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. Australia does not have a lot of Gewürz vines planted, but those who are growing it are doing a great job to champion the style.
It is certainly not a subtle or delicate grape variety but is exotic, full of substance and personality with an intriguing history. Read on to get to know more about Gewürztraminer.
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.
It would not surprise lovers of fine Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer wines that a familial relationship exists between them. Gewürztraminer is a mutation of Savagnin, also known as Traminer and Savagnin is a parent of Sauvignon Blanc. Therefore, my adoration of and commitment to championing both varieties is well-founded. It’s no secret that I love making serious Sauvignon Blanc.
History of Gewürztraminer
Gewürztraminer is thought to be a clone of the ancient variety Traminer, also known as Savagnin. Named after the town of Tramin in the Tryol commune of northeast Italy, where Traminer flourishes, it is the most aromatic white wine in the world. Somewhere in its past, a mutation gave the berries a pink skin, heightened aromatics and exotic fruit notes. ”Gewurz”, meaning spicy, was added to describe these unusual and ethereal qualities.
The variety spread along the Rhine River through Austria, Germany, and Alsace in France. It was Alsace in 1870 that Gewurz was added to the name, and Alsace has remained its spiritual home.
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 had been lucky enough to purchase these grapes for several years and made two to three barrels of wine each year.
In 2016 we planted a small block on our Flowstone property in the cooler southern end of Margaret River, with the first crop in 2020. The timing was fortunate, as the vineyard from which I had purchased the grapes was sold that same year, and the grapes were no longer available. The 2020 crop became a component of Moonmilk, and a year of the Flowstone Gewürztraminer was missed; it has, however, returned with the 2021 and 2022 vintage.
Our vineyard is in the southern end of the Margaret River region, where cooling breezes from the Southern Ocean moderate late summer daytime temperatures allowing the Gewürztraminer to ripen gradually and retain the signature varietal spicy aromatics. These conditions allow the grapes to stay on the vine into the early autumn to give a little more body to the wine. The result is substantial fruit weight, allowing for a complex wine style.
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.
My role as the winemaker in making Gewürztraminer is very much custodial. Preserving and subtly embellishing what is grown in the vineyard. All our winemaking techniques, from whole fruit pressing, spontaneous fermentation in big old oak and ceramic eggs, and a lengthy maturation on lees, are simple and gentle.
This gentle approach to fine-quality fruit delivers just that. The Flowstone Gewürztraminer is my journey in discovering more about and displaying this quirky and unique variety in the Margaret River setting.
The single vineyard source of Flowstone Gewürztraminer is a mere fledgling, with the 2022 wine only the third harvest. A showcase of the exotic bouquets and silken textures of this most aromatic grape variety.
Minor tweaks to grape growing and winemaking allow me to accommodate the prevailing seasonal conditions and lessons from vintages past form part of our vintage planning. In the winery, ceramic egg-shaped vessels now companion oak puncheons for fermentation and maturation. They contribute a delicate mineral note to the wine and support our philosophy of preserving and enhancing varietal expression in wine.
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!!!
This is a wine that matches perfectly with a range of cuisines. The cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, and coriander found in Indian food are heaven paired with a glass of this exotic white wine or try a more traditional pairing, we love to drink it with Alsatian onion tart.
Try our 2022 Flowstone Gewürtztraminer
Fruit notes of quince, fig, rose petal and citrus. The palate has a light aromatic oil feel which veils the exotic mix of fruits and florals and adds a silken texture. This is a wine that you’ll keep coming back for.