Savagnin is a very old, genetically important vine variety whose origins lie in north east France. Because it is so old, like Pinot Noir, with which it has a parent-offspring relationship, it exists in many different mutations, including Gewürztraminer and Traminer, all with the same genetic fingerprint even if they display some clonal variation.
DNA profiling has further shown that Savagnin is a parent of Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltiner, Sauvignon Blanc and Silvaner, even more surprisingly, probably has a parent-offspring relationship with Verdelho.
Savagnin, as it is called in the Jura and Franche-Comté in north-east France, is a very old variety that has developed several different forms over centuries of vegetative reproduction, like other very old varieties such as Pinot Noir or Gouais Blanc.
Today Savagnin shows a considerable level of clonal diversity, seen in berry colour, aroma, leaf shape, cluster size and so on. Several of these forms have often been mistakenly considered to be distinct varieties, eg Gewürztraminer in Alsace and Germany; Heida or Païen in Switzerland; Traminer or Traminer Weisser in Germany; Traminer Aromatico in Trentino-Alto Adige in Italy. Yet DNA profiling has shown that they all have the same genetic fingerprint, with the exception of some minor clonal genetic differences, and that they all correspond to the same variety.
Savagnin Blanc (Traminer / Траминец)
Savagnin Blanc is the white-berried, non-aromatic savagnin best known as the characteristic white wine grape of the Јura (vin jaune - sherry like) in eastern France. Both this pale-skinned clone and a pink-skinned one may be called Traminer, the latter also Roter Traminer, while Gewürztraminer is the aromatic, pink-skinned form (Gewürz - Spicy).
Savagnin is always a firm, long-lasting wine high in extract and, usually, acidity.
The vine is well adapted to the ancient, west-facing marl slopes of Jura but many believe it is at its finest in the steep vineyards of château-chalon, where it may sometimes be left to ripen as late as the end of October. The resulting distinctively nutty wine is the product of six years’ ageing in cask, under a flor-like film, and it can continue to evolve for many years in bottle,
Savagnin Noir is a Jura name for Pinot Noir.
Savagnin Rose, the pink-berried Savagnin and non-aromatic version of Gewürztraminer, also known in Germany as Clevner and Roter Traminer.
Often written Gewurztraminer, is the aromatic variant of the pink-skinned Savagnin, shown by DNA profiling to be identical to Traminer, and is responsible for some of the most distinctively perfumed, full-bodied white wines of all.
Deeply colored, opulently aromatic, and broader than almost any other white wine, Gewürztraminer’s faults are only in having too much of everything. It is easy to tire of its weight and its exotic flavor of lychees and heavily scented roses, although Alsace’s finest Gewürztraminers are extremely serious wines, with an occasional savoury note reminiscent of bacon fat in some of the most complex examples, capable of at least medium-term ageing.
Gewurztraminer Wine Characteristic
FRUIT FLAVORS (berries, fruit, citrus)
Lychee, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Peach, Apricot, Orange, Cantaloupe
OTHER AROMAS (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
Rose, Honey, Ginger, Incense, Allspice, Cinnamon, Smoke
ACIDITY Medium Low
SERVING TEMPERATURE “Fridge Cold” 6 ºC
Muscat, Riesling, Torrontés(Argentina), Loureiro (Portugal), Malvasia Bianca (Italy)
HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT REGIONS
Gewürztraminer is one of the 4 Grand Cru grapes of Alsace and has been produced in the region for hundreds of years. Top quality Alsatian Gewürztraminer are called ‘Vendage Tardives’ (a.k.a. ‘late harvest’) and are age-worthy dessert wines with mineral, spice and smoke notes.
Great Region: Alsace
Styles: dry, off-dry and dessert (Vendage Tardive - VT, Selection de Grains Nobles - SGN)
Alsace is the largest producer of Gewürztraminer in the world and the majority of wines are made in a rich floral dry style. The dry Gewürztraminers from Alsace have explosive aromas and offer creamy flavors of lychee, honeydew melon and rose. You’ll find the best quality wines in the Haut-Rhin (upper Rhine River) sub-regionin the Southern part of the appellation.
Italy Great Region: Trentino-Alto Adige
Italy is the second importer of Gewürztraminer to the US (Moldova wines typically go to Russia). You’ll find most Gewürztraminer coming from Trentino-Alto Adige region in Northern Italy. Wines from this area have intense aromas of rose potpourri and sweet ripe peaches but when you taste them they are quite dry and salt (almost like a dry hard cider or sake).
CaliforniaGreat Regions: Monterey, Mendocino and Sonoma
Styles: dry, sweet
California is the largest producer of Gewürztraminer in the US, but because most of the state is so warm you’ll want to look for Gewürztraminer from the cooler sub-regions including Monterey, Mendocino and Sonoma. The dry versions of Gewürztraminer from California have aromas of lychee and taste like Florida grapefruit with a touch of dry hard cider. As the wine ages, it takes on allspice and ginger aromas.
Great Regions: Columbia Gorge, Ancient Lakes and Lake Chelan
Styles: dry, sweet
Washington may be a small region for Gewürztraminer, but it also offers some of the most ridiculous values for this wine. Of course, the wines under $10 will almost certainly be sweet and simple, so be sure to buy them as youthful as possible, otherwise you might be disappointed with their lack of acidity. The more interesting Gewürztraminer from this area is mostly out of the Columbia Gorge, a stunningly beautiful river region with intense cooling winds from the Pacific ocean.
Gewurztraminer Food Pairing
Gewürztraminer best pairings happen when you step outside of traditional French cuisine and experience other foods of the world. Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine, both utilizing nuts and dried fruits with roasted meats, are great examples of the types of cuisine to enjoy with Gewürztraminer wine. When pairing Gewürztraminer with food think about how the wine’s floral aromas and notes of ginger will bring out actual ginger and rose water used in a dish.
Meat PairingsDuck, Chicken, Pork, Bacon, Shrimp and Crab
Spices and HerbsHighly spiced and aromatic herbs including Cayenne Pepper, Ginger, Clove, Cinnamon, Allspice, Turmeric, Madras Curry, Sichuan Pepper, Shallots, Soy Sauce, Sesame, Almond, Rose Water, Lime Leaf, Bay Leaf, Coriander, Cumin
Cheese PairingsTry it with less stinky and delicately flavored soft cow’s milk cheese and dried fruit
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