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Varietals - Gewürztraminer


Gewurztraminer, the grape that few can spell and fewer can pronounce, took its time getting here. It started out being called Traminer, named after its Italian origins dating back over 1,000 years ago. Though very much associated with Alsace, France, Gewurztraminer was actually first propagated in Italy's Tramin area, also known as Termino, ergo its name. But, it was truly the winemakers of Alsace who brought us the grape, as we know it today. Its history goes way back another 7,000 years to the Middle East, where it is a direct descendant of the oldest grape known, and probably the first grape ever turned into wine, Muscat.

While living in Alsace, Traminer seemed to be two different grapes. One part of the vineyard would produce a spicier version than the rest. These vines were then isolated and renamed Gewurztraminer, "gewurz" meaning "spicy" in German. Though spicy is the word that stuck, its flavor components are much more complex than that. It has an exotic fruit component often compared to lychee and even persimmon; but the main aroma and flavor is that of musk oil, which is the scent the female doe secretes to allure the male. No human study has been done on this, though it might prove interesting for sales.

Another interesting note here is that, unlike most white grapes, there is a slightly reddish hue to the skin. Some winemakers allow the grape musk to sit on the skin, even if only for a few hours, to pick up this hue and give a unique color to the wine. It must be grown in cooler areas, making vineyard selection very tricky, and more importantly, it is not very commercially viable; so only those who are truly in love with this grape will take the chance.



With few exceptions, this grape makes a simple, fruity wine with the telltale musky, floral component it shows elsewhere, but not much else. While there are a few standouts, it is not considered an economically viable grape. 


There is little argument that his grape reaches its pinnacle in Alsace. The heady, musky and floral aromas can be sensed a few feet away as opposed to inches. Many feel that these wines are actually "too big to eat" as they don't marry with much but them most imposing of dishes. Styles run the gamut here from steely (though almost never dull) to opulent to dessert and almost anything in between. 


Powerful and imposing offerings from particularly the Rheinhessen, though some charming examples also hail from the Nahe and Pfalz. 


Along the Swiss border in the upper reaches of Friuli, this grape can show some major stuffing and concentration approaching the Alsace offerings at about half the price. Not widely known or seen, but worth seeking out. Often called Traminer and at times is that different grape. Only your purveyor (hopefully) knows for sure. 


A few good examples in Catalonia, though often blended with local varieties.