Gewurztraminer Wine

It's hard to explain what the much-used term 'spicy white' means, but grab a glass of Gewurztraminer (or Gewurz, as this grape is often called) and the style immediately becomes clear.

It's not hot, peppery chilli spice, of course, but an exotic, gingery appeal, with hints of rosewater, peach skin, dried apricots, sometimes a note of cardamon and often pink Turkish delight. Good Gewurz is headily perfumed, so the extraordinary, unique appeal of the wine assails you long before you get the liquid in your mouth. One sniff of a glass of Gewurz will tell you that here is something quite different.

To be honest, it isn't for everyone, and even for its fans it probably isn't for quaffing every day - but Gewurz is fascinating stuff, and like all the spicy whites, it is a brilliant match for certain dishes; in this case I'd choose Thai spicy fish with loads of coriander and lemongrass, or even simple Chinese sweet-and-sour chicken.



The most famous and best Gewurztraminers of all come from Alsace in eastern France - a region that has mastered premium, opulent but unoaked whites. These wines are full of fragrance and spice, richly golden-coloured and full in texture, often with a high thirteen percent alcohol, but they are not oaky, and a well-balanced example (as always with whites) should have crisp acidity to balance out that weight.

Wines from over fifty grand cru vineyard sites (named on the label) are supposed to be the best, but this isn't always the case and such wines can be an expensive disappointment.

Avoiding sweetish wines (or indeed finding them, if you like a more honeyed style) can also prove tricky as there's little to help you on the label, but do note that the words vendange tardive or selection des grains nobles do indicate sweet wine Poor Alsace Gewurz does exist, of course, often tasting 'flabby', lacking acidity and smelling like cheap perfume.

To avoid this, pick a top producer like Hugel, Trimbach or Schlumberger or as an introduction, try a simpler but less expensive wine from a reliable cooperative winery like Turckheim or Ribeauville. Despite all these pitfalls - and the fact that Alsace Gewurz is often packaged in old-fashioned tall, green bottles with dense Gothic script on them - do give it a go as the wines can be quite brilliant, and among the most unusual and fascinating in the world.

In Germany, Gewurztraminer Wine is considered much less important than Riesling. The wines are more simple, but prettily scented and often delicious. The best wines have a delightfully crisp finish; the worst taste a bit clumsy and unbalanced; German Gewurz never quite reaches the heights of Alsace Gewurz. Try a bottle from the Baden or Pfalz areas of the country.

If you like Gewurz, trawl the shelves for bottles of the stuff from Eastern Europe (especially Hungary) and northern Italy, too - these can be a bargain and snappily fresh, although nothing touches Alsace


New Zealand is now producing some excellent Gewurztraminer, particularly from the cooler South Island vineyards of Marlborough. There's a delightful purity of fruit here - a clean citrus zest, tangerine note, perhaps with some lychee - and a dry, mineral quality to the best.

Definitely worth a go if you see the Lawson's Dry Hills, Huia or Grove Mill labels. Australia produces very few Gewurzes of note as its vineyards are usually too hot for this variety, although the Piper's Brook winery in cool, breezy Tasmania makes a subtle, elegant wine.


Chilean Gewurz, on the other hand, is successful, especially from the cool Casablanca Valley vineyards or the Bio-Bio region in the south. There aren't many around, but snap one up from Vina Casablanca, Undurraga or Cono Sur if you spot it. This wine doesn't crop up in California much, but a handful of decent wines come from Washington State. 

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