If you’re ready to move beyond Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, then I’d like to introduce you to Gewürztraminer (pronounced guh-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner), one of my favorite grapes.
Gewürztraminer makes dry to off-dry, aromatic white wines that smell like lychee and spice. Originally from Germany, Gewürztraminer today grows widely in Alsace, France. Pair Gewürztraminer with soft cheeses, sweet roasted vegetables, herbed meats, or even as an aperitif. Serve chilled.
Here’s what you need to know about Gewürztraminer wine.
- Where Is Gewurztraminer Made?
- Is it Gewürztraminer or Gewurztraminer?
- Is Gewürztraminer a highly acidic wine?
- Is Gewürztraminer High in Alcohol?
- Is Gewürztraminer a dry wine?
- Is Gewürztraminer a Light Wine?
- Do You Drink Gewürztraminer Chilled?
- When should I drink Gewürztraminer?
- What Food Goes Well with Gewürztraminer?
- Does Gewürztraminer Wine Age Well?
- Is Gewürztraminer the Same as Riesling?
- Is Gewürztraminer a Chardonnay?
- Is Gewürztraminer Similar to Pinot Grigio?
- Why Would You Choose Gewürztraminer?
- Final Thoughts – Gewurztraminer Wine Challenge You Can Do
- Thirsty for More?
Where Is Gewurztraminer Made?
Despite its Germanic name and origin, the Alsace region of France is most closely associated with Gewürztraminer wine production. Situated in the rainshadow just east of the Voges mountains, Alsace enjoys a sunny, dry climate perfect for the Gewürztraminer grape. The high latitude helps keep the grapes cool at night, prolonging the growing season and allowing Gewürztraminer to fully ripen.
You’ll still find high-quality German Gewurztraminer as well as Gewurztraminer made in California. Look for bottles from Mendocino, Monterey, and Sonoma Counties.
Is it Gewürztraminer or Gewurztraminer?
Gewürztraminer with the ü if you’re using the German name. Gewurztraminer if you’re using the French spelling.
Is Gewürztraminer a highly acidic wine?
No, Gewürztraminer isn’t acidic. One of the unusual qualities of Gewürztraminer is that it has relatively low acid for a white wine. Growers need to leave the grape on the vines late into the season to make sure that the fruit’s flavors fully develop. A side effect of this long hang time is lower levels of acid in Gewürztraminer. The acid level naturally falls the riper the grape gets.
Think of the difference between an underripe strawberry and a fully ripe strawberry. The underripe strawberry has more acid and is tarter.
The same thing goes for grape growing: The longer the growing season, the lower the acid.
One challenge that winemakers have with Gewürztraminer is that they need to pick the grapes when fully ripe, but still make sure there’s sufficient acid. Overly ripe Gewürztraminer grapes can make flabby wines that tastes blah in your mouth.
Is Gewürztraminer High in Alcohol?
Gewürztraminer isn’t high in alcohol, but typically has medium alcohol levels. Here’s the alcohol level on a few bottles Gewürztraminer:
- Mendocino, California Gewürztraminer: 13.9% ABV
- Monterey, California Gewürztraminer: 12.6% ABV
- Alsace, France Gewürztraminer 13.6% to 14% ABV
Note: Anything above 14% is considered high alcohol.
Is Gewürztraminer a dry wine?
Gewürztraminer is almost always dry or off-dry. The level of sweetness, or residual sugar, in your Gewürztraminer will depend on the winemaker.
Gewürztraminer can be made into late harvest, lusciously sweet dessert wines called vendange tardive (literally ‘late harvest’). You’ll only find Gewürztraminer dessert wines at specialty wine shops.
Tip: Figuring out what wines are sweet and what wines are dry can be a headache. Check out this helpful post on why some wines are sweet and how to read wine labels for sweetness clues.
Is Gewürztraminer a Light Wine?
Gewurztraminer isn’t your typical light white wine. Unlike a spritely Pinot Grigio or a zippy Albarino, Gewurztraminer’s low acid gives this wine more weight in your mouth.
Gewurztraminer will feel like a Viognier in terms of body. Roll the wine around your mouth and feel its weight on your tongue.
Do You Drink Gewürztraminer Chilled?
Yes, drink your Gewürztraminer chilled just like you would other white wines. Stick your Gewurztraminer wine in your fridge before drinking and chill to 38℉ to 45℉ (7℃). What does this mean in the real world?
You can serve Gewürztraminer directly from the fridge or take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for 15-20 minutes before serving. If you serve Gewurztraminer at a slightly warmer temperature (closer to 45℉), the aromas will be more powerful.
Helpful Tip: Check out this quick post on how chilling white wine works – and how you don’t want to over-chill your wine. Eegads! That would be tragic!
When should I drink Gewürztraminer?
Thanks to Gewürztraminer’s intoxicating aromatics, you can drink Gewürztraminer as a delightful aperitif or cocktail wine all on its own or chose to pair it with a meal.
Don’t cellar your Gewürztraminer.
Gewürztraminer is a wine that you want to drink soon after you buy it. If you have a choice between a newer vintage of Gewürztraminer or an older vintage of Gewürztraminer at your local wine shop, go with the newer vintage.
What Food Goes Well with Gewürztraminer?
Gewürztraminer’s pungent aromatics make it a perfect accompanist to salads, herb-roasted meats, and soft cheeses.
Here are some of the best Gewürztraminer wine pairings to get you started:
- Quiche lorraine
- Salty cheeses: Muenster, Gruyere, Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Gouda
- Black truffle sauces
- Clam chowder
- Chicken soup
- Thai curry
- Asian fusion
- Grilled vegetables
Helpful Tip: If you’re just getting started out with wine, I put together this helpful overview of food with wine pairing to get you started. Side note – I spend just as much time thinking about food with wine pairing as I do deciding what I’m going to eat every night. Utter hedonism. What can I say?
Does Gewürztraminer Wine Age Well?
Gewürztraminer wines aren’t intended for extended aging. Drink your Gewürztraminer within 3 years of bottling. Flavor concentration, acid, and alcohol help wines age gracefully.
Gewürztraminer has flavor concentration but lacks the acid and alcohol that act as preservatives for the wine. Some high-end Gewürztraminer wines may be able to hold longer.
Helpful Tip: If you’re at the wine shop and you have the choice between an older Gewurz or a younger Gewurz, go with the younger bottle.
Is Gewürztraminer the Same as Riesling?
Gewürztraminer and Riesling aren’t the same. Gewurztraminer has more body, lower acid, and spice than Riesling. Riesling will always be high acid. Both white wines are aromatic but expect lychee and spice in Gewürztraminer and citrus, jasmine, and petrol in Riesling.
A side-by-side comparison: Gewürztraminer vs. Riesling
- Color: Expect your Gewürztraminer to have a slight pink tinge to it. Riesling will be water white or pale yellow.
- Sweetness: Gewürztraminer will be dry to off-dry. Riesling comes in a range of sweetness levels – bone dry to lusciously sweet.
- Acid: Gewürztraminer will be lower acid and Riesling will be very high acid and make your mouth water.
- Aromas: Gewürztraminer will have lychee and spice and be very aromatic. Riesling will have citrus, jasmine, and petrol and will also be very aromatic.
- Body: Gewürztraminer will feel rounder and fuller in your mouth thanks to its lower acid. Riesling will be light to medium bodied.
Which Is Sweeter Gewürztraminer or Riesling?
Off-dry and sweet Rieslings are more common than off-dry and sweet Gewürztraminer. But don’t be fooled, both Gewürztraminer and Riesling can be sweet. Make sure you read the label if you’re looking for a sweeter wine. Lower alcohol levels (under 11% ABV) in both wines can be a clue that they are made in an off-dry or sweet style.
If you want a crisp, linear wine, choose a Riesling. If you want a rounder wine with a softer feel, then choose a Gewurztraminer.
Is Gewürztraminer a Chardonnay?
Gewürztraminer isn’t a Chardonnay. Gewürztraminer wines are fuller bodied with lower acid and aromatic notes of spice and lychee.
Chardonnay wines are medium bodied, more acid (crisper), and less aromatic, forefronting apple, citrus, and stone fruits.
(Here’s a full post on Chardonnay wines.)
A side-by-side comparison: Gewürztraminer vs. Chardonnay
- Color: Expect your Gewürztraminer to have a slight pink tinge to it. Chardonnay will be straw yellow or gold.
- Sweetness: Gewürztraminer will be dry to off-dry. Chardonnay will almost always be dry.
- Acid: Gewürztraminer will be lower acid and Chardonnay will be medium to high acid
- Aromas: Gewürztraminer will have lychee and spice and be very aromatic. Chardonnay will have apple, citrus, and stone fruits and be less aromatic.
- Body: Gewürztraminer will feel rounder and fuller in your mouth thanks to its lower acid. Chardonnay may be full- or medium-bodied if from a cooler climate.
Is Gewürztraminer Similar to Pinot Grigio?
Even though Gewürztraminer and Pinot Grigio are both white wines, they are very different. Gewürztraminer wines are fuller bodied with lower acid and aromatic notes of spice and lychee. Pinot Grigio wines are light wines with higher acid and apple and citrus notes. Gewürztraminer will be much more aromatic than Pinot Grigio.
Here’s a full post on Pinot Grigio.
Gewurztraminer vs. Pinot Grigio: A Side-by-Side Comparison
|Low to moderate tannins
|Lychee, rose petals, tropical fruits
|Citrus, pear, green apple
|Medium-bodied, sometimes oily texture
|Light-bodied, crisp and refreshing
|Best consumed young
|Best consumed young
|Spicy Asian cuisine, rich cheeses, roasted poultry
|Seafood, salads, light pasta dishes
|Italy, Germany, California
|Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, Alsace Grand Cru
|Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Friuli Pinot Grigio
|13% – 15% ABV
|12% – 13.5% ABV
|Affordable to moderate
|Affordable to moderate
- Color: Expect your Gewürztraminer to have a slight pink tinge to it. Pinot Grigio will be water white or straw yellow.
- Sweetness: Gewürztraminer will be dry to off-dry. Pinot Grigio will almost always be dry.
- Acid: Gewürztraminer will be lower acid and Pinot Grigio will be higher acid.
- Aromas: Gewürztraminer will have lychee and spice and be very aromatic. Pinot Grigio will have apple and citrus fruit, and be less aromatic.
- Body: Gewürztraminer will feel rounder and fuller in your mouth thanks to its lower acid. Pinot Grigio will be light-bodied.
Why Would You Choose Gewürztraminer?
If you love aromatic perfumed white wine, then Gewürztraminer’s waiting for you! These are delicious, versatile wines that you can drink year-round with a range of rich cuisines or even all on their own on a lazy afternoon.
Final Thoughts – Gewurztraminer Wine Challenge You Can Do
Ready for the Gewürztraminer challenge? Here’s a fun side-by-side lineup:
- 1 Bottle of Pinot Grigio Della Venezia (inexpensive Italian Pinot Grigio)
- 1 Bottle of Kabinett Riesling
- 1 Bottle of Gewürztraminer
Pour and drink the wines in this order. Enjoy!
Thirsty for More?
I’ve been doing at-home wine tasting for over a decade with friends, but it took me a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. If you’re just getting into wine, do it yourself wine tastings are a great way to explore wine with others. Check out this helpful post to get you started with your own home wine tasting.