What is it – this indescribable nature of Alsace? Land of gingerbread-styled, half-timbered houses, home of France’s “plus belle villes,” resting between the misty Vosges and the meandering Rhine, neither fully French nor German, it is a land of magic. Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, heady and sweet or silk-textured and dry, all struck with vibrant acidity and fleshy, Alsatian spice. Alsace Gewurztraminer is another something special. Lychee, jasmine, smoke, clove, gardenia, and nutmeg conspire to create a fat, luscious elixir ideal for… what, exactly? Pairing Gewurztraminer with food can be confounding. Many suggest it goes best with Far Eastern, exotic cuisine, and this is true. I choose to consider, however, something more fun, more obvious: that full, luscious Gewurz is a shining example of its region – pretty, quaint, neither French nor German, with its Christmas markets and super Holiday specialness. I want Gewurztraminer with Holiday roast – goose or turkey and all the rich fixin’s alongside. Spicy, special Gewurz is meant for fat, dense foods, fine feasts, and complex combinations, especially those tinged with sweetness. Dry, full Alsatian Gewurztraminer stands up to the regal, challenging Holiday meal; it possesses the magic of the varietal, reflecting the warm mosaic of Alsatian terroir, and is suited to foods ordinary white wines cannot deftly handle.
Here is one to consider – one that, I believe, is a fine example of the soft quatre d’épices flavors and flowers so present in a classic Gewurz. It comes from independent producer Albert Seltz. This 14th-generation viticulteur is located in Mittelbergheim, in the Bas-Rhin section of Alsace. He has been working the estate since 1980, when he was 19 years old. Best known as the champion of Sylvaner, another of Alsace’s unique grape varieties, he has raised the quality of Alsatian wines, and expectations for them as well. His Gewurztraminer Réserve Personnelle comes from 20-year-old vines, grown sustainably in clay and limestone soils. Seltz’s minimal intervention technique in the cellar yields a distinctly off-dry Gewurztraminer with sapid garden jasmine and roses, fresh lychees, and inscrutable Alsace spice – notes of cardamom, clove, and gingerbread all layered across a soft profile. I love this wine with pumpkin, crisp turkey, and sauce lifted with bourbon and butter. It is perfect for goose and chestnuts, brown-butter sweet potatoes, and persimmons as well. This wine transports me to half-timbered houses, Christmas markets, and jolly winter warmth: idealized memories all delivered by the treasure in this glass.