Gewurztraminer is the hard-to-say name of a unique and aromatic grape varietal that belongs to the Vitis Vinifera family. The varietal, originally called Savagnin blanc (not the widely-known Sauvignon blanc), comes from the Traminer region of northern Italy and has become known as Traminer there. Over time Gewurztraminer made its way into Germany and developed into the spicier varietal that we know today. In fact, the word Gewurz is German for spice.
During veraison, “the final stage in the grape growing process”, the fruit starts to change color on the vine and develop a beautiful bronze colour before harvest. As Gewurztraminer is a white wine, the juice is not fermented on the skins as this is what gives a wine its primary color.
Gewurztraminer is an ideal grape varietal for the cool climate grape growing region of Niagara Peninsula and produces medium to full bodied white wines with intensely fruity and floral aromas. It is somewhat of a cult varietal due to its intensity and distinct character.
Gewurztraminer can be made in a variety of wine styles from fully dry to off dry to sweet. Food pairings for Gewurztraminer are vast as it is a wine which can stand up to diverse and flavorful dishes. These wines work beautifully with Asian cuisine like spicy Thai, or aromatic dishes consisting of ginger, saffron or curry. Western style dishes are also greatly complimented by Gewurztraminer like the tradition turkey dinner, as the complexity of these wines works well with the many flavors involved.
At Strewn we have successfully worked with this captivating varietal for more than 24 years and produced a variety of styles, including from time to time, a unique barrel aged Gewurztraminer. We currently have three wines made from Gewurztraminer, two of which are dry wines, only available at the winery or through our online store.
Our top-tier 2017 Terrior Gewurztraminer ($28) displays a spicy, earthy-floral character and shows good length and viscosity on the palate. Early in 2020 we sent the wine to the top two international wine competitions in France and are delighted to share that it won Gold at both Citadelles du Vin and International Challenge du Vin.
Strewn’s second winery-exclusive Gewurztraminer is the 2018 Distinctive Small Lot Gewurztraminer Divergent ($24). This wine is made in a fruit forward and aromatic style with a fresher finish to appeal to a wider audience. It was extremely popular this past summer with our patio tastings and received a 90-point score from Natalie MacLean.
And finally Strewn has long produced a top selling, semi-dry, Two Vines Riesling-Gewurztraminer for the LCBO market ($13.95). This wine combines Riesling, which provides lovely acidity, and Gewurztraminer, which delivers aromatics and body. It recently received a score of 90 points from Carolyn Evans Hammond in the Toronto Star and may also be purchased online (free courier shipping with any 12-bottle order).
Sparkling wine means bubbles and preferably lots of them but how are the bubbles created? Yeast and sugar are added to a base wine and during a second fermentation - either in the bottle (Traditional Method) or in a pressurized Tank (Cuvee Close or Charmat style) - the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol and CO2. The carbon dioxide dissolves into the wine and voila you have bubbles.
Most Traditional Method sparkling wine, and certainly those from Champagne, are a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Cava, Spain’s Traditional Method sparkling wine, is made from local grape varieties although Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are permitted.
The base wine for a Traditional Method sparkling wine is typically dry, high in acidity and low in alcohol with fairly, neutral flavour. The toasty bread and biscuit notes are autolytic flavours from the yeast during the second fermentation. By comparison, more aromatic base wines are used for a Tank Fermented sparkling, the most well-known being Prosecco made from the Italian grape Glera.
Strewn’s Sparkler is made using Tank Fermentation. The base wine is an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and we want to ensure the lovely citrus aromas and flavours of lime, lemon and grapefruit are not overwhelmed by yeasty bread and biscuit flavours, and that it has a crisp and refreshing finish on the palate.
A Versatile Food Wine
While the tradition of drinking Champagne to mark celebrations originated in the royal courts of Europe during the late 1700s, where the expensive drink was viewed as a status symbol, sparkling wine is one of the best matches for many dishes.
Sparkling wine usually contains high levels of acidity and a small amount of sugar (sweet Asti being an exception). These two extremes complement elements in almost any food, from rich, buttery salmon to red-hot Thai food. Sparkling wine penetrates to the lower layers of the rough surface of the tongue providing a super cleansing effect n the mouth.
Here are some ideas for food to enjoy with sparkling wine:
- Cheese – rich, creamy Brie or aged, hard cheeses such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar
- Dishes that are oily, nutty (especially almonds) and egg-based (scrambled eggs anyone?).
- Any pasta or risotto dish, particularly those with cream or mushroom sauce.
- Shrimp and shellfish, smoked salmon, caviar, fried calamari, and raw oysters on the shell
- Simple tapas style dishes with a touch of saltiness, Prosciutto or Serrano ham
- Desserts that are not sweet, such as berries, shortbread cookies, pound cake, angel food cake.s dark or bittersweet chocolate.
- And don’t forget buttered-popcorn and potato chips!
A Little Background
Sauvignon Blanc (the name means "wild white") is a widely-grown grape variety in a number of wine regions around the world. While it has gained prominence over the past 40 years thanks to the efforts of the New Zealand winemakers, its origins go back to 18th century France. In the Bordeaux region, it is primarily used in white blends and Sauterne dessert wine. In the Loire Valley, it is the only variety used to make Sancerre, which is named after the appellation.
Green-skinned Sauvignon Blanc grapes ripen early and do best in moderate summer temperatures that are not extremely hot. Niagara's cool climate wine region is perfect for growing Sauvignon Blanc, particularly in vineyards close to Lake Ontario which also provides some protection against cold winter lows. In our wine region, year-to-year variations are quite apparent which makes every vintage a new tasting experience.
A Refreshing White Wine
Bright, crisp and refreshing are words often used to describe Sauvignon Blanc. With most white wines, "green" notes are an indication the grapes were not fully ripe when harvested. Not so with Sauvignon Blanc. The aromatic pyrazine compounds in the grape itself produce wines with green or herbaceous flavours, such as green peppers, green beans, asparagus and cut grass. These are particularly noticeable when it is a cooler year.
The herbaceous flavours are intertwined with mineral notes, citrus (lime and grapefruit) and fruit (kiwi, gooseberry and green apple). In warmer years, there will be more ripe fruit flavours including peach and tropical fruit such as passion fruit. Sauvignon Blanc is commonly made with a cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks to preserve the lovely aromatics. However, if you like wines that are aged in oak look for a Sauvignon Blanc with Fumé Blanc on the label.
Most Sauvignon Blanc are made completely dry with little residual sugar. The medium to medium-high acidity makes it a refreshing wine to drink. It is best enjoyed while it is "young", within two years after bottling. Best serving temperatures are 7 to 10°C so take out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few wines that stands up to the flavour of steamed asparagus and goes well with sushi. Its herbaceous notes complement dishes with green herbs such as parsley, basil, cilantro and mint. And it is a classic match with goat cheese and other more briny cheese.