What is Gewürztraminer?
Gewürztraminer is easily the world’s most unpronounceable grape variety, and it also has a long and confused past. A white grape variety, it is thought to be a clone of the ancient variety Traminer (also known as Savagnin), and from the area of Tyrol in Italy. Its name came from the town of Tramin. Somewhere along the line there was a mutation to give the pink skinned berries, with marked aromatics of perfume and lychee. In fact, Gewürz is German for spicy. The variety spread along the Rhine through Austria, Germany and Alsace in France. It was in Alsace in 1870 that the Gewürz was added to the name. Alsace has remained the spiritual home of Gewürztraminer since then, although it is widely planted across Europe.
What does Gewürztraminer taste like?
Guwürtztraminer can taste differently depending on the philosophy and style of the winemaker. However, it often shows beautiful aromatics and complex aromas, ranging from rose to apricot kernel and tropical fruit. There’s also beautiful spices often evident, making it a great wine to enjoy with richer foods or those a little more spicy like Mexican, Thai or Indian.
Gewürztraminer in Australia
Although the variety is rarely seen in Australia now, it was quite widely planted, and was very popular in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, with significant plantings in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and even in Margaret River!! Alas, due to its dwindling popularity, a lot of these vines have been pulled out, or grafted to other varieties. There certainly are still wineries that champion this variety across Australia, including Piper’s Brook in Tasmania, Delatite in Mansfield Victoria and various others in the Adelaide Hills.
Margaret River Gewürztraminer
The variety was planted in Margaret River in the early days, in fact, there was a block of Gewürztraminer in the original Vasse Felix plantings of 1967. There were also good plantings at Leeuwin Estate, Sandalford, Cape Mentelle and others. In fact, I remember that my first ever job in the wine industry was hand picking Gewürztraminer at Sandalford in 1983!!
Alas, nearly all of these Margaret River plantings of Gewürztraminer have now gone, with the exception of three and a bit rows at one of these old plantings. I have been lucky enough to be able to buy these grapes from these vines planted in the mid 70’s. I usually make 2-3 barrels worth, so it is not a lot of wine.
To give me a little more stability and control over my grape resources, I chose to plant a small vineyard on our property to Gewürztraminer in 2016, with the first very small crop in 2020. This was very fortunate, as the vineyard that I used to buy the grapes from was sold in January 2020, so I was no longer able to buy these grapes. The small amount of Gewürztraminer from my own vineyard this year (about 200 litres), will go to Moonmilk White, and I will have to miss a vintage of the straight Gewürztraminer, but make no mistake, it will make a return with the 2021 vintage!!
Flowstone Gewürztraminer has striking aromas of Turkish delight, lychees, spices and rose petals. Just smelling the wine makes you think of lollies. The palate is then very textural and rich, but finishes dry. It is certainly not a subtle or delicate grape variety, but is full of substance and personality. It is a very unique wine, and one of the few made in Margaret River…I am a fan!!!