Gewürztraminers galore

Col-head-ZalkinToo often, sweet wines suffer from a bad reputation. Gewürztraminers in particular acquired an ill repute thanks to careless producers making wines with the hefty sugar content of a dessert wine, but none of the complexity.

When done well, however, Gewürztraminer can be surprising and lovely. The best ones are wonderfully complex, boasting a full, silky body, notes of rosewater and lychee and a lingering finish of black tea, bergamot, and other bitter citrus to offset the underlying sweetness. And not all Gewürztraminers are sweet. They are also made in dry and off-dry styles, though with these, one must be wary of vintners who are so overzealous in their quest for dryness that the resulting wine is starchy and unpalatable.

Despite its Germanic name, Gewürztraminer originated in France. Some of the finest examples are still made there in the grand cru vineyards of Alsace. Lucky for us, there are wonderful wines being made much closer to home, in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York. Gewürztraminer is a temperamental grape: Pick it too early and the flavors are tart or bitter, too late, and you wind up with a wine that’s flabby and dull.

The key is the cold climate, which lengthens the ripening time, without allowing the grapes to grow too large and sweet.

It is generally aged one or two years and improves with further aging. Its sweetness is a boon when paired with spicy foods, with the sugar tempering the heat in the same manner a soda seems so quenching after a bite of something spicy. It goes well with fatty pork, duck, or ripe, soft cheese and shines next to dishes with complex spices, or Middle Eastern desserts that aren’t too sweet and contain flavors of almond and rosewater, echoing those notes in the wine.

Here are a few featured Gewurztraminer wines for your enjoyment:

• Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer. A restrained classic from the Finger Lakes. It’s a fine example of what New York state has to offer by the vineyard started by the father of the Finger Lakes wine industry.

• Willm Gewurztraminer. From Gewürztraminer’s ancestral home in Alsace, a golden yellow wine with an intense aroma and notes of pineapple and passion fruit. Light on the palate, with a peppery finish.

• Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer. Lush and floral, with a light acidity for balance. Blended with a touch of muscat for notes of pepper and spice, this year’s current vintage was considered a superior year for Columbia Valley GVs, so snap this one up while you can.

You can find all of these delightful Gewurztraminer wines for purchase at our store, Old Greenwich Fine Wines, at 195 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, or visit our website When you stop in, we invite you to taste a number of our favorite wines while we help you find the right bottle for your palate.


Robert Zalkin is the owner of Old Greenwich Fine Wines at 195 Sound Beach Avenue. His column will be available weekly at

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