Gewürztraminer (guh-VERT-strah-mee-nr) from the Alsace region of France is this week’s pick! For those that love sweeter wines, here’s your chance, and for those that are opposed, maybe learning some food pairing options will change your way of thinking!
The reason I specified Alsace is because it is the only well known region that widely produces this variety, and has done so successfully for decades. Some areas have even earned the designation of Grand Cru (the most prestigious designation for French Wines) from French Appellation officials. Alsace consists of a thin strip of land that extends 75 miles along the French/German border in the Vosges Mountains. The soil types and cold climate of the region are perfect for growing Gewürztraminer. The aforementioned Grand Cru designated areas are all sloped parcels of land. The region has a complicated geologic history that is responsible for the array of soil types on these slopes, which can be tasted in the wines.
Wine growing here has an extremely long history, even fossilized evidence, from before mankind inhabited the area. A majority of these vines were eventually destroyed as a result of glacial activity. The few surviving stragglers came back in time for the Roman Conquest by 58 BC, which brought farming practices to the region. Wine production has waxed and waned since these early accounts. Over the centuries, it has faced the same tribulations as many other regions in the area, including phylloxera, but it has added difficulty with its close proximity to Germany. The region of Alsace has changed nationality 4 times since 1870. The first was a result of of the Franco-Prussian war and the third was when Alsace fell to Nazi Germany in 1940. After each change, Alsace would eventually return to France. While French is the most common language spoken here, Alsatian (a German dialect similar to Swiss German) and German are also very common in this area.
For this week’s pairing, I selected Thai Duck curry, but a ham and gruyere grilled cheese sandwich with roasted onions and jalapeno jam would be amazing also! Gewürztraminer is a wonderfully aromatic wine that commonly has notes of ginger and lychee, in addition to an innate sweetness. These components make it ideal for Indian or Thai curry dishes. I decided on duck because the acidity in the wine would downplay with fat in the dish. The sweet and spice also are a lovely duo. If you are hoping for a sweeter wine to pair with dessert, seek out a bottle that says ‘vendage tartives’ or late harvest. This incrementally sweeter version would be wonderful with Indian papaya pudding. When I poured a glass of the bottle I selected, it was a rich golden brassy hue with watery legs. Upon smelling it, it has obvious notes of honeysuckle, ginger, candied orange, meyer lemon, wet slate, mango and papaya. The acidity tones the sweetness, which balances the wine nicely. The lees aging allows for notes of toasted english muffin, along with honeysuckle, gardenia, pineapple, lychee, and wet slate. This fuller bodied wine lingers on the palate, begging for you to take another taste! I understand those that are dismissive of sweet white wines, but the complexity of Gewürztraminer in addition to the vast array of food pairings makes it far more approachable!