Was my Gewurztraminer off?
I have somewhat limited wine experience. For the past 3 years I have been sampling different varietals and regions in the $10-20/bottle range (6-10/glass when out on the town), with the occasional nicer bottle thrown in the mix. I live in a small-ish Kansas town of about 40,000, so selection here isn't particularly great anyways.
A couple of months ago I noticed that my favorite liquor store (the only one with decent wine selection) had a Reisling and a Gewurztraminer by Concha y Torro Casillero del Diablo (this is CyT's "mid level" label). I had never had any South American whites, so I purchased them both. The Reisling was fine. The Gewurztraminer, however, was very dry, almost like an off-tasting Sauvignon Blanc. It was drier than any early harvest Reisling I've had.
In my experiences with Gewurztraminers at home and in restaurants, I have come to expect a sweet to very sweet white. I have never had a dry Gewurztraminer. Are there "dry" or "early harvest" Gewurztraminers? Is it acceptable/typical for a Gewurztraminer to be that dry? Or should I just chalk it up to the hazards of buying cheap South American produced German varietals?
Alsatian Gewurztraminers are frequently very dry, but full of flavor and spicy.
Most Gewurztraminers are off-dry and many are quite sweet. I work for a California producer whose wine has been dry since they began production in 1983. It consistently wins awards and pairs wonderfully with Thai foods and curries. Broaden your approach and try them
in a variety of styles to determine your personal preference.
I've found the Gewurtzes of Friuli and Alto Adige vinified bone-dry as well.
Bravo to you broadening your wine horizons and developing your palate. Be careful, though, when you describe the grape as German. Many consider it to be at its best and originate from Alsace, and the Franco Prussian war of 1870 was fought over that territory.
You might try to find an Alsatian GW - Trimbach is good, widely distributed and also known for a fairly uncompromisingly dry style. Even in Alsace the gewurzes can be a bit off-dry, but one can't really tell from looking at the bottle. One needs to know the producer's style.
Gewurztraminer is a tricky grape to grow because it doesn't always display its trademark aromatics and flavors at low ripeness levels, where the acidity is still crisp. And if you let the grapes get too ripe the acid tends to drop precipitously, and you get heavy, dull wines. So picking at the right point is essential. I'm going to hazard a guess that it may be a tad warm in Chile for this variety so the producer may be picking early to preserve some freshness? Having worked in a winery tasting room, I'd also say this a grape that elicits strong love/have reactions, with about 30% of all tasters not caring for it.
My brother & I went to the Alsace Varietals Grand Tasting in Feburary and he told me he didn't like Gewurztraminer because he didn't like sweet wines.
(The only one he had previously was Fetzer) As he went around the Tasting, he discovered the world of Dry Gewurztraminer and now he loves them, especially Thomas Fogerty from the Santa Cruz Mountains ($14 in CA).
Alsacian and Austrian wines tend to be quite dry in my experience with a definite sense of place from the minerality.
Living in Kansas it could be challenging to find these kinds of wine locally,
but if shipping laws (& budget) permit, buying direct from on-line retailers and/or wineries might be the way to go.
Try this one from Oregon if you can find it:
It's what I would call dry (i'm no expert either) but very aromatic and full of fruit. I served it as an appertif at a pool party and it was very popular...which to me means it's approachable, refreshing but not austere.
As has been stated, the "dryness" of a Gwertz can vary. I have never had a South American Gwertz, so cannot comment.
In the US, many producers leave a bit much RS in the wines, while I go for the spice and floral on the nose and the palate, and do not want any RS, at least that I can tell.
Even in the US, it will depend on the style that the winemaker is shooting for and the perceived market's taste.
ANY wine can be produced dry or sweet; it is up to the winemaker. You could make a sweet Cabernet Sauvignon, if you wanted to . . .
Most would agree that the top Gewurztraminers come from the French region of Alsace, and most of those are completely DRY, the notable exception being those which are labeled "Sélections des Grains Nobles." These are produced from Botrytis-affected grapes, like a Sauternes, a Coteaux du Layon, or Trockenbeerenauslese.
Traditionally in Alsace, wines are fermented completely, but in the past decade or so a lot of the major winemakers there have begun leaving residual sugar and some has gone as far as chaptalizing their wines (within the legal limits). This is mostly due to the US market's preference for a "dry" wine when they really want a sweet one.
I can't really believe that the US market is driving the RS found in many Alsatian wines. The amount of those wines sold here is miniscule and mostly to better informed wine drinkers. Also, several of the producers who have more uncompromisingly dry styles (Trimbach, Leon Beyer...) do quite well in the US. On the other hand, Parker seems to love the rich Zind-Humbrecht style, but that is not something a co-op is going to reproduce by leaving a bit of RS in the gewurz!