The Bayern Munich of Forgotten Grapes
Today, in addition to talking wine, we’re also talking soccer. Football. Fußball. The beautiful game. And Bayern Munich are easily the biggest, most popular, and most successful football club to come out of Germany. Likewise, Gewúrztraminer is easily the biggest, most popular, and most successful white wine grape to come out of Germany. In the 55 years they have played in the Bundesliga (the top professional league of German football), Bayern have won the league championship an astonishing 22 times and finished runner up nine times. They are clearly the dominant team of Germany. Likewise, Gewürztraminer could also be considered the dominant white grape of Germany (step aside, Riesling), and if there were league championships contested among the finest wine grapes in the country, we’re sure Gewürztraminer would have as many, if not more, trophies than Bayern.
But the connections between Gewurztraminer and Bayern Munich go beyond just the popularity and achievements of each. While German football is traditionally known for its precision and workmanlike performances, Bayern has always been a team that has worn its talent and flair on its sleeve, fielding superstar teams and playing an attractive game while others mired in ruthlessly efficient defense and possession. Gewurztraminer is a wine that also wears its flair on its sleeve, or in this case on its bouquet: highly perfumed with aromas of lychee and spices (in fact, the “Gewurz” portion of Gewurztraminer actually translates to “spiced.”). Most of the top wine producers produce Gewurztraminer wines of some sort, and unlike other German whites, Gewurztraminers can be aged for long periods of time, upwards of ten years, and improve in the bottle thanks to the higher natural sugar content in the grapes before fermentation.
Interestingly, much like how football (or fußball, as they call it) has become the national sport of Germany and a sport they dominate at despite the sport originating somewhere else entirely (in this case, England), Gewurztraminer is a grape that while flourishing in Germany, was originally born in Italy, in the northeast Tyrol/Alto Adiage region that shares a border with Austria. This may explain Gewurztraminer’s need for cool climates to fully ripen and express itself.
It should also be pointed out that much like how Germany and Brazil dominate the World Cup every four years (little known fact: either Germany or Brazil has been a part of every World Cup final except for four), Germany shares its Gewurztraminer glory with its neighbor to the west France, where Gewurztraminer is the second-most-grown grape in the much disputed Alsatian region (a section of France the Germans have often thought was part of their own).
However, on top of all this, there’s one truly defining factor that conjoins Bayern Munich and Gewurztraminer together, one factor that goes beyond their worldwide popularity, their inherent Germanness, even beyond the quality both exhibit on a regular basis.
It is that both can be enjoyed either with or without an umlaut.
So whether you consider yourself a fan of Bayern Munich or Bayern München, or whether you pick up a bottle of Gewurztraminer or Gewürztraminer, you can always have the confidence of knowing that what you’re getting is the best Germany has to offer. In either football or wine.
How do I pronounce Gewürztraminer
Gewürztraminer Looks Like:
Like many of the German white wines Gewurztraminer can have a very pale yellow to almost clear or sometimes greenish tint to it. In the case of Gewurztraminer, it can also emulate the cooler Alsatian style of wines and have an almost gray color to it. This grayness comes from the fact that Gewurztraminer grapes actually have a pinkish skin to them, as opposed to the greenish skins of Pinot Blanc, Silvaner, and other Germanic grapes. Even though the juice is typically pressed out of the skins and pulp immediately and afforded no contact (thus disallowing any off-coloration) some tint may still get into the juice, which is why some Gewurztraminers will possess a particular gray color to them. The typical rule of thumb is, the colder the climate, the paler the wine will be, as grapes use darker colored skins to help protect themselves from the sun and heat.
Gewürztraminer Smells Like:
We mentioned the perfumed bouquet to a Gewurztraminer that is its tell-tale mark: a nose full of primarily lychees but also roses, orange blossom, exotic and tropical fruits, and sometimes even sweet nuts like macadamia. There should also be a distinct spiciness to the wine’s nose, not spicy as in jalapeno and habanero spicy, but spicy as in nutmeg and coriander and rosemary. Interestingly, the nose may be the hardest thing to develop on a Gewurztraminer. If the grapes are picked too late (and they are grapes that require a long ripening period–hence the need for cooler climates–then the nose can end up underdeveloped and the wine will lose most of its signature bouquet.
Gewürztraminer Tastes Like:
It is in the flavor department where Gewurztraminers truly differ from their other German and Alsatian white grape brothers and sisters. Where most German/Alsatian whites have a firm, minerally crispness to them, Gewurztraminers tend to be softer, rounder wines in the mouth, still with a good acidic base but embraced by a creaminess, an almost velvety texture. Flavorwise, the taste leans toward soft, creamy lemon flavors, like lemon yogurt, lemon chiffon, or lemon birthday cake. Even dry Gewurztraminers tend to have sweeter flavors to them due to the grapes having a higher sugar content. This DOES NOT mean that there is any residual sugar in these wines, only that the fermented juice, while being 100% dry and devoid of sugar, just has a natural sweet flavor to it. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe!
● France's Alsace
● All over California, Oregon, and Washington
● Finger Lakes Region of New York
● Canada, especially the Okanagan
● Italy's Alto Adiage region
● The Czech Republic
● Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Croatia
Cindy’s “Did Juneau?”:
Okay, so let’s get to the bottom of this umlaut thing once and for all. Gewurztraminer or Gewürztraminer? Which is the proper one to use? The answer: well, we really don’t know. In Germany and Austria, the umlaut is out in full effect on every bottle produced. However, you drive across the French border and that umlaut just disappears into oblivion – not a single dot to be seen above any U, let alone two. When you journey across the Atlantic? It goes both way. We have found Oregon and California wineries that don’t use the umlaut and ones that do. So unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to determine when to use the umlaut and when not to (except for that Germany thing). Apparently, umlaut is in the eye of the beholder.
The classic pairing with a Gewurztraminer is anything spicy and with Asian flavors, such as Thai food. But to switch things up, let’s go with a different kind of spicy: how about a more Southwestern spicy with a Gewurz. Take Asian spring roll wraps, grilled chicken, some Jack cheese, avocado and jalapenos. Roll those up and give them a quick fry. The good solid citrus-flavored acids of the Gewurztraminer will counter the savory mellowness of the chicken and cheese, and the wine’s same lemony citrus flavor will really cut through the heat of the jalapeno nicely. Plus, Gewurztraminer is one of the best pairings with avocado I’ve ever tasted. Similar soft pillowy mouth feel, but with enough acid to cut through the oily meatiness of the avocado.
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