Imagine if you were able to create a wine in a test tube. What characteristics would it have?
Hmm… Let’s start with an aroma that’s engagingly floral, perhaps with a hint of sweet spice and a note that would differentiate it from all other wines — let’s go with lychee!
Flavor-wise, that spice impression should carry over to the palate, joined by some stone or citrus fruit flavors. And on the “sugar scale,” we’d want to be able to make it bone dry, off-dry, semi-sweet or very sweet.
Beginning to sound like a mad scientist’s impossible delusion? Well, no test tube is necessary; such a wine already exists. And the only reason you may not have heard of it is its impossible-to-pronounce name: Gewurztraminer.
So let’s get that challenge out of the way immediately: guh-VERTS-truh-mee-ner. Or, if you prefer, just say, “guh-VERTS.”
Rare, indeed, is a wine that can be made in so many styles. That’s a wonderful thing, but it also can be a bit confusing because a bone-dry rendition is quite distinct from a super-sweet, dessert-style Gewurztraminer.
That said, the wide stylistic spectrum is accompanied by endless food-pairing possibilities — from spicy Asian fare with dry Gewurztraminer, to fruit-based desserts with sweet Gewurztraminer.
The variety’s historic home is Germany’s Pfalz region, but its modern hub is France’s Alsace area, where the bottlings can be, to use a scientific term, mind-blowing. The dry versions are crisp and clean, ideal for drinking with wiener schnitzel, spicy Asian dishes, or Tex-Mex fare. The wines made in a sweet style are lush and honeyed, and deserve to be sipped and savored solo. They don’t just go with dessert, they are dessert. And those that split the difference — be they off-dry or semi-sweet — are absolutely perfect for the Thanksgiving table and its wide array of food flavors and textures.
In addition to Alsace, outstanding Gewurztraminer is made in California — particularly in Sonoma County and along the Central Coast — and in Washington’s Columbia Valley.
Although it may be easier to sneeze than pronounce, Gewurztraminer is a wine variety well worth trying.