Monday, 20 June 2011

Gewürztraminer: a tart with a heart

A few days ago I had an interesting experience with a wine. It was a bit like reluctantly meeting up with an old acquaintance. My husband had recently bought a bottle of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Alsace Gewürztraminer and I'd been putting off opening it for fear of it being too overwhelming and cloying. When I first started drinking wine I loved Gewürz, with its distinctive exotic personality; I also wore Yves Saint Laurent's Opium for a while, perhaps for similar reasons. As the years have gone by, it's as though Gewürz has become the antithesis of what I'm looking for in wine; I shy away from overly ripe, alcoholic wines. Another problem is that in recent years sugar levels in Alsacien wines have increased considerably and their labelling often fails to acknowledge this. Combined with Gewürz's low acidity, the results can be too flabby. 

Anyway, late last week I was cooking a spicy Thai inspired stir fry with prawns, plenty of fresh ginger, garlic, fish sauce, chilli, lime and coriander. It seemed the obvious choice for the Gewürz. We opened the wine and my first few sips reminded me just what a tarty tasting wine it is. This example (from the Cave de Turkheim and the 2009 vintage) ticked all the boxes: heady boudoir rose petal perfume, lychee fruit, Turkish Delight, slightly honied and off dry, with a faint touch of spice on the finish. Full on, unsubtle stuff and tasting like a cliché. 

However, as dinner continued, I felt increasingly happy to be back in Gewürz's familiar company. Although I prefer drier, more restrained examples like those produced by Trimbach and Blanck, this was, nevertheless, an unexpectedly enjoyable wine. Its opulent, voluptuous structure was a seductive foil to the spicy, tangy food, creating the effect of a deconstructed Thai curry, tempering the heat in the same way as coconut milk. Ideally, I'd like more mouth-cleansing freshness in a wine, but this had just enough to stop it tasting too cloying. The back label suggests that it would also be good served as an apéritif. I think it's too big and overwhelming for this, although possibly with some spicy nibbles like wasabi peas.

I'm now grateful that my husband picked up a bottle that I'd have passed over. It was good to spend some time again with a sassy and big-hearted old friend with such an enormous personality. 

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Gewürztraminer 2009
Price: £7.29

Photo by Ralph Steiner: Gypsy Rose Lee and her girls, 1950.

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