Gewürztraminers are pink-skinned grapes that originate in the Alsace region of France. The name translates literally as “Spiced Traminer” or dialectically as “Perfumed Traminer.” While its actual parentage is unknown, the most common speculation is that it is a mutation of the Savagnin Blanc (a musqué mutation within the Traminer family, known also as the Roter Traminer).
Gewürztraminer grapes are also grown under a number of synonyms that are, by and large, unique to the countries where they are available. Among those synonyms are:
- Traminer Aromatico
- Gentil Aromatique
- Savagnin Rose Aromatique
- Traminer Musqué
In Australia, there has been a bit of confusion over the naming of wines made from Gewürztraminer grapes, since many of them are simply referred to as “Traminer.” Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are so few Traminer grapes actually grown in Australia and the misidentification of Gewürztraminers as Albarinos for years there, prior to 2009.
A Unique Style
The intense style of Gewürztraminer wines does have a polarizing effect on critics. Some laud them for those intense, lively aromatics and spicy flavour, while others criticize the lack of acidity and overt fruitiness of the finished product. What they can agree upon is that the smell of a good Gewürztraminer is easy to spot and difficult to ignore. Many wine connoisseurs even go as far as to say that Gewürztraminer produces some of the most pleasurably aromatic wines on earth.
Growing Gewürztraminer Grapes
The greatest examples of this varietal are said to be found growing in the Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace, the place that some even describe as the spiritual home of the varietal, forgetting the fact that its actual ancestry cannot be traced there and that it is planted in less than 20 percent of the vineyards in that region. Typically, Gewürztraminer grapes grow best when planted in cooler climates.
The Gewürztraminer grape actually landed in Alsace having been transported there from the region of Pfalz. The rich soils and clays of Alsace proved it the ideal growing environment, producing superior, full-bodied wines. Alsace Gewürztraminers, with their signature dryness and late harvest, quickly became the benchmark by which an entire variety of wines would eventually be judged.
Common Characteristics of Gewürztraminers
Wine-tasting enthusiasts often name a few of the same aromatic descriptors when describing Gewürztraminers. Some of the most popular ones include rose petal, lychee, perfume, and even Turkish delight. On the palate, these wines are marked by their low acidities, full textures, and mingling of spice and stone fruit flavours, particularly cinnamon and ginger, along with apricot, peach, and mango.
Gewürztraminer Grapes Around the World
There are some noteworthy examples of Gewürztraminer grapes that are produced outside of Alsace as well. Among the areas where some of the best examples can be found are New Zealand, Germany, Northern Italy, and in the Pacific Northwest of the United Sates (specifically Washington state and Oregon).