My notion of keeping each post on the homepage of this site from a different country is rapidly running out of steam as my recent drinking habits include far too many Australian and French wines for it to remain viable. But I can stretch it for another day with this wine of New Zealand, the Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2006.
I’ve featured only one Gewürztraminer before in this blog, from Spring Vale Wines, but since my copy of Wine Grapes recently arrived, it’s time to have another look. The first time around, I described the variety as a relative of Traminer which is found throughout Europe. However, it appears that DNA profiling has shed a bit more light on the situation. Traminer is actually Savagnin Blanc, and Gewürztraminer is just a slight mutation of Savagnin Rose. Apparently, Savagnin Blanc, Savagnin Rose and Gewürztraminer, are not so distinct as to be considered siblings, but rather they’re just clonal mutations of the same vine. That said, I’m keeping them as separate varieties for purposes of a century I’m having a hard enough time hitting a hundred varietal wines as is.
So setting the record straight, Gewürztraminer is just a clonal mutation of Savagnin, but there’s certainly more to know than that. It’s most commonly associated with Alsace, but it can be found throughout both Europe and the New World. Though it has pink berries, it is used to produce white wine which is known for intense aromatics, full body, and often high alcohol, though at times also with low acidity. Additionally, it is one of the most identifiable wines in the world, even just on the nose, with lychee and rose petals featuring prominently.
This is a wine of Marlborough, best known for Sauvignon Blanc, and which was the origin of the Astrolabe I tasted back in June. Based at the northern end of the South Island, it has a maritime climate with dry summers and winters that can be frosty. The soils are alluvial with silt and river stones, and the area is generally flat. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, there are some plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and apparently Gewürztraminer.
Johanneshof Cellars is a small boutique winery established in 1991. The founders, Edal Everling and Warwick Foley, from Germany and New Zealand respectively, met while studying winemaking in Rheingau. Their wines are distinctly Germanic in style, with a combination of traditional methods and modern technology. For instance, their winery is gravity fed to alleviate the need for most pumping and their storage cellar is dug deep into sandstone, but at the same time the fermentations are temperature controlled and carefully monitored by a modern laboratory.
They produce a range of wines and styles that includes Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir, from which they make varietal wines in dry, late harvest, and sparkling styles. They also produce spirits, including an Edelbrand in the style of Cognac and a grappa.
In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with a medium lemon yellow colour and quick, thin legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with a pronounced intensity and notes of rosewater, lychee, floral characters and perfume. On the palate it’s off dry, with medium acidity, medium plus body, pronounced flavour intensity, medium alcohol, with medium plus length. There are notes of lychee, Turkish delight, rosewater, perfume, and a bit of sour nail varnish on the finish.
This is a very good wine. It’s the type of Gewürztraminer that you really can identify from across the room just from the nose – very strong on the varietal typicity. It has the classic notes, and while not subtle, is well constructed despite it being over the top in terms of intensity. Also, it’s worth noting that I drank this wine in 2012 and the back label suggest drinking only as late as 2010. However, I don’t think I did this bottle a disservice – it was still developing and still had a great deal to give.