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The Traminer Grape


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About Traminer

(Synonyms: Savagnin)

Background

Map showing the Jura region of France

Wine grapes have, in recent years, been subject to much examination using the techniques of DNA analysis. The results have often been quite surprising, and the identities and inter-relations discovered have often been remarkable, to say the least. The grape we are discussing here is one of the most remarkable of all. Its story is an epic, or perhaps a saga—certainly a long and winding tale—so have a little patience with this one.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a land far across the sea, there lived a grape. The grape was (as is common with wine grapes) called by different names in different places—“Traminer” being one of the more common names—and it was a good, respected grape. That grape was most likely born as a natural (that is, not deliberately man-made) cross between some now-unknown types, and it seems to have arisen in north-east France. It was such a good, useful grape that its cultivation soon expanded to many areas across Europe. In the course of its travels, it developed (as wine grapes are prone to do) various clonal mutations that became established in the areas where they developed. Now it is important to understand that a “clonal mutation” is, biologically speaking, not “speciation”: that is, the mutation is not a new grape type but simply a variant of the original. Thus, all the various clonal variants of the grape we are discussing here are effectively the same grape.

What is this “Ur-grape”? Jancis Robinson in her eminent reference Wine Grapes lists this grape under the heading “Savagnin”; she recognizes that the name “Traminer” for the grape is older, and arguably more widespread, but uses Savagnin “because it is less misleading in terms of the variety’s origin.” With some trepidation, we take leave to disagree. We present this introduction here, but essentially repeat it on our “Savagnin” page. On this page, we will confine ourselves to the grape as used under the name “Traminer”.

Before we proceed, however, it is worth reciting some of the names under which modern Traminer is known and grown in the world. Those names include (among many others) Savagnin, Gewürztraminer, Heida, Païen, Savagnin Blanc, and Savagnin Rose. Yes, the famous Gewürztraminer is basically just Traminer/Savagnin under another name. (And of course each of those types just listed has itself a small host of regional synonym names.)

Now on to Traminer as used under that name.


The Traminer grape, being an old and successful type, has spread far and wide in the world. Besides its existence as Savagnin in France and now Australia, and as Heida or Païen in Switzerland, it can be found, under various local names, in many places—nowadays many of them in central and eastern Europe: Austria (where Gelber Traminer is an outstanding clone), Bulgaria (as Traminer or as Mala Dinka), the Czech Republic (as Prynč or Brynśt), Hungary (as Tramini), Romania (as Rusa), Slovenia (as Traminec), and even to some extent in Russia.

The taste of Traminer table wines is variously described, but its essence seems to be tropical fruit strongly balanced by a citrusy lemon streak, and—repeated several times—a “savory” quality (which doesn’t help much because that’s a word with a rather indefinite referent). The wines are generally described as medium-bodied, with good acidity. Recalling the grape’s ancestry, we should perhaps give some credence to one reviewer’s description of it as “a bit like Riesling but with greater texture”.

(If it’s any help, remember that Savignan is essentially Gewürztraminer, so look there for more extended discussions.)

Factoid: Some of the world’s most celebrated wine grapes are descended in some way from Traminer, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chenin Blanc.

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Some Descriptions of Traminer Wines

(Most descriptions of Traminer wines focus on Gewürztraminer and Savagnin, which see; here we have tried to include more general Traminer notes, which are scarce.)

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Some Traminers to Try

(About this list.)

The sad fact is that there are few Traminer table-wine bottlings available within our price range in the U.S. This is what we found within our quality/price/availability parameters (we have relaxed our usual “availability” parameter so as to have anything at all to list).


Domaine Boyar “Selection” Traminer
(Available from just one or two online retailers.)

• This wine has no current Wine Searcher Tasting Notes.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

By opening up the price range, one finds at least a few good Traminer wines available. We say “available”, but that means at most three retailers (that we could find) and more often just a single seller.

About the most available of those (or, more accurately, least unavailable) and both plausibly priced for a splurge and of reasonably splurge quality is the Weingut Neumeister “Steintal” Roter Traminer. “Roter Traminer” is also known as Savagnin Rose, which shows how closely interconnected all the Traminer variations are. Roter Traminer is generally described as being pretty much like Gewürztraminer except with a less aggressive aroma.

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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This page was last modified on Sunday, 19 January 2020, at 5:17 pm Pacific Time.