The first crocuses of the season inspired us to search for gewurztraminer, a floral-scented white wine. Young lettuces, asparagus, ramps, and chervil are on the menu and we were looking for wine that complements the early offerings of spring. Two spirited examples — one from the Old World and one from the New — showcase a grape with a long name. You’ve probably seen the bottles: They typically have a long neck, and many wines of this type are made in Germany and Alsace, the easternmost region of France that borders Germany.
Winemaker Elena Walch makes a lovely gewurztraminer, Elena Walch “Kastelaz” Gewurztraminer Alto Adige, from her Kastelaz vineyard in Alto Adige, Northern Italy, just south of the Austrian border. She maintains that the gewurztraminer grape actually originates in her region.
Gewurztraminer is a pink-skinned varietal that yields luscious wines, many of which sport a golden hue, with characteristic aromas of rose petals and lychee fruit. The grape name is a bear to spell, but the varietal makes beguiling pours in the hands of the right producers. “The birthplace of gewurztraminer is thought to be the village of Tramin in Alto Adige,” Walch writes in an e-mail, explaining that the grape name translates to “spicy Tramin,” referring to the original varietal Traminer from which gewurztraminer evolved.
Walch thinks that the most challenging part of producing a dry gewurztraminer like hers is preserving the acidity. To do so, grapes are picked in two harvests, once when grapes still have some tartness, followed days later by a second harvest when grapes are very ripe. The resulting wine is full-flavored with a lift of refreshing acidity. “Our gewurztraminers are very aromatic but not overly perfumed,” Walch says.
Food-friendliness is foremost to Kenny Likitprakong, owner and winemaker at Hobo Wine Co., in Sonoma, Calif. His Banyan Gewurztraminer Monterey County wine is designed to go with hot, spicy, crunchy, cool flavors and textures. “What makes gewurztraminer great for Southeast Asian food is its playfulness,” Likitprakong says. “It is spicy and has a great lift of fruit when finished with a touch of residual sugar.” That little bit of sugar he leaves in the wine registers as fresh fruit, not cloying sweetness. It refreshes the palate when eating spicy foods with pungent flavors.
Both bottles of gewurztraminer are naturals with Thai dishes like pad see ew, wide rice noodles stir-fried in sweet soy sauce, or the Laotian minced beef salad called larb. Of course, if Southeast Asian cuisine is not on your spring menu, these aromatic whites also pair delightfully with smoked salmon, a wedge of Muenster, or fruity roast duck.
Tulips have replaced the crocuses, but we’ll be sipping these immensely drinkable wines well into the season.
“Kastelaz” Gewurztraminer Alto Adige (2012) costs about $30 and is available at The Grape Vine, Boxborough, 978-263-9008; Nine East Wine Emporium, Natick, 508-653-6221. Banyan Gewurztraminer Monterey County (2013) costs about $14 and is available at Ball Square Fine Wines, Somerville, 617-623-9500; The Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com.