Oft overlooked, Gewürztraminer can make even the most well-trained sommelier come unstuck. Jacopo Mazzeo gathered a panel of experts who found their preconceptions of the variety deliciously overturned
We all like a fine Cab, an aged Riesling or a mineral-driven Chardonnay. Other wine styles, however, can be a little more divisive. Take Gewürztraminer for instance, the Marmite grape par
excellence. Detractors lament lack of acidity and subtlety, while supporters love its flamboyant bouquet and enticing waxy palate.
Despite the controversy that permeates this cool climate variety, Gewürztraminer is featured on most sizeable wine lists. But how much consideration do you put into your choice? Does the chosen style match your restaurant’s food offer? Ultimately, are you exploiting Gewürztraminer’s full potential?
To answer these questions once and for all, we decided to call in a team of somms and introduce them to a wide selection of Gewürz, from late harvest Alsace to wackier New World interpretations. Expectedly, we found a lot of classic lychee aromas, but a multitude of other scents too. With flavours ranging from winter spices to grapefruit zest, honey, toast, petrol, tropical fruits, wet stone, rose petals and nuts – to name a few – this selection turned some of our preconceptions upside down, showcasing Gewürztraminer’s diversity, potential for food pairing and impressive ability to age. Warning: this tasting contains extreme degrees of deliciousness and expressions of pleasure that some readers might find upsetting. Supervision of someone open-minded is advised.
How it works
We asked UK agents to submit examples of Gewürztraminer, from any part of the world, priced above £7 ex-VAT from their portfolios, all available exclusively to the UK on-trade and independents. Wines were blind tasted by a team of sommeliers who were only aware of vintage and Old World/New World origin. The wines were then scored out of 100.
93 J. Hofstätter Kolbenhof 2017, Alto Adige
‘Lychee, ripe pear and acacia aromas with a delicate almond note. It expresses great weight on the mid-palate and good length. A wine for food,’ VR. ‘A wine with fi ne acidity and extraordinary freshness. Citrus, rose, lychee, guava and passion fruit. Outstanding,’ ES.
93 Trimbach Vendanges Tardives 2011, Alsace
‘Perfect balance on palate, with a semi-sweet finish. Fruit aromas and flowery notes characterise the nose while the palate shows spot-on structure,’ BT-S.
‘Rich aromatic profile, with orange peel and white roses, lychee and peach marmalade. The aftertaste is delicately sweet,’ VR.
92 Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer 2017, Alto Adige
‘A fragrant, elegant bouquet, with hints of salinity and wet stone complementing lychee and ginger aromas. On the palate it’s full and waxy, yet balanced and extremely long. To keep for a few years,’ JM.
‘Perfumed nose reminiscent of acacia, rose petals and tropical fruits, with a beautiful complex palate and great length,’ ES.
£22.92, Hallgarten & Novum
92 Trimbach Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 2012, Alsace
‘An elegant aromatic intensity followed by a complex structure. Developed style with quince and apricot marmalade, orange peel, acacia and ginger flavours, and a delicately smooth oily texture,’ VR.
‘The nose is complex and shows signs of healthy maturity. On the palate it’s rich, baroque, with plenty of acidity and glycerine, and some biscuity and toasty flavours,’ JM.
92 Cave de Turckheim Vieilles Vignes 2016, Alsace
‘Exotic tropical notes of ripe mango, pineapple, coconut and guava. Very lush,’ AM.
‘Off-dry with a ripe nose of honey, dried apricot and hints of orange peel and petrol. A bit of salinity on the palate, full and serious,’ JM.
91 Dopff Au Moulin Brand de Turckheim Grand Cru 2015, Alsace
‘Seductive aromatic profile with classic lychee, white rose and ginger spice. The palate is refreshed by a lovely citrus acidity and balanced by a very smooth texture, making this wine complex and easy to drink at the same time,’ VR.
‘Ripe mango and gentle ginger spice aromas, while on the palate there’s more tropical fruit. Long and multifaceted with a hint of dry fruit on the finish,’ AM.
£25.29, Hallgarten & Novum
- Andre Luis Martins, head sommelier, The Cavalry & Guards Club
- Jacopo Mazzeo, Imbibe
- Valentin Radosav, head sommelier, Gymkhana
- Elena Serban, head sommelier, Heritage
- Ben Thornton-Smith, sommelier, Petersham Nurseries
90 J. Hofstätter Joseph 2018, Alto Adige
‘A multi-layered wine with cristalline, mouth-watering texture. Outstanding wine,’ ES.
‘Zingy, zesty nose with just a bit of cream to bring balance. On the palate there is lychee, lime and grapefruit zest, lavender, and a bit of vanilla pods too. Freshness is its strength,’ JM.
90 Franz Haas 2018, Alto Adige
‘An elegant wine that reveals more after each sip. Full of energy and complexity and showing unbelievable length,’ BT-S.
‘Delicately aromatic, with pleasant some stone fruit. Creamy texture, intense and persistent, with an herbaceous note on the finish. Wine for food,’ ES.
90 St. Michael-Eppan Sanct Valentin 2018, Alto Adige
‘Pink grapefruit zest, fresh melon, elderflower and apple, with just a hint of cinnamon and fresh aromas of white pepper and ginger,’ AM.
‘Graceful nose and refined palate. Mineral, with a hint of toast, fresh apricot and lychee, ginger and clementine juice,’ JM.
90 Marcel Hugg Reserve des Chevaliers 2018, Alsace
‘Peach, lemon and flower notes with subtle green apple aromas. On the palate it’s off-dry with enticing nectarine and chamomile flavours, ginger and honey. Very long,’ AM.
‘Candied citrus peel, white rose and delicate almond aromas. A wine with an opulent and invigorating palate, and a long, citrus-led finish,’ VR.
89 Dopff Au Moulin Terres Épicées 2018, Alsace
‘A classic nose of rose and lychee. The palate shows a lovely balance of ripe pineapple, peach and sweet spice,’ VR.
‘Fresh orange peel with light ginger and white pepper aromas. On the palate, refreshing acidity with nectarine notes,’ AM.
£15.19, Hallgarten & Novum
89 Trimbach Réserve 2013, Alsace
‘Zippy and waxy, with a clean honeyed character and aromas of chamomile, lemons and tropical fruit,’ BT-S.
‘Elegant, intensely complex aromatic structure, with notes of cream, mango, elderflower and ripe quince. It’s balanced, with flavours of crystallised tarragon and candied orange peel,’ VR.
88 Albert Mann Grand Cru Furstentum 2015, Alsace
‘The nose is led by pear, toast and a fresh mineral note, while the palate shows cream, bread crust and toast and an exuberant oily fattiness. Would be great with some spicy lamb,’ JM.
‘A subtle nose, with red apple and a bit of minerality. On the palate it’s big, with a lemon acidity,’ BT-S.
£23.10, Les Caves de Pyrene
88 Colterenzio Classico 2018, Alto Adige
‘A crisp expression, with lemon zest, white pepper and candied lime. Great acidity,’ JM.
‘Green apple, fresh green almond, lime, rosemary, nectarine, also a bit of ginger and orange blossom. Very fine,’ AM.
88 Muré Orchidées Sauvages 2017, Alsace
‘A refined, little austere style, with a certain stony character. Complex, the residual sugar works well here,’ BT-S.
‘Apple blossom, orange and peach aromas. This wine has a delicate smooth and refreshing palate and orange, lychee, rose flavours. All very well balanced,’ VR.
88 Bottega Vinai 2018, Alto Adige
‘Grapefruit zest, white peach with gentle herbal notes. Ripe nectarine on palate, with some honey, lime and guava,’ AM.
‘Deep colour, a bit austere on the nose. Fruit-led, with slightly underripe apricot, white peach and lavender. Poised, a bit nutty on the finish,’ JM.
87 Erste+Neue 2018, Alto Adige
‘Mineral and crisp, with light aromas of rose flowers and spices. Crunchy,’ BT-S.
‘Chamomile, nectarine and ginger. Refreshing citrus character on the palate with some floral and pineapple notes,’ AM.
£12.95, New Generation
87 Cave de Hunawihr 2018, Alsace
‘Classic aromas of tropical fruit, lime and elderflower. Off-dry, with ripe nectarine flavours and refreshing acidity,’ AM.
‘Clean nose and precise varietal character. Off-dry, round,’ BT-S.
86 St. Michael-Eppan 2018, Alto Adige
‘Peaches, blossom, lemon curd. Some grape spiciness on palate with exotic fruits and a touch of bitterness,’ ES.
‘A fresh expression, with light fruit aromas,’ JM.
85 Cantina Tramin 2018, Alto Adige
‘Perfumed nose with apricot and a lemony freshness that’s confirmed on the palate. The ideal aperitif-style Gewürz,’ JM.
‘Ripe apricot and lemon peel which follows on the palate, plus some candied fruit, herbal notes and lime zest on the finish,’ AM.
£13.68, Hallgarten & Novum
90 Ovum Sunnyside 2016, Oregon, USA
‘Creamy and oily but balanced and not tiring. Buttercream, cured meat, corn and peach juice on the palate, with green almond on the finish. Interesting and unusual,’ JM.
‘Perfumed, with tropical fruit, peach and light elderflower aromas. On the palate it’s riper, with nuts and candied fruit,’ AM.
£15.65, Les Caves de Pyrene
90 Stedt Arrowmatic 2016, Oregon, USA
‘Elegant honeysuckle, fresh pineapple, peach and apricot. Dry style with some herbaceous notes and a refreshing acidity,’ VR.
‘Lychee, blossom and white stone fruits with underlying toast and vanilla. Brilliant acidity,’ JM.
90 Skillogalee 2016, Clare Valley, Australia
‘Expressive fruit aromas of ripe pear, peach and tropical fruit. Rich, nutty, almondy finish,’ VR.
‘Light apple aromas with petrol and white flower notes. Tart character on the palate,’ AM.
90 Lani 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand
‘Lychee, rose, blossom, banana and pear drops. Creamy. Good varietal definition. Spicy, refreshing,’ ES.
‘Classic Gewürztraminer profile but with elegant subtlety and good sugar/acid balance,’ BT-S.
89 Te Whare Ra 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand
‘Sauvignon Blanc style: lime cordial, pear and elderflower. Bright and light but almost off-dry on the palate,’ ES.
‘Lime zest, white flowers; aromas of mango and pineapple,’ AM.
£16.90, Les Caves de Pyrene
89 Morandé One to One 2018, Casablanca, Chile
‘Citrus-led Gewürztraminer, with an interesting lemon sorbet tone that makes it very enjoyable and quaffable,’ JM.
‘Citrus, gooseberry and lemon peel. Lemon and lime on the palate with white pepper,’ AM.
89 Trisquel Aresti 2016, Curicó Valley, Chile
‘An easy drinking Gewürz with a bit of petrol and fresh lime. Light-to-medium palate,’ BT-S.
‘Herbaceous character; lemon juice and some diesel notes. High acidity,’ ES.
- Premium Italian Gewürztraminers from Alto Adige performed really well, yet overall, Alsatian wines scored better across a wider range of quality levels. Most tasters agreed that Alto Adige wines delivered value at the higher end, while entry level expressions resulted too light for their price to appeal to the average consumer.
- In comparison, New World Gewürz didn’t impress our tasters. Some found acidity levels to be inexplicably high, others noted little varietal definition or a somewhat herbaceous character reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc.
- Our tasters agreed that to make the most of its complexity and oily texture, Gewürztraminer must be served a few degrees warmer than a Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay. Appropriate temperatures range from around 11°C-12°C for rich, Alsatian Gewürz with a bit of age, down to 8°C for young Alto Adige expressions.
- Most wines, especially those from the Old World, displayed classic Gewürztraminer aromas such as rose, spices or lychee. However, they also showed a wide array of diverse nuances, which convinced our somms that Gewürztraminer is prone to express typicity.
Andre Luis Martins, The Cavalry & Guards Club
If I’m after a Gewürztraminer, then I want a Gewürztraminer. I don’t want any funkyness, any odd notes, I want tropical, lychee, mango, rose. With a little residual sugar it can work very well with spicy food, as it helps to create balance and smoothens the spices. But I also like it with fish & chips.
Jacopo Mazzeo, Imbibe
Being originally from northern Italy, I quaffed copious amounts of Gewürz in my early adulthood. Some of the more mineral, cleaner styles can be beautifully refreshing, but it’s with mature, richer expressions that the variety really shines. These can be some of the most complex and age-worthy white wines and their gastronomic potential shouldn’t be underestimated.
Valentin Radosav, Gymkhana
Before serving Gewürztraminer it’s important to understand that your guest is willing to go beyond classic boundaries, to experiment, especially for Alto Adige Gewürz as people are more accustomed to the Alsatian style. Alto Adige Gewürz represents really good value at around £18, yet it’s hard to sell those fresher expressions because at that price guests expect more weight, something richer, like what you find in Alsace.
Elena Serban, Heritage
Guests don’t know Gewürztraminer, so it’s down to sommeliers to educate them and to bring a bit more of it into their wine lists. I loved most Alsatian Gewürz and was impressed by some of the Italian interpretations, while I didn’t find sufficient varietal definition in those from the New World; some of them were more reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc.
Ben Thornton-Smith, Petersham Nurseries
Gewürztraminer is still something you have to hand sell, but more and more people across the board are becoming educated in wine, and they will want to listen to you. It’s really nice to be able to explain the differences between aromatic grape varieties and the clean, simple, neutral white that they would usually drink at home.