Tasting wine: Gewürztraminer good holiday white wine

We’re in the season of red wine, but turkey and various holiday foods also go well with some white wines, notably gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer is one of these grapes that people love or hate. There is little in between, but when you have it with certain foods even gewürz cynics can be pleasantly surprised.

Markedby a rose petal, lychee nut, spicy, apricot perfume, gewürztraminer is the most recognizable and aromatically distinct white-wine grape. It has more body than riesling in general but less acid. It can be fermented dry or it can be made into an off-dry or very sweet wine.

Gewürztraminer is an offspring of traminer, a grape that was first recognized in Alto Adige in the Middle Ages, though its origins may be from Greece. Today, it is grown in cool climates throughout Europe, including Alto Adige, Alsace and parts of Germany. It also does well in Anderson Valley, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and Washington. It goes very well with the rich cuisines of northern Europe, but also works wonders with Asian food, Indian curry in particular.

The nice thing about Gewürztraminer is that you can find a good one and not spend a whole lot of dough. There is a range of course, but even at the high end the value is often there as the grape is not as sought after as chardonnay and other white wines.

Here are three dynamite examples from different countries to check out. Enjoy.

Seebrich Gewürztraminer Spätlese, “Niersteiner Orbel,” 2005

(Rheinhessen, Germany):

Located in the town of Nierstein, the Seebrich family has been making wine for more than two centuries. Nierstein has a unique “roterhang,” a geological formation of red-slate soil that promotes a juicy, fruity quality in the wines without undermining the minerality. This wine has a bit of residual sugar but is very well balanced and offers an array of lychee, tea and honeydew flavors.

Suggested retail: $18

Cantina Cortaccia Gewürztraminer, “Cantal,” 2006

(Alto Adige, Italy):

Made from a single vineyard at an elevation of over 1,500 feet, this wine from Cortaccia has spice, lychee and rose petals, all signature characteristics of the grape, with an underlying minerality and surprisingly high acid.

Suggested retail: $30

Lazy Creek Vineyards Sparkling Gewürztraminer, 2006

(Anderson Valley, California):

Josh and Mary Beth Chandler purchased Lazy Creek in 1999. I have been a fan of these wines since the early 1990s and was a little nervous at first that the new ownership might change things around, but the wines have remained as well made and tasty as they have ever been. With a little fizz, a drop of residual sugar and aplethora of honey, apricot and lychee nuts, this is a delicious treat.

Suggested retail: $29

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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