2011 Boat O'Craigo Black Spur Gewürztraminer

The history of the Gewürztraminer variety is in a word, complicated. There are many synonyms recorded including Traminer, a white grape family subjected to clonal mutations since the Romans brought an ancient Greek vine to the Alto Adige region in Italy's north and specifically to around the village of Tramin (Termeno) where it is thought the name originated. It appears that Traminer vines were planted in these Tyrolean foothills at the time Leif (Erik The Red) Ericson set foot on Vinland, the Norse name for an area of the North America continent where wild grape vines were indeed discovered.  

As with other varieties Traminer evolved on its genetic and geographical journeys into an aromatic variety. North to Germany's Pfalz region by the Middle Ages, it acquired the prefixes Gewürz, meaning 'spiced' or Roter meaning 'red/crimson' a reference to the colour. By the late 1800's vines were imported from across the Rhine to Alsace where today, the best examples of its wines are generally produced. The French have used the term musque whilst the Italians aromatico to describe the grape's metamorphosis, a situation that is given further intrigue with the belief of a relationshop between the various Traminers and the white Savagnin grape from the French Jura Region.  

The Traminer synonym has been used interchangeably in Australia depending upon growing region and/or winemaker preferences but unfortunately has suffered from public perception that it makes a sweet wine style. Often blended with Riesling, the variety is grown in all of Australia's states but is still generally considered an alternative variety. 

A boutique wine producer from the Yarra Valley, Boat O'Craigo takes it name from an ancestral settlement alongside the North Esk River in Craigo, Scotland. The Gewürztraminer vines as with the winery's other whites are grown at the Black Spur vineyard at Healesville in the Valley's higher and cooler north-eastern region. The variety is a rare beast in these parts known more for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines. This vintage is the winery's third release after vines were first planted in 2006.

Gewürztraminer Grapes

A pale quartz-green in the glass, the aromatics are more of a fruit shop than a perfumed boudoir. It smells of ginger, jasmine, lychee and fresh citrus. A slight scent of musk. The light to medium palate lacks that pungency and power, that varietal character of perfumed rose petals, musk,Turkish Delight and lychees Gewürztraminer is known for. There are some stone fruit flavours, lime and spicy lychee notes and a talc-like minerality to the texture but not much more. Crisp, fresh and balanced. It could have been a Riesling in a blind tasting. Appealing and drinkable but somewhat disappointing overall.   

Source: Winery Purchase. Alcohol: 11.5%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 87 Points.
Website: http://www.boatocraigo.com.au/

2005 Ballandean Estate Wines Late Harvest Sylvaner

The term 'liquid gold' is bandied about these days to describe anything from oil to beer to breast milk and is a reference invariably to a liquid's exceptional quality and perhaps to its outstanding colour. The 2005 Late Harvest Sylvaner from the Ballandean Estate winery in Queensland's Granite Belt Region, ticks both boxes. 

The winery has had a pivotal role in helping pioneer the region's and indeed Queensland's wine industry since the late 1960's. The quality of their range of wines is unquestioned with the rare, multiple award-winning Late Harvest Sylvaner the specialty wine. It is documented as Australia's original cordon-cut style that has been produced by the Puglisi family on an infrequent basis for over twenty five years and according to public demand. Acclaimed UK Wine Journalist and author of The Wines Of Alsace (1993) Tom Stevenson, has described it as "the best Sylvaner I have ever tasted, the best of its style in the world". 

Sylvaner is not something that comes up in the same breath as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc would for instance, perceived rather as producing less than compelling wines by those in the know. An ugly duckling sort of variety with high acid levels that is made for early consumption, it seems to have fallen victim to increased plantings of more mainstream varieties such as Riesling and Pinot Gris in Alsace, France for example where it used to have a strong foothold. 

A cross between Traminer and the now rarely cultivated Hunnic variety Austrian Wine, its origins are unclear but thought to be either Austria itself or Transylvania in modern day Romania as evidenced by its name. It seems that wines were cultivated in Count Dracula's backyard since the 7th century BC and today the region is viewed as a nirvana for white varietals. With the expansion of empires and the migration of people, the grape spread throughout Europe notably Alsace, Luxembourg, north-east Italy, Germany and as far as Russia. 

A few Australian wineries in cooler regions continue to grow Sylvaner but Ballandean Estate has made their version into an 'elegant swan'. Golden in colour with greenish tinges, the wine has in the best sense of the word, intoxicating aromas of potpourri, glazed apricot and orange peel. Some oak. The palate offers up a viscous body of lime and melon marmalade with secondary flavours of quince and pineapple, the whole beautifully balanced by the grape's natural acidity. A crisp, spicy aftertaste with some sweet nuances. Fresh fruit or a cheese platter would accompany this class act really well. Lusciousness in a 375 ml bottle.

Source: Winery Sample. Alcohol: 9.0%. Closure: Cork ! Rating: 91 Points.
Website: http://www.ballandeanestate.com/Default.aspx