Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meet Gewürztraminer - The Diva

When I think about Gewürztraminer (pronounced ge-VIRTS-trah-meener), I recall the early-bloomed exotic beauty that struts the halls in stiletto boots. She has legs for days and a rude attitude that makes her even more intriguing. Dudes offer her gum just so they can watch her pouty pink lips move when she chews. Those who hate her secretly study her swag so they can learn how to command the kind of attention she gets.

Literally translated as the spicy Traminer – Tramin is the place in northern Italy from which the grape hails, gewürz is the German word for spicy – this variety is unique indeed and is beloved by those who truly understand it. Think ginger spice, just think about that funk and sizzle that ginger gives you on the nose. You can expect a wine with a lot of body and that’s rather perfumy, often smelling of rose petals and lychee fruit. In the glass Gewürztraminer tends to have deeper color than some other white wines as a result of contact with its blushing skins during fermentation – the perfect tan. Sweeter versions give you more of the tropical fruit characters, but still the signature heady aroma. In general, Gewürztraminer smells sweet but tastes dry (all the sugar is fermented out).

Gewürztraminer’s homeland, if not its motherland, is Alsace, the almost German region in eastern France. Usually it comes 750ml size Alsace flute, the same tall slender bottle Riesling comes in. It is grown all over the world with happy digs in the Nelson region of New Zealand, Germany, Austria and various New York AVAs. It’s used in some well known blends from California and Oregon. No matter how many other grapes are in the blend, Gewürztraminer stands out as a striking presence.

Comfort foods that remind me of Gewürztraminer include Christmas rum raising cake, Easter hot cross buns and ginger snap cookies. Having said that, I just love dry Gewürztraminer with Thai curry noodles, or on a different vein, tuna or salmon sashimi – juicy acidity rolls itself happily around the rich oily fish on the palate.

Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Gewürztraminers. Start with one from Alsace – luckily these are the French wines that are labeled by grape. Then see if you can find a local one, as well as one from New Zealand. Don’t be surprised if you’re left speechless after she first passes your lips. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #GewurzHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. Go get ‘em!

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