by Fred McMillin
for September 22, 1997

So Help Me, It's Sugar Free

Prologue: "Gewurztraminer (ga-VERZ-tra-mee-ner) is a wonderfully exotic grape...It is clearly at its best in Alsace. Although the wine has pronounced, exotic fruit and floral flavors, it is actually dry. [However] the best-selling style in the U.S. is light and sweetish."

...from "Wine For Dummies" by McCarthy and Mulligan

The Rest of the Story: You don't have to buy Alsace to avoid "light and sweetish" Gewurz. The label on the Louis Martini version says the wine is "produced in a dry, Alsatian style, with floral and spicy characteristics." Critic Bob Thompson lists it as one of California's benchmark Gewurztraminers. But it didn't attain such stature accidentally. For example, the grape likes it cool...so Martini grows it on the Russian River Valley property they bought in 1962. They've also developed their own clone. My tasters just tried the 1995...delicate, elegant...and there was a gender gap. While the men liked it, the ladies loved this Gewurz, rating it 50% higher than the males.

The Wine
1995 Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley
Louis M. Martini Winery
St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA
Food Affinities—Strong cheeses, Asian dishes
$12

Postscript: About that name, "gewurz" means spice in German. "Tramin" is the German name for a town in northern Italy where the grape evolved some thousand years ago. Hence, "Gewurztraminer" is a spicy grape from the town of Tramin.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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