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Side Yard Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2009
Producing some of the finest white wines in the world, Germany is one of the world’s most misunderstood winegrowing countries. Many wine consumers of a certain age will recall with amusement and a twinge of horror the sugar-laden Liebfraumilch of their formative drinking years. But today Germany is building its reputation upon fine wines at all points of the sweet to dry spectrum, the best of which can age for many decades.
The world’s northernmost region for quality wine production, Germany faces some unique viticultural challenges due to its extreme marginal climate. Fortunately for the lover of German wine, because they hover a bit under the radar, they tend to remain surprisingly affordable—for now.
Germany is best known for white wines, particularly Riesling, which is cold-hardy enough to survive very chilly winters, and has enough natural acidity to create balanced wines even at the highest levels of residual sugar. These are classified by ripeness, and can be picked early for dry wines with searing acidity, or as late as January following the harvest for lusciously sweet ice wines.
Other important white varieties include fairly neutral workhorse Müller-Thurgau as well as Grauburguner (Pinot Gris) and Weissburguner (Pinot Blanc). Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) grown in warmer pockets of the country is, at its best, elegant and structured enough to rival red Burgundy.
Gewürztraminer is an expressive and aromatically distinctive white grape variety. It is considered a noble variety in the Alsace region of France, and can produce beautiful wines in the mountainous Alto Adige region of north-eastern Italy. With the notable exception of the Anderson Valley, most regions of California are too warm for Gewürztraminer’s low potential acidity, but it has done particularly well in more northerly, cooler regions of North America such as British Columbia, Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, and New York's Finger Lakes.
In the Glass
Gewürztraminer is bold and highly aromatic, with intense flavors of lychee, rose petal, ginger, musk, exotic spice, smoke, pineapple, apricot kernel, and peach. Wines range from bone dry to quite sweet, and its naturally low acidity is offset by high levels of skin-derived phenolics, which in addition to aromatics provide weight and a good structural grip.
Gewürztraminer’s natural spiciness makes it a great ally for flavorful cuisine, such as Indian, Middle Eastern, or Moroccan fare. It is also excellent with dense, oily fish like salmon, swordfish, and mahi-mahi, and works well with a wide range of meats and charcuterie. Gewürztraminer truly shines with classic Alsatian dishes like choucroute, Quiche Lorraine, and anything egg-based.
Because of its floral perfume and tendency towards slight sweetness, Gewürztraminer makes for an excellent gateway wine. For those who have been introduced to wine through Moscato or other sweet wines, Gewürztraminer can serve as the perfect bridge towards an appreciation for dry whites.