Gewürztraminer is not the first grape variety in wine lovers' minds when considering quality wines. It may not, appear in a wine lovers' list of distinguished white varieties. It lies well outside the 'Top 10' list of the world's most widely planted white grapes (Airén, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano Toscano, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Macabeo Cayetana Blanca, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat à Petits Grains) . Indeed its position in the charts is a lowly No. 29 . The variety has aroma and flavour profiles that are distinctive, loud and overtly aromatic. It is not to everybody's taste, and not always to mine. I well recall my then girlfriend projecting a mouthful of 'Christine' across the tasting room at Buitenverwachting in Constantia when I pronounced the 'G' Gewurztraminer as having the overwhelming rosewater and cologne scents of a Turkish brothel. Put simply, Gewürztraminer wines can be very blousy. The variety can be low in acidity, impacting not only wine balance, but also ageability.
However, many of the perceived issues with Gewürztraminer come down to the variety being grown in the wrong place. On suitable sites the aromas can be delicate with tones of roses, lychee and the spiciness of cloves and nutmeg. It, unlike Chardonnay and Sauvignon, can produce all styles of wine from bone dry to ultra-sweet. The wines can be brilliant with foods where other varieties fail. Asian, Thai, Japanese and other Pacific Rim foods spring to mind. Sydney is one of the food capitals of the world, with many restaurants serving incomparable Pacific Rim food, but the variety is often overlooked on wine lists. For example Quay Restaurant is renowned. The wine list comprises over 200 whites, with an impressive list of Rieslings but, at the time of writing, there is only one dry (100%) Gewürztraminer and one late-harvest available.
Gewürztraminer has been grown in the Tramin area for over a thousand years. Indeed the area is the cradle of the variety. Some of the vineyards surrounding Tramin are perfect. Gewürztraminer likes clay soils and the clay-limestone sites excel. Limestone helps create a vibrant acidity. The Epokale vineyards are at an altitude of 420 - 440 metres. Here, the Ora (a warm wind from Lake Garda) encounters local mountain breezes. The result is a particular Alpine-Mediterranean microclimate. The grapes ripen fully in the 300 or so days of sunshine a year.
A very detailed research paper, using dater from Cantina Tramin's vineyards has just been published: 'Terroir Traceability in Grapes, Musts and Gewürztraminer Wines from the South Tyrol Wine Region' .