Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Gewurztraminer: My New Favorite Wine!
by Jonathon Alsop
May 2000

For years I resisted its weirdness. Now it's my favorite. How did that happen?

A few nights ago, some friends were over, and I returned from the cellar carrying a couple of bottles of gewurztraminer, my new favorite white wine. "G'vertz anybody?" I said. Their faces fell. "Not the one with the wet dog smell, we all hated that one!" my friends whined. "Or the one that smelled like my Auntie Grace," my wife pleaded. "Not that one again."

"C'mon," I begged, "you have to give it a chance. You guys don't... understand." And I realized suddenly that this wine brought out the adolescent in me. I had fallen in love with gewurztraminer, and now I had a girlfriend none of my other friends could stand. Perfect.

Gewurztraminer comes mostly from Alsace, the most Germanic part of France. "Gewurz" is German for spice, and this grape is definitely spicy; it's famous for being fruity and fresh and highly perfumed, smelling like wildflowers, rose water and lilacs all at once. The fruit part is usually light, sometimes tropical, sometimes like pear and melon, often with a good strong acidity.

I confess: there's also this funky, earthy, slightly animal part of gewurztraminer -- the part my friends don't like. It's only one layer of flavor, but it's a very important one that many wine lovers cannot get beyond.

Believe me, I have sympathy for my friends and family who are going through this gewurztraminer phase with me. The first time I tasted gewurztraminer, it reminded me of a little terrier dog that had just jumped out of a suburban swimming pool that had way too much chlorine in it. Ten years later, it's my favorite white wine.

G'vertz is like modern art, or an obscure Steely Dan album: give it 15 or 20 listens, and you're going to love it.

Tasting Notes:

1998 Ziegler Gewurztraminer ($8, Trader Joe's): A winner in the under $10 race. Floral and fresh tasting, a little sweet.

1998 Pelee Island Gewurztraminer ($10, Vines in Newton and others): The second-best north American example I've tasted comes from Canada near Niagara Falls, and it's a bargain.

1998 Vineland Gewurztraminer ($10, Vines and others): The best north American example I've tasted comes from Canada near Niagara Falls, and I see a pattern developing.

1998 Sipp Mack Gewurztraminer ($12, Brookline Liquor Mart): Extreme concentration of tropical fruit flavors make this wine memorable.

1997 Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer ($12, Trader Joe's and others): Nicely bracing acidity and lots of fruit flavor.

1998 Willm Gewurztraminer ($12, Marty's and others): Very creamy and smooth, smells like rose water and ripe pears.

1999 Huia Gewurztraminer ($13, Marty's and others): An exciting find from New Zealand with tremendous tropical fruit and soaring perfume. My favorite favorite.

1998 Rene Schmidt Gewurztraminer ($13, Brookline Liquor Mart and others): Light, bright and refreshing, this is a great summer wine served cold as beer.

1998 Trimbach Gewurztraminer ($15, available everywhere): A classic g'vertz from a classic winemaking family, this has it all. Great fruit concentration, rich spicy aromas, persistent flavors, it is top of the class.

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