Gewürztraminer is a wine that definitely leaves an impression. It’s distinct sweetness and aromatic profile are a treat for those who enjoy sweet wines, and also for those who want to experience a lot of flavour. Even if you are not a fan of sweet wines, we still recommend trying Gewürztraminer at least once. It’s definitely something worth experiencing. Moreover, these wines are often not actually sweet, but dry, although the aroma always remains at least faintly reminiscent of sugar.
Gewürztraminer Key Takeaways:
- Gewürztraminer is highly aromatic, with notes of fruit, sugar, and spice
- Key notes are lychee and rose, followers by peach, cinnamon, and ginger
- Gewürztraminer has an exceptionally intense colour for a white wine, due to the Gewürztraminer berries actually having pink skin
- Can be found as dry, of-dry, or sweet
- Grows in cooler climates
- Pair well with aromatic dishes and desserts (depending on the vintage)
Everything You Need To Know About Gewürztraminer
Let’s start with the most basic question. What exactly is Gewürztraminer? The quirky name perhaps reflects the character of this wine really well. Although not everyone would admit, many are put off from even ordering a glass of Gewürztraminer when eating out because the name is so hard to pronounce! Where does one even start? For those who don’t know (ignore this if you are fluent in German), the correct pronunciation of the name of this wine is “Guh-vurts-tra-mee-ner”. To avoid the complication, some like to call it simply “Gewurz” (Guh-vurts) for short. Gewurz literally means “spic” in German so that might cause some confusion, though!
Once we look past the nomenclature issues, we can see that the Gewürztraminer is really an outstanding wine. As the name suggests, a glass of this wine will bring forth an explosion of intense flavours of exotic fruits and aromatic spices. This all might make it sound like Gewürztraminer is a sweet wine, but actually, it is usually a fairly dry wine. Yes, it might feel semi-sweet or off-dry, but it’s probably the driest of all the wines with a similar character.
Another peculiarity about Gewürztraminer is the fact that it is relatively unknown. It will usually not make any top list of the best wines, but it is truly a great sort. Why might this be? Well, perhaps because it’s also fairly rare. There are not that many vineyards that produce this wine, and most of them are located in Europe and belong to small wineries. The quantity of Gewürztraminer produced yearly is tiny compared to popular sorts like Chardonnay, for example. One might think that this means not many winemakers want to grow Gewürztraminer grapes, but actually, the thing is, these grapes require specific conditions and only grow in certain climates and regions.
Another unique thing about the Gewürztraminer is its colour. While it is classified as a white wine, Gewürztraminer actually comes from pink grapes. These grapes and their thick skins give the Gewürztraminer a unique color which is deep yellow and often bordering on pink. This is why some call it a “dark white wine”
About Gewürztraminer Grapes
Key characteristics of the Gewürztraminer grape:
- Thick pink skin
- High sugar content
- Low acidity
- Grows in cooler climates
- Requires specific soil
- Susceptible to noble rot
- Reflects the terroir to a very high degree
As we mentioned above, the Gewürztraminer is really a nique grape. The history of the variety is long, and it comes from the ancient Traminer variety. Today, it is grown in different regions, including Germany, the Alps, but also places like Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, and even Turkey. Nowadays Gewürztraminer can be found in small amounts also in New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, or Chile.
Overall, it is a grape variety that thrives in colder climates and specific conditions. It requires rich, fertile soil and it prefers higher altitudes. The Gewürztraminer is naturally rich in sugars and has almost no acidity at all. While this might sound delicious – if you were to eat a grape, when it comes to wine making it is actually a challenge. All that sugar can end up transforming into wine with crazy-high alcohol contents, or an overly sweet wine, but the Gewürztraminer connoisseurs manage to avoid both of these dangers.
The Noble Rot
One peculiar thing about Gewürztraminer is that sometimes it’s made from infected grapes. Now, before you start thinking about how disgusting that is, we can tell you those are special grapes infected with something called “noble rot”. Noble rot is actually a type of fungus. When this fungus affects the grapes, if the conditions are right, it will dry out the berries, practically turning them into raisins. This results in highly concentrated, intense flavour. This type of fungus is called Botrytis cinerea, so wines made using this method are sometimes called botrytized wines.
As Gewürztraminer typically grows in cooler climates, this often also means the right conditions for the onset of noble rot. Still, making this type of wine is a complex process that requires, among other things, harvesting the berries at just the right time. Noble rot Gewürztraminer is notably made in France, where you’ll find it under the label Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN). This translates to “selection of noble berries”, which is just what they are.
The History of Gewürztraminer (Hint: It’s Not From Germany)
Do you know where Gewürztraminer comes from? If you guessed Germany, you’ve got the language right. However, the history of this wine variety actually points to Northern Italy as the place of origin. In particular, Gewürztraminer comes from South Tyrol, That’s the region of italy called Trentino-Alto Adige in Italian and Trentino-Südtirol in German. Why does it have a German name too? Well, of course, because there is a lot of German-speaking population in the area, hence the name of the wine we are talking about today shouldn’t surprise us.
However, there is also a long tradition of growing Gewürztraminer in Germany, so you probably wouldn’t be terribly wrong if you called in a German wine. Over time, Gewürztraminer spread across Europe, mostly following the river Rhine. The Gewürztraminer from Alasce in France is a well-known and respected variety, for example. Notably, it’s grown in Austria and Hungary, but you could also find it in surrounding countries (although you’d probably need to look hard, as it’s often grown in small quantities).
In recent times, Gewürztraminer is grown in other continents too. You can find this wine grown in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. The cool thing about Gewürztraminer is that the terroir where it is grown affects it a lot. Wines of this type from different regions can have very different tastes, so if you like Gewürztraminer you should definitely try bottles from different regions.
But Why Does It Have a German Name?
As we mentioned, the name Gewürztraminer doesn’t come as too much a surprise if we consider the history of the Alto-Adige region in Italy. The name consists of two words, in German. The first one, gewürz, literally means spice, while traminer means grape. The history of wine is somewhat complicated. It was previously believed that Gewürztraminer comes from the grape called Traminer, but now some claim that the grape is actually a mutation of the Savagnin grape.
What Does Gewürztraminer Taste Like?
Sugar and Spice
The flavour profile of Gewürztraminer is all about sugar and spice. However, this immediately requires an additional note. While perhaps best thought of as a dessert wine, Gewürztraminer is actually not necessarily sweet. While it always leaves a feeling of sweetness, this wie is often made dry or off-dry. While there are some sweet Gewürztraminer out there, this type of wine doesn’t necessarily contain lots of sugar, although it does usually feel sweet.
And why is that? It’s because its aroma reminds us of all the sweet stuff. The most dominant fruity note in Gewürztraminer is lychee. This soft and gentle aroma dominates Gewürztraminer, but can never be overbearing. There is a scientific explanation for the taste of lychee in Gewürztraminer – they actually do contain some of the same aromatic compounds. When Gewürztraminer is made with grapes affected with noble rot, the lychee taste is even more forward and feels more sweet.
Besides the fruity sweetness, Gewürztraminer also reminds us a lot of Christmas cookies. This is because of the spice-forward notes like cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. In some Gewürztraminer wines, one can also feel some stunning aromatics like rose and incense.
Overall, Gewürztraminer is an aromatic delight. Due to low acidity and low tannins, it goes well with gentle flavours in food. Serve with delicate desserts or cheese. It also goes well with foods like slow-roasted meats and vegetables with natural sweetness like pumpkin, sweet potato, and onion.
Gewürztraminer Flavour Profile
- Body: Medium
- Sweetness: Dry, of dry, to sweet
- Acidity: Low
- Tannin: None
- Alcohol: 13.5 – 15% ABV
- Honeydew Melon
How To Pick A Good Gewürztraminer
There is a good consequence of the fact that Gewürztraminer is an underappreciated wine – it rarely gets expensive. Although there are expensive bottles of Gewürztraminer on the market, of course, a good bottle doesn’t have to cost more than £20.
When choosing your Gewürztraminer, there are a few things to consider. First of all, what do you plan to pair the wine with? Are you looking for a dry / off-dry wine or a sweet wine? As Gewürztraminer comes in both versions, this should narrow down the search.
Next, it’s time to consider the location where your wine comes from. The terroir where the grapes are grown always plays a role in the finished result, but in the case of Gewürztraminer, you can often really taste the difference between, let’s say, a Gewürztraminer from Alasce and one from New York. Typically, the New World Gewürztraminers are more refreshing with hints of acidity, while the ones made in Europe are more likely to have a very rich and deep aromatic profile.
5 Best Gewürztraminer To Try In 2022
Not sure where to start? We’ve prepared five suggestions for you. All of them are in the mid-range in terms of pricing, but they are all really good wines. If it’s your first time trying Gewürztraminer, pick any of these 5 that appeals to you, or any you can find locally. They are all great options for an introduction into the world of this amazing wine variety.
To try to describe the richness of these wines to you, we’ll use the old rule of wine tasting to structure our descriptions. This rule refers to using your senses in the right order to fully experience the wine. First see, then smell, then taste.
#1 2014 Hugel Gewürztraminer (Alasce, France)
- See: Warm yellow hue
- Smell: Rose and sweet flowers, candy
- Sip: Lychee, rose, apricot, hints of ginger and lemon
- Sweetness: Dry to Off-Dry
- Pairs well with: Aromatic Indian food, salmon, mild cheese
Even though it’s not overly sweet, Hugel Gewürztraminer is an intense wine. The bold lychee flavour hits you right at the first sip. Overall, the wine is very aromatic but it is also amazingly well-balanced. The intense aroma of sweet fruit and honey is balanced out by a hint of citrus, so gentle that perhaps it feels more like ginger. Made from grapes grown in Alsace, France this wine comes from a long tradition of aromatic French Gewürztraminer. Definitely a real treat!
#2 2012 Erste+Neue Puntay Gewürztraminer (Alto Adige, Italy)
- See: Pale yellow, straw with hints of rose
- Smell: Lychee, elderflower, lily
- Sip: Lychee, sweet fruit – nectarines, apricot
- Sweetness: Dry
- Pairs well with: Roasted vegetables, spices, soft cheese
This Gewürztraminer will blow you away with it’s rich, floral, flavour profile. Lychee and rose, mixed with hints of other flowers like jasmine, lilly, or elderflower will definitely leave an impression. Coming from the very birthplace of Gewürztraminer, the Trentino-Alto Adige region, this wine is a great example of the richness Gewürztraminer can offer. Truth be told, this wine is not for everyone. It’s very aromatic, to the point it almost feels perfumed. Definitely an exquisite profile, but not to everyone’s taste.
#3 2018 Boundary Breaks Gewürztraminer (Finger Lakes, New York, USA)
- See: Bright, warm yellow
- Smell: Lychee, rose, sweet apple, honey
- Sip: Lychee, stone fruit, honeysuckle, hints of tropical fruit and lime
- Sweetness: Dry
- Pairs well with: Tacos, salads, Pad Thai
Having given you two great examples from Europe, the birthplace of Gewürztraminer, the rest of our list will be dedicated to the New World and some amazing bottles of Gewürztraminer that have plopped up there in recent years.
The first one is from the Boundary Breaks Winery. Their Gewürztraminer is grown in vineyards on the shores of the Finger Lakes in the state of New York which offer the perfect cool climate for this grape variety. The wine is different from many European Gewürztraminers. It feels amazingly lightweight, with a soft sweet smell. You’ll feel soft hints of tropical fruit and limes with a faint but distinct minerality. If there has ever been a Gewürztraminer that’s perfect for drinking on warm summer nights, this is it.
#4 2012 Analemma Oak Ridge Gewürztraminer (Columbia Gorge, Washington, USA)
- See: Warm gold, hints of rose
- Smell: Soft lychee, rose, grapefruit
- Sip: Lychee and rose with hints of ginger and allspice, grapefruit
- Sweetness: Off-Dry
- Pairs well with: Cous-cous, Moroccan and Middle-Eastern dishes.
This is another great example of how cold climates in North America can be great for Gewürztraminer. As is often the case with American wines, this one feels more refreshing than European counterparts, although it is still quite aromatic. Just like any Gewürztraminer, this one will have notes of lychee and rose, but what makes it unique is the bold note of Grapefruit. It gives the wine surprising acidity and creates a really unique flavour profile.
#5 2013 Husch Estate Bottled Late Harvest Gewürztraminer (Mendocino County, California, USA)
- See: Gold with hints of rose
- Smell: Peaches and honey, lychee, gentle spiciness
- Sip: Honey, peach, and lychee. Hints of tropical fruits and citrus, cloves.
- Sweetness: Sweet
- Pairs well with: Desserts, fruit pies, pumpkin pie
This delightful vintage comes from a family-owned winery located in Anderson Valley in North California. The location of their vineyards has a unique climate with a cooling air current coming from the Atlantic Ocean. This creates the conditions for a really unique Gewürztraminer. With a mix of old and young vines (some more than 50 years old), the Husch family managed to create a surprisingly vibrant wine.
This Gewürztraminer is different from all the others on our list in that it goes all out on the sweetness. Besides the sweet aroma, this wine is actually sweet. For this reason, it’s best paired with desserts. It goes best with gentle, earthy flavours that are not too overbearing. Our favourite desserts to pair with the Husch Gewürztraminer are peach cobbler and pumpkin pie.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some good alternatives to Gewürztraminer?
Perhaps the most similar wine to Gewürztraminer in terms of the overall feeling it leaves in your mouth is Moscato. Moscato has the same faint spiciness and sweetness, although with a much lower intensity. It is like a younger brother of Gewürztraminer. If you are looking for a substitute for Gewürztraminer to serve with desserts, then a sparkling dessert wine can work if nothing else is available. If looking for something similar to Gewürztraminer to serve with savoury dishes, then a good Riesling can be a good choice. In general, Riesling will pair well with the same foods as Gewürztraminer. However, Riesling is notably lighter and doesn’t have the rich, deep spiciness that Gewürztraminer has.
What is the right serving temperature for a Gewürztraminer?
As most white wines, Gewürztraminer is typically served slightly chilled. The recommended serving temperature for Gewürztraminer is usually between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius. That’s slightly warmer than the temperature in your fridge, so if you don’t have a wine cooler make sure to let the wine rest and warm up for a bit before you taste it. These rules are not set in stone, and experimentation is welcome with Gewürztraminer. When served colder, it will have more of a subdued, dry flavour. Serving a bit warmer will bring out the aromatic notes.
What food pairs well with Gewürztraminer?
Gewürztraminer is really a unique white wine when it comes to food pairings. With most white wines you really don’t want to serve any powerful foods or those that are too aromatic because these flavours can easily overpower the wine. This is certainly not the case with Gewürztraminer. This aromatic wine can stand up to all kinds of spaces, and goes well with aromatic dishes. Ethnic cuisines like Indian, Arabic, African, or even Mexican can really pair well with this wine. The trick is choosing flavours that fit well with the fruit and spice in Gewürztraminer. If you are looking for a safe bet, serve Gewürztraminer with a cheese plate filled with softer and milder cheeses.
Should Gewürztraminer be aged?
Gewürztraminer is wine that’s typically drunk young. This is because of the low acidity and subtle aromatics that characterise this wine. With time, the aromatic notes will fade out and the texture of the wine can start feeling even a bit oily. All rules are made to be broken, so don’t take this as the absolute unbreakable rule. Some Gewürztraminers can be aged and the process leads to a really unique wine. Vintage year matters a lot when it comes to Gewürztraminer, so make sure to do your research before purchasing a pricey bottle, especially in the case of aged Gewürztraminer.
If you’ve never heard of Gewürztraminer before reading this guide, or perhaps you saw it for the first time which led you here, we don’t blame you. This wine variety gets surprisingly little attention. However, Gewürztraminer is an exquisite and unique wine. The key to enjoying it is pairing it with the right food, which is not always easy. Those who like lean and dry wines might not be amazed with Gewürztraminer even when choosing a dry variety, because the aromatic sweetness is its main characteristic. However, we encourage you to keep an open mind and give Gewürztraminer a chance, even if you’ve found yourself fitting the description above.