November 2009

Give Thanks with Gewürztraminer

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

Many wines would pair well with your Thanksgiving turkey, but one of the favorites is a white wine called Gewürztraminer. No, it’s not another way to say “Bless you” after someone sneezes, rather it is quite a fun, aromatic wine that pairs extremely well with turkey, spicy food, and Asian cuisine.

The grape grows best in cold climates, especially in Alsace, France. This area is a mountainous region on the eastern side of France which shares a border with Germany, thus the name, Gewürztraminer. Germany once occupied the Alsace area, and the history behind the name Gewürztraminer stems from Germany. The word actually means “spiced Traminer” or “perfumed Traminer.” Traminer is a grape originally cultivated in Italy on the Tyrol Mountain slopes as far back as the ninth century; it then mutated into a form of Gewürztraminer, traveling from Italy down the Rhine in Germany and becoming the second most widely grown grape in Alsace.

What makes Gewürztraminer so special is its flavor profile. Usually called aromatic and spicy, the wines are normally full of lychee fruit, a tropical fruit full of natural sugars that is widely used in Asian dishes and desserts. With this fruit flavor and aroma, the wines pair very well with Asian cuisine and a fresh roasted, smoked, even deep-fried turkey. There are also dry Gewürztraminers which carry flavors of passion fruit, hibiscus, and even rose petal.

The number one house in Alsace with the largest export of Gewürztraminer is the Trimbach family. They have been cultivating the grape and making the wine since the 16th century. Besides a refreshing dry style, the Trimbach family will take advantage of the natural high sugar content and make dessert wines, Vendage Tardive, and/or Seleccion de Grains Noble, both of which are highly rated wines and delicious with cheeses and desserts.

Domestic Gewürztraminers are also gaining popularity. Alexander Valley Vineyards makes a “New Gewürztraminer” to define New World style that is fun and food-friendly, especially with spicy, bold flavors. Gundlach Bundschu has been making Gewürztraminer in Sonoma for over 100 years, being one of the first places in California to manage to grow the grape in the United States. Other New World Gewürztraminers are being developed throughout New Zealand, Australia, and even Chile with Casillero del Diablo releasing their first vintage.

You can have a lot of fun with Gewürztraminer. I would suggest having a bottle the next time you pick up Chinese take-out, or some spicy Mexican or Spanish cuisine. But don’t forget to try it on Thanksgiving since it is such a delight to drink with your turkey.

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