In Vino Veritas: Why I Adore Gewurztraminer
By: Bianca Blanca Rioja, May 4, 2012
BIANCA BLANCA RIOJA - Born to humble grape harvesters in an oak barrel outside of Barcelona, Bianca has traveled the world performing flamenco and sampling the fruits of Bacchus' labor. While no wine is too complicated or indulgent for her, Bianca specializes in big flavor with small price tag. Vino es pasión!
Gewürztraminer is a funny German word for a spicy, great little grape. It has always been my favorite sweet spring wine to pair with Asian food. Coming all the way from the Alsace region of Germany, it’s tended to carry a higher price tag. But now California makers are offering this spirited punchy white for half the regular cost.
Gewürztraminer’s sweetness is not its only feature. The bright fruity tones are balanced with a hit of acid that delivers more depth of flavor. Whenever good friends get burned out on the sugary-sweet taste of Riesling or moscato, I slip them a Gewurztraminer. Peaches and honey explode on the tongue while wildflower aromas creep up the olfactory gland. Herbal rose water swishes against the cheeks as agave nectar coats the throat.
Gewürztraminer does sweet wine justice. No cheap, candy-like, one note white zinfandel here! This kind of multi-dimensional sweetness is a great way to expand your palate. Humans can detect sweetness in parts per trillion. So that’s why a lot of wine novices gravitate towards the sweet end of the spectrum first. There is nothing wrong with that, but each wine you try should open you up to a new sensation or experience.
Sometimes the really big bottles of sweet moscato blanket the entire palate with that sticky sweet film so the taster can get nothing else out of it. That’s really not the point. Food and wine are always paired together to enliven the senses and play off each other like an experimental jazz jam that can go anywhere.
Californian gewürztraminer is the well-behaved child of the vineyard. It grows resiliently and gracefully with little need for oversight or maintenance. After harvest, the grapes obediently graduate into wine without spending years in an oak barrel. Since this cost effective grape does most of the work the wine makers pass their savings into their consumers.
Colombia Crest is a widely available good example and of course one of my favorite wine makers, Alexander Valley Vineyards makes a bottle simply labeled “Gewürzt” that is sustainably produced to boot. Running at no more than $9 per bottle, a Californian gewürztraminer can easily make it to your table tonight with a spicy sweet potato curry or nutty pad Thai.