Falling leaves, crisp mornings and an evening by the fire get the mind and taste buds working in new directions. When it comes to wine and the transition to fall, a bottle of gewürztraminer is always a great choice. The name (guh-VURTS-truh-mee-nuhr) and the wine itself is a mouthful, it’s a heavier, more lush white wine with an amazing amount of complexity. The parent grape, traminer, was originally grown in the Pfalz region of Germany, but Alsace in eastern France is considered the most significant region for this distinctive grape, where it represents about 20 percent of all vines planted, just second to Riesling. Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region, the U.S. and Germany are also considered among the top producers.
Gewürztraminer is not the easiest grapevine to cultivate. It’s an early bloomer, making it high risk for damage from spring frosts, and it ripens very quickly, so it requires a cooler climate to fully develop its signature perfume. The berries tend to have thicker skins creating an environment for higher sugar levels, resulting in higher alcohol. If picked too early the flavors are dull and picked too late it can be sweeter and “flabby.” It requires close attention and ultimately, timing is everything at harvest.
Gewürz is the German word for “spice,” which aptly describes some of the grapes characteristics. The aromas and flavors are deep and layered with exotic lychee nut, mango, grapefruit, ginger, honeysuckle, apricot, rose petal and allspice. There’s also a classic bitterness that’s offset by a small amount of residual sugar. Most gewürztraminer is dry, although it can be made as a late-harvest dessert wine, and the texture is often perceived as oily mineral or petrol. This heavier mouthfeel is balanced with mild acidity on the finish.
It’s a very versatile food wine and delicious paired with Thai, Chinese and Indonesian cuisine, think foods that are spicy, salty, smoky or fruity. Try it with chicken satay, lamb vindaloo or steamed dumplings in spicy chili oil. As you might imagine, it’s fantastic with Alsatian dishes, bring on the Münster cheese, sauerkraut with pork, a creamy potato and gruyere gratin or bacon and onion tart. Keeping in mind Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, it can certainly hold its own at the holiday table.
In fact, you can also cook with gewürztraminer. This is a great recipe and perfect for Fall entertaining from true Southerner chef Bryan Caswell and Food Network personality.
Wine-Simmered Collard Greens
4 tbsp canola oil
1/4 lb slab bacon, cubed
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 1/2 lb collard greens (about 40 leaves) stemmed and roughly chopped
2 cups gewürztraminer
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Heat 2 tbsp oil in an 8-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is browned and crisp, about 12 minutes. Transfer bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add garlic and onions to pot; cook until onions are golden, 8 – 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and onions to the bowl with the bacon.
Add the remaining oil and greens to pot; cook until greens are slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add broth, 4 cups water and reserved bacon, onions and garlic; season lightly with salt and pepper. Boil; reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the collards are tender, about 2 hours. Stir in vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper.