Gewurztraminer, Aloha Style
This I say with peace and love: Hawaiian pizza – that is, pie with pineapple and ham – will never pass my lips. If it’s your bag, hey, that’s between you and Domino’s. For me, it’s squarely the notion of fruit on pizza that gives me the shivers. See, I’m a Connecticut native, home to New Haven, city of Wooster Street. If you’re not familiar with this locus of gastronomy please make the Google motion now.
Parenthetically, Mike has rightly called me on the fact that I’ve dug other “fruit pies” (memorably grapes), so I’m clearly talking out both sides. But let’s get back to the point, which was brought into my view by a PR rep for the wines of Alsace. The pitch: The merits of well-bred Gewurztraminer (OK, now you have my attention) and, as a P.S., the wine’s affinity for pizza. Hawaiian was recommended. I countered: Wouldn’t it be just as easy to reach for spiced ham in a can? It’s OK, they assured. Margherita or spicy sausage with sun dried tomatoes would tag along just as well.
Yeah, I’m being flip. It’s finally about pairing – the sweet, salty and spicy with the full-bodied personality of a great Alsatian white. Gewurz has the tools for the job: Complex intensity, depth of flavor and an ability to show up big alongside a variety of foods. It may trend toward an aggressive profile, flush with unyielding fruit that traverses floral, tropical (often with predominant lychee flavors) and herbaceous. At its best it packs in the minerals, forming an austere border around the abundant core.
To the task. Though I didn’t over-indulge, I enlisted a couple pepperoni slices to test one of the bottles. And what the hell, I might as well report on the rest. Here are my notes on a quartet of Alsatian Gewurztraminers, listed in sampling order.
Willm Gewürztraminer Reserve 2012 ($16.99)
Rich, golden hue in the glass. The palate’s first impression is that of mineral solidity and balance. Sure, there’s beautiful, deep fruit, flowers, herbs and spice but it stays on the rails, extends unbelievably long on the finish and tosses in an added (moderate) acidic bonus. There’s a lightness – somewhat of a perfumed levity – that renders this Gewurz sip-able-plus and less dense then others. I’m particularly impressed with the balance knowing of the warmth of the region’s 2012 vintage. A good match for Indian or Thai food, Thanksgiving victuals, ham, blue cheeses and plenty more. 13% alcohol by volume. (2008 vintage available in PA.)
Hugel et Fils Gewürztraminer 2011 ($25.99)
Flirtatious nose. On the leaner, dry side – not quite as lush in the mouth. Intensely mineral at its center, garnished with tropical notes and a spicy nutmeg bite. Wonderful transition on the palate, starting with the early fruit display that gracefully blends with a trim finish. A refined effort and extraordinary expression of terroir – and a good offering for a Riesling lover. Think about pairing with fish dishes, lighter Asian food. 14% ABV. (2010 vintage available in PA.)
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2012 ($21.99)
The nose here is quite cheery – one of ripe tropical (some pineapple), spices and soap. A delicious front of flavor powers the first sip, with mineral chaser. Good upfront acidity, providing ample balance for the wine’s boldness. There’s an aggressive edge to this Gewurz that would be well offset by foods – pungent, crumbly cheeses and spicy foods, for example. In fact, go straight for the Stilton with this bébé. A product of the celebrated Herrenweg vineyard, a site benefiting from warm weather and a mix of sand, gravel and large pebbles that makes for excellent drainage. According to the producer, the average age of the vines is 45-plus years. 13.8% ABV.
Domaine Ehrhart Gewurztraminer Herrenweg 2011 ($14.99)
Drawn from 30 year-old Herrenweg vines that are organically and bio-dynamically farmed, the Ehrhart is a fine food wine, dense and viscous while faithful to its birthplace of stony abundance. Spicy and rich, it indeed stacks up well with – you guessed it – pizza. The pepperoni bite and saucy tang played right into the wine’s wheelhouse. Hold the pineapple. 13.4% ABV. (2012 vintage available in PA, and on sale starting 10/1!)