What is Gewurztraminer?
If there was ever a wine varietal name that will trip you up, it’s this German grape: Gewurztraminer. It’s pronounced as Geh-vurts-tram-in-er. However in New Zealand and Australia, Gewurztraminer is often shortened to Traminer or the more colloquial ‘Gevertz’.
Gewurztraminer is one of the 18 classic ‘Noble Grapes’. Gewurz means 'spice' or ‘herb’ in German. Traminer means 'coming from Tramin' - a wine‐growing district of southern Tyrol, Northern Italy, where Gewurztraminer originated. Formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South Tyrol borders with Austria, hence the distinctly German-sounding name.
Gewurztraminer is an aromatic varietal best suited to cooler climates. Top European regions include Jura in the north of France as well as Lombardy and Friuli in the north of Italy.
The grape has a pinkish red skin. Interestingly, this makes it a white wine grape rather than blue or black-skinned grape (which are referred to as ‘red’). It’s a surprisingly rare varietal with just over 8,000 hectares planted worldwide.
Gewurztraminer’s best-known characteristic is lychee, which is often compared to the aroma of rose petals. Gewurztraminer’s lychee notes are so apparent that they are often a giveaway in a blind taste test. On the palate you’ll find grapefruit, orange, lychee, stone fruit and rockmelon. With some extra ripening of the grapes, flavours slide towards pineapple. More refined examples will display rose petal, honey, ginger, allspice, cinnamon and notes of burnt incense.
Pairing with Food
Gewurztraminer’s unique characteristics enable the wine drinker to explore cuisine other wines struggle to stand up to.
It can take on spicy, aromatic herbs such as ginger, clove, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, allspice, sesame, almond and soy sauce. This means Gewurztraminer is often a perfect match with Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Indian food, as well as Chinese and Mexican. The secret is in the sweetness of the wine balancing the zing of the spice.
Meat pairings include chicken, pork, duck, shrimp and crayfish.
When pairing with cheese, the strong floral and spicy flavours of Gewurztraminer go well with strong smelling cheeses. It will also go well with Cheddar and Gorgonzola.
Notable regions for Gewurztraminer wines
New Zealand - with a cooler climate, New Zealand is well-suited to growing Gewürztraminer, and plantings can be found throughout the country. Regions include Marlborough, Canterbury and Waipara, Nelson, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, and Auckland and Northland, with fine examples from all regions.
Australia - the cool climate wine regions of Australia suit the growing of Traminer vines. The Macedon Ranges in Victoria has soil and climate conditions similar to those of Jura in the northeast of France. Mudgee and the Hunter Valley in NSW produce very good Gewurztraminer. Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia, and Victoria’s Yarra Valley are also top performers. Not surprisingly, the cool climate of Tasmania produces notable examples.
France - Europe’s finest Gewürztraminer is said to come from Alsace, where it is the second most planted varietal.
Jura, Switzerland - Jura, in the east of France, borders the sub-Alpine Jura Mountains of Switzerland. Jura is a cold-climate region and is known for growing Gewürztraminer, referred to locally as Savagnin.
International - Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, United States (almost everywhere), Canada.
Find a straight or mixed case of Gewurztraminer here