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Tasting Note

Posted January 12, 2018 With ample rose petal and lychee aromatics, a dry, lacy texture and hints of pink grapefruit sorbet, lemon curd and ground ginger. Fresh and accessible, with a clean-cut, minerally finish.

And the answer is...


Varietal

Our wine is complex and layered with many flavors and aromas. There are several details in the tasting note that might help us unwrap this mystery. Let's begin!

The note describes an intensely aromatic, yet dry wine, with a "lacy" texture and a fresh, mineral-driven profile. We can look at Chardonnay and Albariño with a suspicious eye: While both have good acidity, they are relatively neutral varieties, and do not typically carry descriptors like rose petal and lychee.

Chenin Blanc and Riesling are two versatile and aromatic grapes, often with mineral details. They are made in a range of styles, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet. While they both can be very expressive, our wine has more perfumed aromatics than are typically found in either of these grapes. Additionally, Chenin Blanc and Riesling display a mix of stone and orchard fruit that is not present here.

This leaves us with Gewürztraminer, a highly aromatic grape variety; "gewürz" means spice in German. Gewürztraminer is often made in an off-dry style, resulting in luscious, spicy wines. But with good winemaking, it makes terrific dry wines as well. They usually display flavors and aromas of lychee, rose, ripe citrus fruit and fresh acidity. Bingo!

This wine is a Gewürztraminer.

Country

Gewürztraminer is primarily grown in cool climates, where it can keep a good level of acidity. The grape is most successful in France, northern Italy and Germany, as well as the Finger Lakes in New York. California, Spain and South Africa, however, are not known for growing Gewürztraminer, so we can eliminate those options.

This leaves us with France and Germany. Gewürztraminer from Germany, also known as Roter Traminer, displays the telltale notes of lychee and roses that are found in our note. However, they tend to be less complex and have less structure than their counterparts in France—particularly in the region of Alsace, where these whites are highly aromatic, with ripe citrus flavors, mineral components and a good backbone of acidity.

This Gewürztraminer is from France.

Age

This is a showy white that has both ripe, fresh fruit flavors and fresh acidity. It's youthful, but has the complexity and integration that suggests it may have seen a few years. Let's look at some recent vintages.

The 2013 vintage was a relatively cold year, which resulted in racy, light wines. In 2014, Gewürztraminer suffered because of an Asian fruit fly infestation. In 2015, however, a warm and dry growing season in most of France resulted in a great vintage in many of its regions, lending to complex, structured wines.

This wine is from the 2015 vintage, making it three years old.

Appellation

We know our wine is a Gewürztraminer from France, so we can eliminate California's Napa Valley, Germany's Mosel, South Africa's Stellenbsoch and Spain's Rias Baixas.

We're left with Alsace and Arbois. Arbois is an appellation in the Jura region in eastern France; its economy is largely supported by the production of wine and cheese. One of its signature grapes, Savagnin, is actually a closely related clone of Gewürztraminer. While the Jura grape is certainly aromatic, it doesn't quite have the floral and spicy exuberance of our note. It is best known for making nutty, Sherry-like wines called vin jaune, oxidative-style dry whites, and sometimes white blends with Chardonnay.

In France, Alsace is Gewürztraminer's biggest champion. The patchwork of soils found in this region is conducive to a wide range of styles, from dry to sweet. The best versions are intensely perfumed and floral, with ripe citrus flavors like our note's "grapefruit sorbet" and "lemon curd," mineral details and a textural crispness. Sounds like our wine!

This Gewürztraminer is from Alsace.

Wine

This wine is the Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Alsace Turckheim 2015. It scored 91 points in Wine Spectator's Nov. 15, 2017, issue, retails for $26, and 1,500 cases were imported. To learn more about the wines of Alsace, read senior editor Alison Napjus' report, "Abundance in Alsace," in the Nov. 15, 2015, issue.

—Aleksandar Zecevic, associate tasting coordinator

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