Gewurztraminer is one of those vine varieties that is fussy about what soil type it is grown on, it dislikes chalky soils. It is a vigorous vine which needs to be controlled during the growing season as it is susceptible to disease. On top of this it buds early and needs warm, dry summers to avoid an erratic ripening period. So what can be done to tame ‘Gewurtz’, the spicy grape?

Like many different grape varieties, the ones that present a challenge, whether during their growing or wine making periods or even both, are the ones that can ultimately produce wines with the most character. And what’s more any winemaker worth his salt relishes a challenge like that, it is so rewarding to succeed against the odds. The secret with Gewurztraminer is to capture all of those subtle aromas and flavors, lose any of them and the wine will appear dull, flabby and boring.

On top of the demanding growing requirement, Gewurztraminer normally produces high natural sugars which if not balanced with enough acidity will result in sweet, blowsy wines, not what is required. On the other hand if the grape is picked too early with higher acids, then the varietal aromas won’t develop, it seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. That is why Gewurztraminer is such a challenging variety, get the growing part right, harvest it at the optimum time and make it in a clean winemaking environment, then you are onto a winner.

Gewurztraminer is genetically related to the Muscat grape, another variety which has a wealth of strong aromas. Both of these varieties are known for being able to impart their unique flavours into their resultant wines no matter where they are planted.

Alsace is still very much the home of Gewurztraminer where it has been grown for generations. Styles range from the very dry to the very sweet. The variety’s high natural sugar level also means that it is perfect for making dessert wine, both late harvest and the noble rot (affected by the botrytis fungus) styles.

Gewurztraminer tasting note examples:

* The wines are highly aromatic and assertive.

* The body is of medium to full and very lively.

* The wine can be anything from a dry to a semi-sweet or dessert style.

* The flavors can include some of the following: mango, papaya, coconut, apricot, peach, lychee, grapefruit, rosewater, honeysuckle, cloves and fruit salad; while the drier styles contain mineral, earth, pepper or citrus nuances.

* Has a rich ‘oily’ mouth feel.

Gewurztraminer food pairings:

* A crisp dry style can accompany dishes with exotic spices as well as rich poultry dishes, smoked seafood, Foie Gras or soy honey duck.

* The off dry examples are good with cheeses such as Munster or Roquefort and desserts that are not too sweet.

It is these wonderful exotic flavours that make Gewurztraminer such a unique wine that can be enjoyed with a meal or own its own as an aperitif. Once tasted, not forgotten.