New Zealand gewürztraminer is, at best, a world-beater. OK, I accept that Alsace has got us beat but we must surely come in second, or possibly third as far as world domination goes. The simple fact is that very few countries grow gewürztraminer, so there’s not much competition.
Gewürztraminer can be fickle at flowering, so viticulturists hate it. Consumers find it too floral and have difficulty pronouncing it, so marketers hate it. Winemakers don’t seem particularly keen on it either, perhaps because of roller-coaster cropping levels.
If it wasn’t for my love of Thai curries I’d probably be lukewarm on the variety as well. gewürztraminer is my go-to wine when I plan to enjoy my favourite Thai dish — vegetable and chickpea fritters in a green curry sauce. A good gewürztraminer has the strength of flavour and subliminal sweetness needed to make a special partnership with a good Thai curry.
I recently tasted a bunch of local examples, with a couple of exceptional Aussies thrown in for good measure. I cannot recall tasting an Australian gewürztraminer that I enjoyed. But the 2006 Henschke Joseph Hill Gewürztraminer is something special. 2006! The wine tasted fresh and lively, with classic rose petal and spicy characters. I enjoyed a 2016 vintage of the same wine but the 2006 was outstanding. (NZD $55)
From Marlborough, the 2016 Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer is always good and a bargain at this price. I remember asking the late Ross Lawson how he managed to make cracker gewürztraminer year after year. “I dunno, that’s how it comes out” was the self-effacing reply. We tasted a decade of his standard gewürztraminer, which seemed to get better as it got older. (NZD $25)
The 2016 Mt Difficulty Growers Series Station Block Pisa Range Gewürztraminer from Central Otago is quite a mouthful to order, but this moderately sweet, creamy -textured wine is an equal mouthful to taste. Absolutely delicious wine – the perfect aperitif! (NZD $27
Also from Central Otago, the 2016 Chard Farm Gewürztraminer offers a wonderful combination of purity and power. It’s the quintessential Central Otago gewürztraminer in an off-dry style that flatters the variety by emphasising yet restraining fruit flavour. My mouth is watering as I think of it. (NZD $32)
The 2016 Spy Valley Gewürztraminer from Marlborough is another wine that’s always near the head of the field and offering excellent value at this price. (NZD $23)
Interesting that all of my top Kiwi wines are from the 2016 vintage, although that’s more likely to be the result of a sluggish market than a stellar vintage. They have another thing in common – they all offer excellent value – if you like Thai curry.