Gewürztraminer? I barely know her!

12 February 2010
By admin

Sheldrake Point Gewürztraminer 2008

An Alsace-style bottle with an aesthetically pleasing AND informative label (info not shown, but trust me, it's there...)

Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: Gewürztraminer
RS: 0.5%
Price Point: $18
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes: Tons of info, courtesy of the website. Bravo to Sheldrake for transparency and geek info! TA: 6.3 g/L, pH: 3.53. Hand harvested at 23.2 Brix, 6.7 g/L Ta, 3.7 pH. “The fruit was destemmed, cold-soaked for three [days]. The cold settled juices were racked to fermentation tanks two days later. All lots were fermented using Epernay II yeast at 60-63 F with tartaric acid additions for pH control. The free run lot fermented for 39 days and was stopped at 0.5% residual sugar; the press fraction fermented for 70 days to 0.5% residual sugar. The free run and press fraction lots were combined to become the varietal Gewurztraminer.”

Hedonic Notes: Rosey on the nose with peach and fleshy fruit. On the palate, bold and concentrated. Excellent balance of flowery and firm fruity aromas (something I definitely look for in Gewürztraminer. Often one finds a bunch of flowers transforming an ordinary bottle of wine into grandma’s perfume collection. Not so in this case.) This wine is packed with flavor and a great example of a grape that has been living in the shadow of Riesling in this region.

Rating: corkcorkcorkcorknocork 4 out of 5 corks . Great stuff, one of my favorite wines of 2009.

One of the defining aroma characteristics of Gewürztraminer wines is the characteristic rose/lychee aroma. In fact, in some blind tastings, people will say “lychee” if they think a wine is Gewürztraminer, whether they have actually seen or eaten a lychee or not. I have had lychee juice (you can get it at the grocery store, probably in the Asian section) and it’s a pretty good descriptor for Gewürztraminer.

Lychee fruit, a member of the soapberry (...?) family

The chemical compound responsible for this lychee aroma is cis-rose oxide, so called because it is also found in rose oil. A study from 1999, done at the Cornell Extension in Geneva, showed that lychee fruit and Gewürztraminer share many aroma compounds in common, including cis-rose oxide (Ong and Acree, “Similarities in the Aroma Chemistry of Gewürztraminer Variety Wines and Lychee (Litchi chinesis Sonn.) Fruit“, J. Ag. Food Chem., 1999).

cis-rose oxide

For the most part, perception of cis-rose oxide is unique to wines with Muscat/Gewürztraminer parentage. It’s considered a primary aroma, meaning it is found in the grapes themselves and not strictly a product of fermentation. However, during fermentation, yeast can also hydrolyze some terpene precursors to create more of the compound, so fermentation definitely contributes to the aroma. (Koslitz et al., “Stereoselective Formation of the Varietal Aroma Compound Rose Oxide during Alcoholic Fermentation“, J. Ag. Food Chem, 2008.)

BONUS: I tasted this wine live with Dave from Eating Ithaca during our interview. Hear some thoughts about Gewürztraminer, Sheldrake, and more around 1:09:00 (click to listen).

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2 Responses to Gewürztraminer? I barely know her!

  1. Michael Gorton, Jr. on 12 February 2010 at 5:40 am

    Great Science part to my favorite white grape varietal.

    I have never had lychee juice, but the fruit is a favorite of mine. I now understand how and why this wine has some of the notes of the lychee fruit or rosepetals and vice versa.

    This sounds like my kind of Gewürztraminer. I did consider bidding on this for the Wine for Haiti auction over at Palate Press, but decided to wait until TasteCamp 2010 to get a full sample of this varietal.

  2. Tom Mansell on 12 February 2010 at 12:20 pm


    The fact that lychee, strawberry, or any other aroma compounds found in other fruit show up in wine made from grapes is awesome to me. It also shows that nature can be a bit redundant in the molecules it produces in different organisms. Cheers, and I also hope Gewürztraminer is well-represented at Taste Camp.

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