Erin Doman on June 27, 2016 0 Comments Gewürztraminer is a complex wine — both in terms of taste structure and pronunciation. Gewürztraminer, pronounced as geh-VERTZ-trah-mee-nur, is also simply referred to as “Gewürz,” which is much easier to say. This notable pink-skinned grape is grown on multiple continents and sold just about everywhere. Although relatively small in production (approximately 35,000 acres under cultivation worldwide, compared to about 500,000 acres of Chardonnay), Gewürztraminer wine tends to be pleasantly undervalued, with many excellent vintages under $20. Consider this your guide to the grape that has been called “the grown-up version of Moscato.” Aroma and Taste One of the first things you’ll notice about Gewürztraminer is its aromatics. In fact, the nose on this wine is so impressive that you may be moved to take an extra sniff or two. This fools some drinkers into thinking that the wine is sweet (which is sometimes the case, but not always). If you’ve tasted Moscato or Riesling, you will have experienced how much smell affects perception of taste. Gewürztraminers also tend to have higher alcohol and lower acidity, adding to the perception of sweetness. The wine can evoke flavors of apricot, cantaloupe, lychee, peach and grapefruit. Additional aromas of honey, rose and allspice are detected by some tasters. The flavors come to life when refrigerated, with a recommended drinking temperature around 43° Fahrenheit or 6° Celsius. These characteristics make for a balanced beverage that holds an interest for all types of consumers. It’s considered more grown up than Muscat (or Moscato) because it tends to be more pleasant sipped than guzzled down. Regional Characteristics It isn’t hard to get your hands on a good Gewürztraminer, thanks to its popularity in several viticultural areas. The following list will cover some of the highlights from various growing regions. Alsace The grape was born in Alsace, and its product remains the typical wine in this region of France. In this region close to the Swiss border, soils rich in limestone and clay shape the product’s distinct characteristics. Excellent dry and aromatic Gewürztraminers can be found in the $13-18 range, and Grand cru (or reserve) quality selections can be found under $30. Northern Italy The Trentino-Alto Adige region exports excellent varieties to the USA. The style is distinct from those from Alsace: intense, floral aromas contrast boldly against the dryness of flavor. California The cooler, coastal regions of California produce the best vintages. Dry varieties evoke lychee aromas and can taste like grapefruit with a shot of dry cider. As the vintage ages, aromas such as ginger and allspice become more prominent. Oregon Grown in most state AVAs, Oregon produces medium-bodied, moderately sweet varieties. The many microclimates make for outstanding diversity, with vintages suited for anything from dry aperitifs to sweet dessert wines. Washington Wines from this region can offer extraordinary values. For less than $10, a variety of styles can be found. Top-notch dry vintages run around $17. Some of the most interesting varieties come from the Colombia Gorge region, where vines soak up the sun by day while always keeping their cool due to the east winds. Michigan Who knew? For some persons, varieties grown in northern Michigan tend to be more palatable than ones grown in the grape’s homeland. Several wineries are producing the variety in Michigan, and they make great food wines. New Zealand Passionate winemakers are taking advantage of the climate and soils to create fragrant, smooth varieties. Distinctive styles are being produced on the north and south islands. Critical reviews continue to be strong and positive. Canada Lively varieties of varying body are being produced in British Columbia. Although BC area wineries produce many other varieties, Gewürztraminer remains one of the most popular in the region. Moldova These varieties are tough to find in the US. But if you do get your hands on one, or if you find yourself in Russia, be sure to try one. You’re likely to find a unique product for a bargain price. Food Pairings The “Gewürz” part of the grape’s name means “herb” or “spice” in German, giving some hints as to its paring potential. If you’re looking to drink it along with cheese, try it along with the soft Munster, made in France from unpasteurized cow’s milk. In summertime, sliced prosciutto and melon is another great way to enjoy it. When pairing with food, taking a subtle note from the drink to be served and combining it with a similar food flavor is a great technique. If you like spicy cuisine, think cayenne pepper, madras curry or Sichuan pepper. If you prefer more spice but without the heat, look for recipes that contain ginger, clove, cinnamon and allspice. Rose water, turmeric, shallots, sesame seeds, soy sauce, bay leaves, coriander and cumin are phenomenal flavors for most palates that will mix very well with the wine’s characteristics. The wine’s apparent sweetness helps sooth the palate when eating spicy Thai, Indian or Indonesian cuisine. Its striking aromatics also make it the perfect accompaniment to Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes. Think of the smooth, slightly buttery saffron flavor of biriyani. Or consider a creamy spinach dish palak paneer, grilled chicken skewers with peanut sauce or hot flatbread seasoned with za’atar. If you don’t want to be tied to a specific recipe, think about pairing with roasted meats, such as duck and pork. Chicken works too, but try cooking it along with nuts, spices and dried fruits. Vegetarians may enjoy it best along with naturally sweet flavors, such as coconut, caramelized onions or roasted carrots, beets and squash. It’s also fantastic with any dish containing artichokes, a veggie that is often a challenge to pair with wine. If fresh seafood is available, try it with crab or shrimp. Late-harvest varieties lend themselves well to dessert sipping. Drier Gewürztraminers in fact hold their own – no food required. When you find a Gewürztraminer label and vintage that you like, buy another bottle and share it with friends. If you take a liking to Gewürztraminer, be sure to check out similar but less common wines, such as Torrontés, Loureiro and Malvasia Bianca.