INSIDER'S PICK: 2016 ELENA WALCH GEWURZTRAMINER ALTO ADIGE (Wine Spectator 89points) $20.99
There are legions of grape varieties that unjustly get lumped into being thought of as ONLY making sweet wines, mostly the naturally perfumed and aromatic ones like Gewurztraminer. While the sweet versions can be delightful, they can get cloying and very limiting in how you can use them or pair them. But there is soooo much more to them than just one note. As the great versions of Rieslings and Viogniers have shown (and increasingly varieties like Muscat and Malvasia) dry wines from these grapes can excel among the finest white wines in the world, and more examples of the everyday versions should be made much more often. The cool, high altitude vineyards of the Alto Adige in Italy is a perfect climate for Gewurztraminer to perform, perhaps second only to Alsace in terms of both quality and quantity of wines produced.
The perfume of Gewurztraminer is immediately recognizable in the glass, with spice, honeysuckle, and wildflowers noticeable from several feet away. The intensity of aromas isn't lost in a dry version, just some of the more persistently sugary sides. The natural richness in the mouth is still present as well, but immediately the drier stone fruits take over on the palate, as well as the tingly penetrating acidity and hints of skin tannins, giving the finish a sense of melon rind behind the dried orange tones. A tricky aspect of making a drier Gewurztraminer is balancing out the inevitable higher alcohol that comes with fermenting out all the natural sugars (tip: in general the lower the alcohol by volume listed on the wine label for a Gewurztraminer, the sweeter it will be), but here the natural weight and complexity compensate perfectly and there is no heat element here. This will perform perfectly with all the usual food matches Gewurztraminer is recommended for, but the dryness opens up the possibility for so much more, such as poultry or seafood with lots of Mediterranean spice and citrus influence.
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