Gewürztraminer is an unusual white wine varietal that contains pink to red skin but yields white juice with a slight brassy color. This grape is believed to have originated in the Italian village “Tramin” (located in northeastern region of Alto-Adige) in the 16th century. Possibly sometime in the 19th century, the grape mutated to resemble more its current-day expression. Gewürztraminer is a German word for “spicy grape” and occasionally referred to as Gewürz or Traminer.
Many quality-oriented Gewürztraminer growers leave the grapes on the vine well into October in order to build maximum aromatics in the grapes. The personality of Gewürztraminer is characteristically highly aromatic with intense spicy aromas and flavors of citrus fruit (grapefruit), tropical fruit (lychee), bakeshop (cinnamon), and floral (rose).
Gewürztraminer is typically medium to full in body, with the ample alcohol content giving a slight spice sensation at the back of the throat. While leaving Gewürztraminer on the vine in order to gain aromatics, the late harvest can unfortunately reduce the grape’s acidity and creates an obvious flat or flabby wine. The variety’s high natural sugar content means that the wine can range from dry to off-dry to sweet depending upon how the yeast and fermentation process is handled. If the wine is intended to be dry, it will take on a considerable high level of alcohol that can reach levels of 14 percent. Otherwise, the wines can be made into off-dry or sweet style, to lower the potentially out-of-balance alcohol content and provide silkiness in the mouth.
Gewürztraminer performs best in cool moderate climates with a slow, long growing season for gradual development of aromatics and preserving of its somewhat deficient acidity levels. All of Gewürztraminer’s styles, dry to sweet, are prevalent in Alsace, France, including full-bodied dessert wine versions. Though Gewürztraminer reaches its pinnacle in Alsace, the grape can also be found in Germany and Italy (Trentino-Alto-Adige and Friuli). In the New World, Gewürztraminer is found in New York state, Canada, California, and Washington state.