A highly aromatic grape variety that has the ability to produce outstanding and complex wines. It is deeply coloured, with pink skins making it easy to recognise in the glass. It’s one of the four noble varieties in Alsace and historically has shown great significance.
Gewürztraminer or Roter Traminer is a relatively easy grape to recognise due to its deep golden colour achieved from the pink hue of the grapes skins. The green skinned Traminer is often confused as Gewürztraminer but has has a less aromatic flavour profile. The other stand out feature of Gewürztraminer is the strong aromatic flavours including lychee, roses, ginger, grapefruit, pineapple and oranges. ‘Gewürz’ in German translates as 'spice' which gives an idea of the non-fruit flavours the grape can produce common examples include ginger, cinnamon, allspice and even Turkish delight.
The trouble with Gewürztraminer is that the acidity can be low and out of balance if picked too late. The alcohol level is often very high, around 14% abv as the grapes easily ripen, allowing them to build high a high sugar content which gets converted into alcohol. The wines are full-bodied, sugar present which can reach levels of a few grams acts to give the wines a slightly oily or waxy character. In certain regions, particularly in Alsace, the grapes are harvested later to make sweet dessert wines.
Gewürztraminer has a home in many countries both in the Old and New world regions. Its most notable home is in Alsace, France, however, there are many interesting examples from all over the world.
Alsace produces the largest amount of Gewürztraminer and its one of the four noble varieties in Alsace. When picked early the wines are powerfully aromatic and made in a dry style. Gewürztraminer also produces two varieties of sweet wines. The first is ‘Vendange Tardive’, literally means late harvest grapes. The grapes stay on the vine for longer and begin to dehydrate. The removal of water concentrates the flavours, sugars and acids in the grapes. The second and most premium style of sweet wine in Alsace is Selection de Grains Nobles. This is wine produced from 'noble rot' grapes. This rot is caused by a fungus called Botrytis cinerea which creates tiny holes in the skin of the grapes causing the grapes to shrivel, again the flavours, acids and sugars are concentrated.
Germany is thought to be the grapes original home and is still a very important country in terms of acreage and outstanding examples. Key regions within Germany are Pfalz and Baden to the west of the country. The wines are made in both sweet and dry styles.
Known as Italian Tyrol in Italy and grown particularly Trentino- Alto Adige. This northern region in Italy benefits from cooling mountain breezes. The wines tend to be made in a dry style with higher levels of acidity and a less oily texture. There is also a large proportion of Traminer a less aromatic variety with green skins.
Austria and Switzerland
The grape doesn’t have a large area of planting in Austria or Switzerland but it does produce some premium, aromatic white wines.
Gewürztraminer is planted throughout Eastern Europe and goes under a large number of names. Key countries include Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Macedonia and Slovenia.
Called Traminac in Croatia made in both sweet and dry styles.
Gewürztraminer is grown in the majority of Canadian wine regions including Vancouver Island, Okanagan Valley and the Niagara Peninsula but in small quantities. In America, it is planted in many states but the most notable areas of premium production are in Washington and Oregon.
Australia, the best locations are the cooler areas of Tasmania, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Eden Valley. It is important that these cool sites are used to retain the acids in the grapes otherwise the level of acid will rapidly decrease in warm climates. In Australia, Gewürztraminer is often called Traminer. In New Zealand plantings are concentrated around Hawkes Bay on the North Island.
Good and affordable examples are grown in Chile. The countries ideal wine growing conditions make it easy to produce. The majority of wines are dry with little to no ageing ability.