Monday, February 4, 2013


This one should be short.  I was certain I had already written about Gewurz here already but I guess I was thinking about the series on the Alsace from a year ago (1/7/12-1/21/12), the Alsace being the undisputed champion of quality Gewurz.  And the reason for writing about the grape at all this time would be its presence in last Friday's tasting lineup where it proved once again that the best wine on the table can be the worst seller of the evening.

Gewurz is strictly a win-lose proposition.  You either love it or you don't, so there is something in it that must not resonate with some of us.  Gewurz has floral aromas of roses, nutty aromas of lychee, and fruity aromas of passion fruit, grapefruit, and peach stones.  It has a flavor profile that includes: honey, pumpkin spice, allspice, cinnamon, apricots, and pears.  "Gewurz" means spicy so food affinities would include asian cuisine (including curry), wild (oily) game, smoked fish, barbecue, Mexican cuisine, chicken wings, and all of those Alsatian sausages, kraut, pates, and ham.  The cheese most cited by the critics for this wine is Muenster.

Traminer is the name of the family of grapes that originated in or near the village of Tramin in southern Tyrol in northern Italy.  That grape has an unstable genome that has resulted in frequent mutations through history perhaps creating the popular varieties Muscat and Viognier amongst a legion of lesser known types.  The parent of them all may be Savagnin Blanc (not Sauvignon) with written documentation going to 1000AD.

Gewurztraminer migrated to Alsace in the nineteenth century and then around 1870 or so the Phylloxera epidemic (Blog 6/11/11) took a hand in its fate.  "Gewurz" is obviously a German word but the German Gewurz is decidedly less aromatic and spicy than the Alsatian.  It is believed that when it came to grafting the new vines onto the American rootstocks Alsace got a different (and better) version of Gewurz than Germany did.

Gewurztraminer has a long growing season and likes cooler climates so its early budding is potentially problematic with the threat of frost and because of its naturally high sugar content (must weight), its late ripening  presents similar potential problems at the other end of the season.  To further complicate the situation, Gewurztraminer is unduly susceptible to multiple diseases during the growing season.

In Alsace Gewurztraminer may be fermented dry, off-dry, sweet, or very sweet.  Some producers do them all!  Twenty percent of all vineyard land in Alsace is devoted to Gewurztraminer and it is acknowledged by acclamation to be that region's finest wine and, in fact, noble by world standards.  The one we had on Friday was Dopff & Irion from Riquewehr and it was the dry floral version. 

This Friday (5-7pm) we will be tasting California reds and whites here at the store that may include efforts from Bliss, Raymond, First Press, The Crusher, Trinchero, Ste. Michelle, and Peirano Estate.  Please join us.

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