2011 Fitz-Ritter Gewürztraminer Spätlese

Wine Review: 2011 Fitz-Ritter Gewürztraminer Spätlese

Tonight's wine comes from the Pfalz region in Germany, made from one of my personal favorite grapes, Gewürztraminer. Be warned though, Gewürztraminer is a love it or hate it grape, extremely aromatic and usually with residual sugar. Bad examples are syrupy and flowery with no complexity and a cloying sweetness. Good ones, though, are beyond delicious.

Gewürztraminer tends to like cold weather, so I prefer German or from the Alsace region in France. Alsatian Gewürztraminers, like Rieslings, tend to be much drier, cleaner, with little to no sweetness and bracing acidity. To be completely honest though, I am enamored with the grape and find that even the simple sweet styles can be pleasant, while to my husband, they are torture.

The 2011 Fitz-Ritter Gewürztraminer Spätlese was a nicely structured, well made wine. As to be expected, it was very aromatic, with sweet lychee, and honeysuckle on the nose and on the palate, with almost a touch of honeydew melon. Medium body, especially for a white, with residual sugar and solid acidity to keep that sugar from being cloying. I thought it was an excellent example of German Gewürztraminer, and even my husband (not so enamored of the grape) had no complaints. We easily finished the bottle.

So what is the deal with the term Spätlese? German wines differ from many other regions because they classify the wine by the ripeness of the grape that made it. That means that most fine wines are labelled/divided by when the grape was picked. In order of ripeness you have: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauselese, Eiswein (grapes harvested and pressed while frozen) and Trockenbeerenauslese (extremely overripe grapes, picked when they are practically raisins clinging to the vine). A  Spätlese wine is going to come from riper grapes than a Kabinett, which usually (but not always) means there will be some sweetness. A talented winemaker finds complexity and detail in that ripeness and indeed, the TBAs (Trockenbeerenauslese) can be ridiculously expensive, mind boggling, richly sweet wines.

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