Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Gee, That’s a Great Wine: Two tough names, two terrific grapes.

Screenshot 2015-08-26 00.21.13If you could peruse a dictionary of all the wine of the world, you’d do well to stop and examine the letter “G.” This is where you’ll find two white wines with individual character, as well as difficult to pronounce and spell names. They are Gewurztraminer and Gruner Veltliner.

Gewurztraminer originates from the Italian Tyrolean Alps near the village of Tramin in the region known as Alto Adige, where it has grown since the Middle Ages. In this German-language province, the name is translated to “perfumed traminer” as one of its main traits is a heady, pungent aroma, making it easy to recognize when a bottle is opened.

Gewurztraminer is technically a white grape for fermenting into white wine. However, it is also subject to mutation on the vine so that the fruit is now closer to pink in color, calling for a designation of “vin gris” or “gray wine.” Alsace is where this quaff shows its best pedigree. The styles vary from bone dry to very rich and fruity. Most possess a high degree of acidity, making these wines food-friendly with a variety of dishes, such as rich, heavy French cuisine, as well as fish and turkey.

I believe this wine is a perfect match for Thai food, complementing the spice but with enough rich sweetness to tone down the heat. While this is a European grape, the popularity of traminer is growing worldwide with plantings springing up on both coasts of the United States, as well as Canada and New Zealand. I have tasted good examples in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Gruner Veltliner is a mouthful to pronounce and a wonderful wine to drink. A savory quaff from Austria, it occupies almost 40 percent of the vineyards in this central European country. Translated as “green veltliner,” it has been part of the wine culture of this region for centuries, even though the “green” moniker did not apply until 1930. Mostly light in color and weight, the majority of gruner is drunk young, although the potential exists for long aging in single-vineyard bottlings.

This wine’s flavor is a mix of citrus, herbs and minerals. It matches the food of Germanic Europe and also works as a palate scrubber. It is very refreshing during the summer and should be served with finger foods. I personally have had this wine on the table for Thanksgiving, too.

Gruner is slowly making fans in the United States, which is a good thing for all of us. Vines are appearing in the Finger Lakes and here in the Keystone State. To taste excellent Gruner locally, Galen Glen Winery bottles this unique wine in a mineral-accented liquid that shows the true terrior of its beautiful vineyards. It is wonderful that we have such a great wine relatively close to where we live. If you make it up to the vineyard in Andreas, Pa., tell Sarah that we said “Hi.”

Keep sipping, Steve.

Continue Reading