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Germany's Gewürztraminer

Bar None

with Dr Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, September 17, 2020

You might have read halfway through the headline and stopped mid-sentence, or you might have just paused at Germany. This month's celebrated grape varietal is certainly a mouthful but unlike its very complex pronunciation, the taste of this grape is divine! For all my wine newbies who are still loving Moscato wines, I guarantee that you will be loving this varietal once you taste it! In fact, Gewürztraminer is sometimes referred to as the grown-up Moscato. But how much do you know about the Gewürztraminer grape? Keep reading, you are in for a sweet surprise.

Let's Get to Know Gewürz

Gewürztraminer (pronounced gu-rutz-tra-mi-na or gu-rutz-tra-mee-na) is a white grape, but unlike other white varieties, it turns to a deep russet colour at ripeness instead of staying yellow or green. Gewürz means 'spice' in German, a great summation of this distinctive variety. The first aroma you will experience in a glass of Gewürztraminer is its signature lychee aroma. What are the aromas of lychee you might ask? The lychee aroma is akin to a sweet rose. The lychee aroma is usually so intense, it is one of Gewürztraminer's tell-tale signs in a blind tasting. If you are drinking high-quality Gewürztraminer you will find many complex aromatics, including Ruby Red grapefruit, rose petal, ginger, and a smoky aroma similar to burnt incense. Cool growing conditions help to bring out the distinct floral-spicy aroma for which this noble variety is famous. Gewürztraminer makes a delicious dry wine; however, it is best known for its sweeter styles, including harvest dessert wines.

Is Germany the Only Home of Gewürztraminer?

Alsace is the spiritual home of Gewürz, producing some of the finest examples in the world, from dry (Yes! Gewürztraminer can be dry) yet perfumed and full-bodied wines, to those that boast sweetness, spice, and opulent aromas. Gewürztraminer is one of the four Grand Cru grapes of Alsace and has been produced in the region for hundreds of years. Top quality Alsatian Gewürztraminer are called 'Vendange Tardive' (aka 'late harvest') and are age-worthy dessert wines with mineral, spice, and smoke notes. Gewürztraminer's homeland lies in the foothills of the Alps. It is a pink grape which grows very well in cooler climates. The grape originated in Germany, but over several hundreds of years it completely circumscribed the Alps including Italy, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, France, and Slovenia. In the New World, Gewürz can be a lot trickier to get right as high climates can lead to less balancing acidity and the risk of the perfumed fruit becoming far too pungent and overpowering. However, clever techniques such as harvesting the fruit early means that cooler sites can create wonderful examples of this wine. Word has it that New Zealand is becoming known for producing outstanding styles, with aromas of lychee, peaches, honey, and crisp acidity on the finish.

Gewürztraminer & Food

Gewürztraminer generally benefits from dishes with more than a touch of sweetness and heat.

• Thai red duck curry — Not all Thai food works with Gewürztraminer, but it certainly pairs well with a red duck curry or a yellow curry.

• Sichuanese food — Of all the styles of Chinese food I think Sichuan pairs best with Gewürz. Pairings also work well with dishes that include ginger. Other spicy dishes like Singapore noodles and many Korean dishes also work well.

• Indian food — Again, there are exceptions, but gewürztraminer generally works well with an Indian meal where — as is common — several dishes are served at the same time.

• Foie gras — Another popular pairing in Alsace

• Sweet-tasting vegetables like pumpkin and squash and sweet potatoes

• Jamaican spicy dishes — Think jerk pork, chicken, curried goat — (sugar and spice, hint, hint…)

• Sweeter Gewürztraminers pairs well with desserts — try apple-based desserts or mango-based desserts with a dash of ginger.

Next Steps

So, what's next? Like hello, let's go shopping! Check in with your favourite wine purveyor to see which brands they carry, or visit your local supermarket. If you never ask for the product, the retailers will not stock it. So, remember if you do not see a wine varietal you like, make it a point of duty to speak with the store manager and let them know of your interest. Until next week, Keep Safe & Cheers!

Readers' Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month, I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety/vine of the month. For October, we will focus on Argentina's hot Malbec varietal. Looking forward to your feedback and comments!

Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life, seek for them relentlessly. Please share with me your wines, spirits, and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Dr Debbian Spence-Minott
An alumna of the US Sommelier Association
CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines
President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

Chief marketing officer – National Rums of Jamaica Limited