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by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | April 09, 2011

Gewurztraminer is one of the most unique varieties of white wine. Gewurztraminer means “spicy Traminer” or “spicy grapes”, which describes the intense spiciness of its flavor. It is not a subtle wine, it is distinctive and its special quality sets it apart from all other white wines. Because of the intense aroma and strong flavor some people have difficulty enjoying it with food. Gewurztraminer is known for being very crisp and spicy. While it has varying degrees of sweetness and dryness, this wine is distinct in its aromas, colors and flavors. The wine is full bodied, which is rare in white wines. It has characteristics and flavors of flowers specifically roses, gardenias, honeysuckle; and fruits such as grapefruit, peaches and mangos; and spices like nutmeg, cloves, ginger and vanilla. Gewurztraminer has also been noted for its musky or earthly flavor, while others suggest that the flavor is more herbaceous, grassy, sometimes with a hint of asparagus. Although there are many descriptions of Gewurztraminer, most will agree that when you taste Gewurztraminer it tends to be both sweet and spicy at the same time. People tend to either really love Gewurztraminer or stay far away from it because its intensity can be overwhelming.

Gewurztraminer Grapes

Gewurztraminer is a basic varietal from the Alsatian region of France, on the German border which makes it a member of the European Vitis vinifera (common European grape) family. It was in the late 19th century that the vine became known as Gewurztraminer by the Alsatians, but it took until 1973 before this name was officially sanctioned. The color of the grapes is a dark pink, with shades of brown. The skin tends to be very thick and tough. The thick skins of these unique grapes can make for excellent crops or big problems. High sugar levels provide a high alcohol content in certain dry Gewürztraminer wines, while high pH balance and low acidity can cause problems in other versions of the finished wine. In vintages when the weather is hot, the alcohol levels can rise above 13 percent and it makes the Gewurztraminer wine taste slightly sweet. Gewurztraminer tends to grow best in cool climates so it has found homes in Austria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Eastern Europe, New Zealand and the United States (New York, Northern California, Oregon and Washington). Gewurztraminer grapes bud early in the spring, but since the fruit grows the best in cooler climates, lower temperatures cause the fruit to be more susceptible to frost. Early harvesting keeps the acidity in the fruit, but leads to less variety in the finished product. It can be shown that Gewurztraminer vines are much like the Pinot Noir grape vines, because they both have a tendency to mutate. In California the Gewurztraminer is highly successful, intricate and full of spices and complexity.

Gewurztraminer Food Pairings

Sommeliers (wine stewards) typically suggest pairing Gewurztraminer with highly seasoned food and spicy Mexican and Asian dishes. Because the wine is full bodied and labeled as spicy, it pairs well with other spicy foods, such as dishes made with hot peppers, Asian spices and curry. Gewurztraminer is a white wine, which means that it is most commonly paired with chicken and fish dishes. Like most wines, it pairs well with fruit and cheeses. Some recommend drinking Gewurztraminer alone without food because of its overpowering flavors.

While you often can drink Gewurztraminers young, there are some variations that benefit from allowing the wine to age for two to four years. Gewurztraminer should be served at around 50F.

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