Gewürztraminer - Unusual Pairings with the Alto Adige DOC

Tue, 03/11/2014 - 12:15

Let’s face it, the name “Gewürztraminer” does not necessarily instantly evoke the idea of a fine Italian wine. However, Gewürztraminer, which literally translates to the “spice carrier”, is also known as the Alto Adige DOC.

The “Gewürz”, as it is often referred to, grows best in the cool Alpine slopes and it is a rather rare grape variety with less than 20 000 acres grown world-wide. In South Tyrol, only about 10% of the vines are dedicated to it, although some of the best Gewürz comes from there. You can recognise the pink grapes as you travel around the area, especially around San Paolo, Termeno and Montaga just south of Bolzano. The clay in the soil and the exposure to the sun in these areas are an ideal environment for it.

With a high concentration in sugars, it produces a medium-dry white wine with low acidity. Its special playing card, though, is what will first hit your nose; transporting you from the cold slopes of the Alps on a trip to Asia. The aromas are almost unmistakably those of lychees. Now, I want to be clear here: these are not just the wild imaginations of wine snobs. Chemical analysis shows that typical Gewürztraminer wines share the same aromatic compounds of lychees. If you don’t quite recall what lychees taste like, think delicate but sweet rose petals. It can also veer towards grapefruits when less ripe or pineapple if very ripe.

I came across this wine in an unexpected place. We were ordering dinner at a Moroccan restaurant, and the Kossler Gewürztraminer was suggested as ideal to accompany and complement the rich spices of our dishes. They were right and it was a perfect pairing. In fact, some of the best food pairings for this wine can come from Middle Eastern or Asian cuisine. It also works quite well with the more creamy cheeses, some risottos, and makes a great aperitif wine. Ask for it and let it take you to faraway places.