What is Gewurztraminer Wine?
Gewurztraminer, often shortened to Traminer in Australia, is a green grape varietal used to make white wine. Gewurztraminer is a varietal best suited to cool climates such as those in Jura in the north of France as well as Lombardy and Friuli in the north of Italy.
Unlike much of the knowledge surrounding the grape, Traminer translation is straightforward, it means ‘from Tramin.’ The grape varietal comes from the Tramin region of South Tyrol in the north of Italy. Formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South Tyrol borders with Austria, hence the distinctly German sounding name of Gewurztraminer.
There are many names for the Traminer grape varietal as well as the many mutations that have occurred over the centuries. This has lead to much confusion in identifying the various grapes in regions around the world. James Busby, the father of Australian wine, brought Savagnin du Jura vines to Australia in the 1830s. The vines in Jura are called Savagnin rather than Traminer, but may be the same varietal with variance in grape colour.
Common Gewurztraminer Wine characteristics
Traminer is a fragrant wine. Aromas of rose petals, lychee and spice are up front. The more aromatic, pink grape varieties are known for their aromatic qualities. On the palate there will be orange, lychee and stone fruit heading towards pineapple with some extra ripening of the grapes.
Pairing food with Gewurztraminer Wine
Traminer has a bit more conviction than other cool-climate white wines such as Pinot Grigio. As such, it can stand up to more rich or complex foods while still retaining versatility. Spicy cuisines such as Chinese, Mexican or Indian will match Traminer very well with the sweetness of the wine balancing the zing of the spice. Mild sausages or a plain terrine will work well as will a fruit salad. With a bit of care and attention from the winemaker, a Traminer will have guts to handle the intense earthiness of truffles.
Notable Gewurztraminer Wine regions
The cold climate wine growing regions in Australia suit the growing of Traminer vines. The Macedon Ranges in Victoria has soil and climate conditions alike those of Jura in the northeast of France. The Delatite winery produces a great example of Victorian Gewurztraminer. The cool climates of New South Wales produce excellent Gewurztraminer, Huntington Estate in Mudgee and Capercaillie in the Hunter Valley produce examples of these. Popular Gewurztraminer from Spring Vale in southern Tasmania and Pipers Brook northern Tasmania are further examples of the winemaking that is reshaping the reputation of the island.
Jura in the east of France borders the sub-Alpine Jura Mountains of Switzerland. Jura is a cold-climate region and is known for growing Traminer, known locally as Savagnin, as well as Chardonnay. Jura is perhaps most well known for a sweet, sherry-like wine called Vin Jaune or ‘yellow wine’. The region is close to the historic region of Burgundy, famous for wines of the same name.
The future Gewurztraminer Wine
The complexities surrounding the Traminer grape varietal and its many other names makes it difficult to market when wine lovers are looking for one and find another. The correct identification of Traminer, Gewurztraminer or Savagnin in Australia may mean more education of the public and relabeling for wines. However, with the Australian market continuing to develop tastes beyond big red wines and fun-loving white wines, further opportunities may arise to look for complexity and balance in their wines.