Gewürztraminer (ɡəˈvʏrtstraˈmi:nɚ, guh-VURTS-trah-MEE-ner in English) is an aromatic wine grape variety that performs best in cooler climates. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz, and in French it is written Gewurztraminer (without the umlaut). Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a white wine grape in difference to the blue- to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as "red wine grapes". The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz (fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).
Its aromatic flavours make Gewürztraminer one of the few wines that is suitable for drinking with Asian cuisine. It goes well with Munster cheese, and fleshy, fatty (oily) wild game. Smoked salmon is a particularly good match.
The history of the Traminer family is complicated, and not helped by its rather unstable genome. The story starts with the ancient Traminer variety, a green-skinned grape that takes its name from the Italian village of Tramin (Termeno), located in the northeastern region of Alto Adige/South Tyrol. The famous ampelographer Pierre Galet thought that Traminer was identical to the green-skinned Savagnin Blanc that makes vin jaune in the Jura. More recently it has been suggested that Savagnin Blanc acquired slight differences in its leaf shape and geraniol content as it travelled to the other end of the Alps.
Frankisch in Austria, Gringet in Savoie, Heida in Switzerland, Formentin in Hungary and Grumin from Bohemia are all very similar to Savagnin Blanc and probably represent clones of the Traminer family, if not Traminer itself. The Viognier of the Rhone Valley may be a more distant relative of Savagnin Blanc.
At some point, either Traminer or Savagnin Blanc mutated into a form with pink-skinned berries, called Red Traminer or Savagnin Rose. Galet believed that a musqué ('muscat-like') mutation in the Red Traminer/Savagnin Rose then led to the extra-aromatic Gewürztraminer, although in Germany these names are all regarded as synonymous.
With these convoluted genetics happening in the area that has been the front line for a millennium of wars in Europe, it's maybe not surprising that vines have been misnamed. Given that the wine made from 'Gewürztraminer' in Germany can be much less aromatic than that in Alsace, some of the German vines may well be misidentified Savagnin Rose. The Baden vineyard of Durbach claims its own type of Red Traminer called Durbacher Clevner (not to be confused with "Klevner", an Austrian synonym for Pinot Blanc). The story goes that in 1780 Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden brought vines from Chiavenna in Italy, halfway between Tramin (Termeno) and the Jura, which was known to the Germans as Cleven.
The Klevener de Heiligenstein or Heiligensteiner Klevener found around Heiligenstein in Alsace may represent an outpost of the Durbach vines. They are often described as a less aromatic form of Gewürztraminer, which sounds just like the Red Traminer!
Traminer is recorded in Tramin from ca. 1000 until the 16th century. It was spread down the Rhine to Alsace, by way of the Palatinate where Gewürz (spice) was added to its name - presumably this was when one of the mutations happened. The longer name was first used in Alsace in 1870 - without the umlaut. It's not clear what this name change represents, as it seems too great a coincidence that the musqué mutation happened just after the arrival of the great phylloxera epidemic. More likely an existing mutant was selected for grafting onto phylloxera-resistant rootstocks when the vineyards were replanted. In 1973 the name Traminer was discontinued in Alsace except for in the Heiligenstein area.
In 1938 Harold Olmo crossed Sémillon and Gewürztraminer at U.C. Davis to make Flora, which is grown a little in California and New Zealand - in the latter it was mistaken for a late-ripening clone of Pinot Gris. Brown Bros blend it with Orange Muscat in Australia.
In 1965 Gewürztraminer was crossed with Joannes Seyve 23.416 at the University of Illinois to produce a hybrid variety called Traminette. Traminette is more cold-tolerant than the original, while maintaining most of the desirable taste and aroma characteristics.
As mentioned above, around Heiligenstein there's a grape known as Klevener de Heiligenstein, which is probably Red Traminer (Savagnin Rose) rather than a true Gewürz; the Heiligenstein wines are certainly more restrained than other Alsace Gewürztraminers.
Traminette wines are produced in the Finger Lakes region.
Auvernas Rouge, Blanc Brun, Blanc Court, Bon Blanc, Christkindeltraube, Christkindlestraube, Clevener, Clevner, Crevena Ruziva, Crovena Ruzica, Diseci Traminer, Dreimaenner, Dreimannen, Dreipfennigholz, Drumin, Drumin Ljbora, Duret Rouge, Edeltraube, Fermentin Rouge, Fleischroth, Fleischweiner, Formentin Rouge, Fourmenteau Rouge, Frencher, Fromente, Fromenteau, Fűszeres, Fűszeres Tramini, Gentil Rose Aromatique, Gentil-duret Rouge, Gentile Blanc, Gewuerztraminer, Gringet, Gris Rouge, Haiden, Kirmizi Traminer, Klaebinger, Klaevner, Kleinbraun, Kleinwiener, Livora, Livora Cervena, Mala Dinka, Marzimmer, Mirisavi Traminac, Nature, Nature Rose, Noble Rose, Nuernberger Rot, Pinat Cervena, Piros Tramini, Plant Paien, Princ Cerveny, Princt Cervena, Princt Cerveny, Ranfoliza, Rosentraminer, Rotclevner, Rotedel, Roter Nuerberger, Roter Nuernberger, Roter Traminer, Rotfranken, Rothklauser, Rothweiner, Rothwiener, Rotklaevler, Rotklaevner, Rotklevner, Rousselet, Runziva, Rusa, Ruska, Ryvola, Salvagnin, Sauvagnin, Savagnin, Savagnin Jaune, Savagnin Rosa Aromatique, Savagnin Rose, Savagnin Rose Aromatique, Savagnin Rose Musque, St. Klauser, Termeno Aromatico, Tramin Cerveny, Tramin Korenny, Traminac Crveni, Traminac Diseci, Traminac mirisavi (Croatian), Traminac Mirisavi Crveni, Traminac Sivi, Traminec, Traminer, Traminer Aromatico, Traminer Epice, Traminer Musque, Traminer Parfume, Traminer Rosa, Traminer Rose Aromatique, Traminer Rot, Traminer Rozovyi, Tramini Piros, Trammener, Fűszeres tramini (Hungarian).