What Is Gewurztraminer Wine?

Gewurztraminer grapes

Rolf Kranz / Wikimedia Commons / CC by SA-4.0

Gewürztraminer (ga-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner) is a white wine grape originating in the Alsace region of France. It is a classic grape that likes cool climates like northeast France, Germany, and northern Italy, and is used to make a white wine of the same name. While not as well known as chardonnay and pinot grigio, it is typically very affordable and pairs well with spicy, flavorful foods. The predominant nose and flavor is lychee—a sweet, tropical fruit. It is higher in alcohol than comparable white wines.

Fast Facts

  • Regions: Alsace, Germany, Alto Adige, New York
  • Origin: Alsace, France
  • Sweetness: Semi-dry to sweet
  • Color: Light gold
  • ABV: 12–15%

Gewürztraminer vs. Moscato

Moscato is a white wine produced in northeast Italy with a similar appearance and palate to Gewürztraminer. Moscato tends to be sweet with lots of impactful fruit aromas and flavors. While Gewürztraminer is decidedly lychee-forward, Moscato exhibits honeysuckle, orange blossom, green grapes, and ripe peach. The other major differences are the wine's low alcohol level and bubbles—Moscato is frizzante (lightly sparkling). Despite their differences, the two can serve a workable substitute for each other. Look for a Moscato with a similar level of sweetness when swapping for Gewürztraminer. The white wine tends to also be priced affordably and can be paired with many of the same dishes.

Taste and Flavor Profile

The classic, tell-tale aroma of lychee is Gewürztraminer's trademark and a dead giveaway in a blind tasting. The fruity scent is sweet and lightly tropical. Smokey notes, rose petals, grapefruit, and the richer character of pineapple may all make their way into the well-woven aromatics of a great bottle of Gewürztraminer.

Gewürztraminer tends to have medium to low acidity, and while it is often made in a dry style, the dynamic aromatics and fuller mouthfeel can give a palate impression of sweetness. The exact level of sweetness will depend on the bottle, as it can be made in dry, off-dry, and sweet styles. On the palette, Gewürztraminer can exhibit flavors of ripe peach, orange, and honey, as well as the telltale lychee. Since it is a white wine made from pink grapes, it is low in tannins.

How to Taste Wine

Follow a few steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:

  1. Look: Take a good look at the wine, examining the color and opacity through the glass.
  2. Smell: Swirl your glass for 10 seconds and take a quick whiff. Then stick your nose into the wine glass for a deep inhale, taking in your first impressions of the wine.
  3. Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. Note the acidity, sugar, tannins, and alcohol content when first tasting, then move on to tasting notes (berries, spice, wood) and finally the finish.

Grapes and Wine Regions

Gewürztraminer comes from the border of France and Germany, and many of the best bottles still come from the two countries. The grapes like cold climates and clay soils, making it ideal for growing in Alsace, Germany, Alto Adige in northern Italy, Sonoma, and New York. The pink grapes are grown in the spring and summer and harvested in the fall, with some remaining on the vines longer for a sweeter, dessert-like wine.

Food Pairings

While Gewürztraminer may show a dry or sweet style, the sweeter themes tend to partner best with dishes that carry a little heat. The white wine pairs remarkably well with hot Thai or Asian dishes as well as spice-heavy Middle Eastern and Moroccan dishes. Try serving a dry or off-dry Gewürztraminer with a Moroccan chicken tagine, Thai crab curry, or Korean barbecue chicken wings. A decidedly sweet bottle complements a low-key fruit dessert such as apple strudel.

Serve Gewürztraminer well-chilled in a white wine glass. Not built to age well, drink Gewurztraminer sooner rather than later upon release.

Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips

When searching for Gewürztraminer at the store, look for smaller producers and higher quality wines rather than the cheap grocery store options. Even high-quality bottles rarely top $20 or $30 a bottle, making it an affordable option. Good Gewürztraminer can be found in wine shops and on restaurant wine lists. If you can't find it at your local shop, have them order you a few bottles or swap for a pinot grigio or Moscato.

These producers make good quality Gewürztraminer and are widely available:

  • Husch
  • Foris
  • Weis
  • Fetzer
  • Chateau St. Michelle
  • Willm
  • Gundlach Bundschu
  • Geyser Peak
  • Jean Beicher & Fils