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Medium-bodied wines with an intoxicating perfume of aromas including rosewater, Turkish delight and lychee.
A confusing one. Despite the most German of German names, gewürztraminer is all but non-existent in Germany. It actually originates from Tramin in northern Italy (an area with strong Germanic ties) and was made famous by the Alsace region of France (which is also partial to a bit of sauerkraut). The name hints at the character of the grape – it’s a mutation of traminer, a white Italian variety, with the prefix gewürz translating to spiced. We’re efficient (or lazy) here in Australia, so local versions of this white are usually just labelled ‘traminer’, despite that technically being the name of the original, unmutated grape. Happily we don’t let accuracy get in the way of a good nickname, as redheads called blue can attest.
The taste won’t be the primary focus when drinking gewürztraminer – first you’ll be struck by the smell. A deeply aromatic white, rose petals, potpourri, lychee and spice will greet your nose with the firmest of handshakes. This is a naturally sweet and fruity wine, and depending on when the grapes were picked either grapefruit (less ripe) or pineapple (more ripe) will dominate the palate. Gewürztraminer is often thought of as a mature moscato – you get similar levels of fruitiness, sweetness and aroma, but it is less acidic, more alcoholic and offers greater complexity.
While gewürztraminer can be made in a variety of styles from sweet to dry, it’s most famous as a wine with distinct sweetness. Wines technically need five grams or more of residual sugar added to them to be classed as sweet however; gewürztraminer is instead a naturally sweet wine that is commonly made in a dry style – i.e. no residual sugar added. It’s perhaps more accurate to called gewürztraminer a very fruity wine.
The comparative complexity of gewürztraminer means that it can best served far warmer than you might expect, as lower temperatures can obscure some of the flavours and aromas. Where moscato is commonly drunk straight from the fridge, and this is fine for stock standard gewürztraminer, the finest examples of this wine do their best work at around 12C, a temperature you can achieve by putting the bottle in the fridge around 20 minutes before opening. Finish the bottle within 48 hours if you want to experience it at its best.
A wine named after its notable spice notes deserves an equally spicy tablemate. Gewürztraminer pairs excellently with exotic, rich and spice-heavy cuisine; we’re talking Indian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Ethiopian, to name but a few. As with most whites, choose a meal with a chicken, fish or vegetable base, as these will work best. Mains aside, gewürztraminer is suited to soft, delicate cheeses, dried fruit and nuts, and all manner of sweet veg, like capsicum, carrot and butternut pumpkin.