripening selection, susceptible to spring frost harm in northern areas like Alsace. It can be very temperamental about delivering a constant yield and is susceptible to millerandage – that is the place berries ripen at wildly completely different charges. Rot can be a difficulty throughout inclement climate, though this susceptibility may be advantageous when producing botrytis candy wines from the grape. Gewürztraminer additionally exams a winegrower’s instincts to absolutely the restrict: choosing the grape on the proper second when its aromas have ripened however earlier than its acidity drops (because it does quickly) requires immense talent and expertise. Solely the best estates can hope to provide world-class wine out of Gewürztraminer. All else is satisfactory, at greatest.
The Alsatians wrote the e-book on crafting balanced and stylish white wines from Gewürztraminer. But it surely’s not simple: the grape’s skins are wealthy in phenolic compounds that may overpower the wine if correct care just isn’t taken. When making dry types, the goal must be a energetic, contemporary, lychee-scented wine of medium physique with a spicy end. Nevertheless, successes with this selection are sometimes outflanked by the failures; if growers are too cautious of their method – choosing earlier than the onset of full physiological
ripeness is sort of frequent – then a pale and uninteresting white will emerge. Conversely, a late harvest can equal low acidity, coarseness, and a really unappealing texture that nods within the path of oil slick.
However let’s assume that every part has gone to plan within the winery. Hand-harvested grapes are usually topic to a fast however mild urgent to solely extract pure, free-run juice that’s not overburdened with phenolics. As with Riesling and different unoaked types, the central aim is to guard the should from oxidation and be sure that these risky aroma compounds usually are not misplaced. To that finish, sulfur is often added on the urgent stage to stop spoilage. The juice is then usually clarified and cold-settled, permitting strong materials to sink to the underside, sustaining freshness into the discount. By and huge, fermentation is performed in Alsace stainless-steel tanks. Some producers nonetheless use outdated oak vats; nevertheless, temperature management and sterility benefits are well known at present. Thus, glistening metal tanks are as commonplace in Alsace as Flammkuchen!
Scenic vineyards of Alsace
The ultimate stage of the winemaking uncovers a stark dividing line between Alsace and its neighbor throughout the border. When making fragrant whites like Gewürztraminer, producers in Germany historically stopped the fermentation whereas a little bit residual sugar was left within the wine. That is achieved by chilling the wine, racking it, or including sulfur. But the Alsatians wish to ferment their Gewürztraminer bone-dry until we’re speaking about Vendage Tardive wines. Due to this fact, German interpretations (ostensibly dry wines) are softer and sweeter than their Gallic rivals; nevertheless, they lack the authority of a dry Alsatian Gewürztraminer. In the end, it’s only a matter of private choice. By the way, they agree on wooden: Gewürztraminer not often sees even a touch of recent barrique. Point out getting older in new barrels, and also you’ll seemingly be thrown out of the vineyard.
Debunking a fable
Some of the persistent – and aggravating – outdated wives’ tales regarding Gewürztraminer entails Asian delicacies. It’s essential to have heard it earlier than: the grape is the perfect companion for Chinese language meals, notably fiery Sichuan dishes and Cantonese dim sum. There is only one drawback – it not often works. The reality is that Gewürztraminer and spicy Asian dishes current a conflict of egos; pungent flavors are inclined to cancel one another out, leaving a fairly disappointing gastronomic expertise. However don’t despair: Gewürztraminer generally is a actual asset at time for dinner should you select properly.
You’ve got in your glass a dry, fragrant fashion of Alsatian Gewürztraminer, produced within the earlier harvest. It will likely be pretty gentle and racy, with a beautiful bouquet encompassing citrus, lychee, and apricot. Such wines are perfect with Aioli; a perfumed white cuts throughout the garlic warmth. Asparagus is one other secure wager, because it presents a really troublesome taste for wine attributable to its woody bitterness. So the wine wants acid and loads of fruit – Gewürztraminer as soon as once more acquits itself admirably. So too, does hen liver pate name for a pungent white. Step up, should you please, dry Gewürztraminer. In the meantime, don’t overlook that candy Vendage Tardive wines additionally work tremendously nicely with foie gras.
Each fish terrine and salads are perfect companions to dry Gewürztraminer – ideally, a wine with some bottle age and construction. Fishcakes are additionally divine with Alsatian whites, notably if the wine was made in a cooler yr, and so can have a bracing acidic profile. Our best choice is grilled or seared scallops with Trimbach Gewürztraminer. It’s merely divine.
Alsace’s main Grand Cru vineyards produce the best Gewürztraminer on the earth. The limestone slope of Zinnkoepfle, going through due south, concentrates the grape to unimaginable ranges of richness and texture – each bit the equal of Riesling and Pinot Gris. The calcareous marls of Hatchsbourg even have a robust affinity with the variability, yielding dense-textured and pungent wines. For a trio of perfection, hunt down the Gewürztraminer wines of Sporen, a Grand Cru famend for its porous clay soils. The depth and efficiency of those splendid whites require some Michelin-grade cooking at time for dinner. Cheese Soufflé – such because the well-known Soufflé Suissesse served at two-Michelin restaurant Le Gavroche – is certainly one of life’s biggest culinary indulgences. Roast veal would come a detailed second.
Sommeliers in France settled this argument years in the past. Should you’re consuming late-harvest Gewürztraminer, splendidly candy but balanced by textbook acidity and freshness, you could have one possibility: Tarte Tatin. Anticipate a silence to descend throughout the dinner desk like a forgotten tomb. It simply works.