Gewurztraminer vs Riesling: Brief Comparison Of Two Of The Best German Wines

Gewurztraminer vs Riesling

Last Updated: March 11, 2021

These two German wines are certainly not part of your usual supermarket stock and if you’ve never heard of them before I wouldn’t be surprised. 

On the other hand... 

If you are a German wine aficionado you might already be familiar with these two white wines and want to know a little more about them. 

Whether you are new to these wines or not, they are certainly very interesting to compare and both have rich histories which contribute to their distinctive tastes. 

What’s more, you might be interested in both wines and be struggling to choose which one is the best for you. So, here is everything you need to know about Gewurztraminer vs Riesling.

Main Differences between Gewurztraminer vs Riesling

The main differences between Gewurztraminer vs Riesling are:

  • Gewurztraminer is a deep gold color, whereas Riesling is paler with hints of green
  • Gewurztraminer is less acidic, whereas Riesling is more acidic 
  • Gewurztraminer has notes of exotic fruit like papaya and mango with the sweetness of lychee, whereas Riesling has more zesty tastes of citrus and peach

Gewurztraminer Overview

Gewurztraminer

Although hard to pronounce, Gewurztraminer is worth giving a chance for its unique sweet flavor. This wine can vary in sweetness but generally has a nice touch of sugary fruits, like lychee, without being unbearably sweet. 

As someone who doesn’t generally like sweet wines, Gewurztraminer is a great midway point between dry and sweet wines. Gewurztraminer’s lower acidity vs Riesling also makes it more palatable. 

Gewurztraminer Grapes

Originating in Germany, Gewurztraminer has become popular across areas of Europe including France, Hungary, and Croatia. 

The pink grape resembles the light hue of a Pinot Gris, named for its light grey color, and is now one of the 4 most highly produced grapes of the Alsace wine region in Europe. This aromatic wine grape is usually grown in cooler climates making it relatively easy to produce. 

Its name comes from the German word for ‘spice traminer’ which stems from the fact that this grape is grown from a blend of Savagnin Blanc (which is different from Sauvignon Blanc) and traminer grapes. 

The wine also pairs well with spicy food so its name is quite fitting.

Although these early mutations of the grapes were found in Italy, the production of Gewurztraminer grapes was refined in Germany, which is where it got its signature dry style. 

However, as mentioned different regions produce this grape at varying levels of sweetness. 

Gewurztraminer Flavors 

Gewurztraminer has a more refreshing taste vs Riesling with hints of citrus and the pleasant sweetness of lychee which also give it floral notes. 

It also has exciting exotic fruit notes such as mango and papaya which give it a unique blend of flavor compared to other citrusy white wines. When aged in oak it can have more aromatic qualities, producing aromas of ginger, cinnamon and incense which stems from its more floral taste. 

Although considered off-dry and not necessarily a sweet wine, Gewurztraminer is favorable with sweet wine drinkers because of these sweet fruit flavor. The medium-low acidity also makes it very easy to drink. 

Combining freshness with subtly sweet tastes, Gewurztraminer is a pleasure to drink.

Gewurztraminer Food Pairings

With the exotic fruit flavor, Gewurztraminer goes very well with exotic foods and if you have an adventurous palate, you’ll find that this wine is an excellent companion. 

It goes very well with spicy cuisine such as Moroccan and Indian food. The notes of ginger only enhance these kinds of cuisines which often use ginger to give the food that kick of spice.  

A great food pairing would be a Thai red curry with chicken or duck meat. The refreshing white wine cuts through the heat of this dish and complements white meats like duck or chicken without overpowering the flavor. 

Like many white wines, it also pairs well with seafood but can be very rich and a little overly indulgent.

Riesling Overview

Riesling

Riesling vs Gewurztraminer is much more popular worldwide and is produced in a number of countries

However...

It has a similar interesting German heritage to Gewurztraminer which contributes to the sophisticated flavor.

Here is everything you need to know about Riesling as well as the differences between Riesling and Gewurztraminer. 

Riesling Grapes

Riesling grapes are believed to have originated in the valley of Rhine but are now Germany’s leading grape variety and one of the top three white wine grape varieties around the world. 

Across Germany, the resulting wines range from sweet to dry. Around the world it is planted in countries like Australia and Canada meaning that it can vary drastically in sweetness depending on the region it is produced in. 

One major difference between Gewurztraminer and Riesling is that Riesling is almost never aged in oak and is meant to be drunk when it is still young. This is why you won’t get the same smoky aromas in Riesling vs Gewurztraminer.

Riesling Flavors 

With fruit flavor of apricot, pear, and apple, Riesling has a refreshing taste balanced with the sweetness of honeycomb and jasmine notes. The taste can vary depending on the region the wine is from but, in most cases, the sweet notes usually balance out the natural acidity. 

Riesling grown in Germany tends to be fruity with a touch of sweetness whereas Alsace Riesling tends to have a more citrusy flavor and can be drier.

So, the sweetness of this wine depends entirely on where it is grown. 

Now popular across the world, varieties from Australia can have converse tastes being very dry. If you tried a Riesling before and found that it wasn’t sweet enough, I would recommend looking for a traditional German Riesling before giving up on this grape variety entirely as there’s a Riesling to suit most palates.  

Riesling Food Pairings 

Because of the range of flavor in varieties of Riesling, it is extremely versatile and goes well with a range of foods. A citrusy Alsace Riesling goes well with seafood whereas a drier Australian Riesling is perfect with flavorful Asian dishes. 

Personally, I recommend Riesling for a spicy Thai green curry or Chinese food with flavor-packed Sichuan pepper. It also works well with delicate cheeses that don’t overpower the flavor too much and a range of meat dishes including duck, pork, and chicken. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Riesling heavier than Gewurztraminer?

Gewurztraminer is certainly more refreshing vs Riesling because of the sweeter exotic fruit notes and medium-low acidity. Riesling can also taste very rich compared to Gewurztraminer because of the higher acidity. 

They are also sweeter in general which means one glass is usually enough whereas Gewurztraminer is a lot easier to drink and doesn’t feel so heavy vs Riesling. 

For these reasons, I personally find Riesling to be more indulgent in comparison to Gewurztraminer. This is also why I prefer to drink Gewurztraminer with a meal whereas Riesling can be enjoyed by itself. 

Is Gewurztraminer sweeter than Riesling?

Both of these wines are considered dry which means that I wouldn’t recommend them to wine drinkers who have a particularly sweet tooth. 

Having said that, Gewurztraminer grapes are also used to make Moscato which is a very sweet wine. This means that it has the qualities to be sweet but, as with all wines it depends on the production. 

Depending on the age of the wine and the different regions they are produced in, these wines can be sweet or dry.

Personally, I think Gewurztraminer is the sweeter of the two, especially if it is aged in oak to produce notes of cinnamon. Even without aging, the tropical fruit flavor in Gewurztraminer gives it a sweet but refreshing taste. So, if you love sweet wines, I would recommend a Gewurztraminer over a Riesling. 

Conversely, if you really aren’t a fan of sweet wine, like me, Riesling might be your best bet. Hints of jasmine, apple and apricot give it an intense taste which, although rich, is not overly sweet. 

Although traditionally intended to be sweet, Riesling is now produced with higher acidity which balances its rich flavor with a pleasantly refreshing taste. 

Which is better, Gewurztraminer or Riesling?

If you really want to know which of these two wines is better, the only thing I can recommend is to try them both and decide which one suits your palate the most. 

As with all wines, the final taste depends entirely on the region in which it is grown and the quality of the producers. If you have tried a bottle of one or the other and found that you didn’t like it, you may well still find a variety of these wines that suits your palate better.

Gewurztraminer vs RieslingConclusion 

Both of these wines have sophisticated tastes that can vary significantly. Nevertheless, I am yet to be disappointed by a bottle of Riesling or Gewurztraminer because of the intense flavor that I discover each time I try one. 

If you are a big fan of white wines and want to expand your palate, I would definitely recommend branching out and looking for a decent bottle of Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Even if you have to spend a little more than you normally would on a supermarket Sauvignon blanc, I think it is worth the money. 

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