E Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
Gewurztraminer (guh VURTZ tra MEN uhr) is a white wine grape that’s grown in many countries, Italy, France, Germany, Austria and more. At one time California “gewurz” was extremely popular, even mainstream, in this country. Robert Mondavi and others grew it in Napa Valley. Fetzer still grows it. And most people love it when they taste one.
As with many grape varieties, it comes in many styles, from bone dry to lusciously sweet. The most recognized style is called “Alsatian” after the region in northeastern France that borders Germany. Light, dry, unoaked, and most importantly, the soft spiciness from which this grape gets its name.
“Gewurz” means spicy in German, and Tramin is a town in the part of northern Italy that belonged to Austria until the end of the first World War. Even today it’s a transitional, semi-autonomous zone, where every town has two names on its signs, one in Italian and the other in German.
Alsatian style is a French style. Drier than most German versions, fuller than most Italian.
Gewurztraminer is famous for its fragrant, flowery nose, with a soft spiciness that follows through the palate to a lingering finish. It tends to be softer in acid than many other grapes, making it a good match for many dishes from salads to seafood. It’s also a good match with mild cheeses.
That attribute of Gewurztraminer, that it’s typically lower in acidity, less tart, than many other white wine grapes, is perhaps why the best ones tend to come from cooler climates like the Marlborough District on the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island. With a similar style to that region’s wine-world-changing Sauvignon Blanc, the New Zealand Gewurztraminer from Stephen Bird is crisp, fresh, bracing and a fine addition to the world’s limited supply of great Gewurz. At a price of around $20, it’s a great way to learn the joys of a great Gewurz.