Gewürztraminer vs Riesling: The Differences You Should Know

If you’ve never tried Gewurztraminer, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice, as this tasty wine has been growing heavily in popularity in recent years and is a unique option that compares well to many other wines.

For example, it works well as a replacement for Riesling if you need an upgrade from this wine type. Here’s what you need to know about how well these different wine types compare.

Gewürztraminer vs Riesling The Differences You Should Know

A Comparison of Gewürztraminer and Riesling

Both of these wine types are aromatic white wines that also possess similar traits.

Understanding these similarities and differences can help you identify which is suitable for your needs.

Next, we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about choosing between these different options.

Related: Riesling vs Moscato head to head. Or checkout Riesling vs Chardonnay head to head.

Origins of Gewürztraminer and Riesling

While you might not think of Germany immediately when thinking of viticulture, it has been an essential part of winemaking culture for centuries.

For example, it produced both Gewurztraminer and Riesling, two popular wine options that have remained vital throughout the world. However, their origins remain pretty different in many fundamental ways.

While Gewurztraminer hails from Germany, its grape originates in Northern Italy and is primarily a mutation.

This fact betrays the rather complex origin of this wine.

Though it originated in Germany and got its name from this country, it initially didn’t do well there.

In addition, the grape is relatively sensitive and often struggles in weather changes, which are relatively common throughout most of the European continent in this region. 

France took over for Germany with Gewurztraminer, specifically the Alsace region.

Alsace, France
Alsace, France. This is where the best Gewurztraminer comes from.

This country and region provide a very comfortable growing atmosphere for this grape and help it thrive in this environment.

Ironically, the best Gewurztraminer often still comes from France, though plenty of vineyards and winemakers in this country focus on this unique wine variety. 

Riesling also comes from Germany but thrived there and remains the country’s primary wine export. It mainly thrives in the Rhine River region, where it originated in 1435.

Furthermore, these grapes and wines remain distant relatives connected at the traminer grape.

With Riesling, you may also notice some similarities between Chardonnay and Petit Verdot, though both types provide a different style and taste. 

Growing Regions for Gewürztraminer and Riesling

Gewurztraminer is a more challenging grape to grow and wine to make than Riesling.

As a result, it typically has a reasonably limited growing region that focuses on cooler regions throughout the world.

Southern areas, like Mediterranean Italy, often provide too warm of an environment for this wine.

Expect to find it in places like Northern Italy, where the sea is less prominent, in the Alps near Austria, northern California regions, the Pacific Northwest, and, as mentioned, Alsace, France. 

These growing regions often have relatively rich soils that also help this grape pick up a variety of tastes and aromas.

For example, clay-rich soil may help this wine develop an earthier flavor, depending on where it’s grown. Typically, you get this taste variety in areas like Austria because its mountainous regions often provide the wide variety of minerals needed for wines.

By contrast, Riesling is a sturdier wine that can thrive in colder environments and warmer ones.

For example, it is common in European areas like France and Germany and northern countries like Canada. However, it is also known in regions like Chile, South Africa, and Kazakhstan.

As a result, it is by far the more popular option between these two wines and spreads to just about every wine-drinking country.

Grape Color of Gewürztraminer and Riesling

Gewurztraminer vs Riesling grape differences
Gewurztraminer vs Riesling grape differences.

While you might think that a grape is a grape and that most look the same, that is simply not the case.

Even these two somewhat similar grapes with a similar ancestor and growing lineage look quite different.

Does this affect the wine quality? Not particularly, but grape color could change the overall wine tone and may vary your enjoyment depending on which wine type you prefer. 

For example, Riesling grapes have a relatively bright green color and often produce a wine with a greenish tint.

Some people love that color and find it appealing, while others may not. So, you typically get a more off-white or deep-yellow color mixed with the green tint in your glass.

Understanding this fact is important because some wine fans are surprised by this wine’s hue when first trying one.

By contrast, the Gewurztraminer is a reasonably rich pink, which is more common for winemaking grapes.

When used to create wine, you get a lovely golden yellow or deep amber-gold color. For most wine fans, that will be a more familiar and palpable color.

Most importantly, the taste and aroma vary heavily between these two grapes and wines, sometimes on a surprisingly deep level.

Aroma of Gewürztraminer and Riesling

If you love aromatic wines, you’re in luck because both of these types provide a very instantly recognizable smell.

They are considered some of the most aromatic wines on the market and are both quite different in their smells.

With wines like these, the scent is almost as important as the taste and can provide an excellent range of sensations that make your wine drinking more enjoyable as a result. 

Riesling is one of the nicest-smelling wines on the market, as it has a floral scent. You may also smell some jasmine, lemon, lime, apricot, peach, or nectarine.

This floral and fruity smell makes it fairly palpable for most tastes. Some may even smell a little petrol or diesel scent, though this odor depends on factors like growing time, water quality, and high acid content within the wine itself. 

By contrast, Gewurztraminer brings to mind pineapple and rose petals. You may also notice lingering ginger, smoke, incense, and allspice scents.

Other drinkers may spot lychee aromas, depending on how much sun the grapes get and how the wine is produced.

These odors make it a slightly more potent wine than Riesling, though most people should find the overall scent reasonably pleasant.

Taste Profile of Gewürztraminer and Riesling 

Gewurztraminer typically tastes like lychee
Lychee tends to be the most prominent flavor of Gewurztraminer.

What is interesting about these wines is that they may have varying tastes depending on many factors.

As mentioned before, the amount of sun and water a grape receives while growing can impact its overall taste and aroma.

However, the grape ripeness also matters because more mature grapes typically produce a sweeter and fuller flavor with more tropical fruit flavors within the wine. 

Taste also varies depending on the wine’s overall sweetness and alcohol level.

Wines with high alcohol levels produce a drier taste because the yeast that produces alcohol eats this sugar and leaves alcohol behind as waste.

However, let’s focus more on ripeness here because both Riesling and Gewurztraminer may be sweet or dry, depending on the winemaker’s preference. 

Typically, Riesling grapes get picked a little earlier than Gewurztraminer and produce a drier and more acidic overall taste.

You can get anything from lemonade to lime and pineapple tastes in a Riesling, which can still be created somewhat sweetly by removing the yeast from the wine vats sooner.

Expect sweeter and more tropical fruit flavors, with a fuller overall taste that makes it reasonably tasty. 

Gewurztraminer, by contrast, is often dry but can also be sweet, depending on how it is produced. You usually get lychee or pineapple taste with this wine, with less grapefruit and acidity when compared to Riesling.

Both are relatively smooth and easy to enjoy, though a Riesling may have a richer overall taste that may appeal more to someone who is just getting into wine for the first time. 

However, Gewurztraminer also has spicy and peppery tastes, which often layer with other foods more potently than Riesling.

Riesling is designed to blend with its natural flavors and enhance them. Gewurztraminer can overwhelm these tastes and scents and be quite overt by comparison.

That said, it’s usually relatively easy to pair these unique wine options with just about any meal. 

Gewürztraminer vs Riesling: Food Pairings

Pairing Gewurztraminer and Riesling with different foods requires understanding a few standard pairing options and their overall taste profile.

While both wines will blend well with many food types, it’s essential to know that they may clash with some meals. So pay attention to these notes below to minimize your risk of this frustrating issue.

Spicy Dishes

Spicy Dishes pairing with Gewurztraminer and Riesling
For those that like spicy foods, you’re in luck. Gewurztraminer and Riesling both pair well with spicy dishes.

Do you like spicy dishes from many cultures? Both these wines should serve you very well.

For example, any meals rich with flavors like allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, clove, or marjoram do well with these wines. Curry flavors and other spices all blend well with these options. 

That said, Gewurztraminer probably works best for curries and tagine, as these meals typically blend with dried fruits and other ingredients.

On the other hand, Riesling combines better with soy and teriyaki sauces and rice vinegar. As a result, it is a standard option for various Asian cuisine types. 

White Meat and Red Meat

When choosing either of these wines for red or white meat, you should probably get a Riesling for your red meat.

Its simpler taste and gentler overall texture blend nicely with most red meats, like steak, and should provide the kick that you need to flavor your food. Gewurztraminer is a little too overpowering. 

However, Gewurztraminer may work well with a variety of white meat, like lamb, chicken, or paired with turkey.

That’s because off-dry and dry Gewurztraminer’s add distinct flavor to the meal and give it more of a textural boost. That said, a good Riesling also blends well with some of these protein sources, though in a more limited way. 


Seafood’s uniquely potent flavor is something that may overpower many people.

As a result, you often need a more subtle wine for many seafood types. For example, Riesling works well for most types of fish and oysters, as well as many kinds of shrimp or even crab. 

That said, Gewurztraminer also works well for fried shrimp and other fried seafood.

Shellfish go better with Gewurztraminer thanks to its unique array of flavor types. Though subtle, these extra flavors add a boost to your shellfish without overpowering them in a frustrating way and make them harder to enjoy as a result.


If you’re more into dessert wines and want types that blend well with sweeter foods, you should find Riesling and Gewurztraminer work reasonably well.

For example, Gewurztraminer does very well with various kinds of pies and creamy desserts, like pumpkin pie and many baklava types, particularly those with a rich chocolate taste.

Rieslings are usually a better option when eating more straightforward desserts, such as berries. That’s because they pair better with these foods without overwhelming them.

In addition, the fuller taste of Gewurztraminer wines simply blends better with more decadent desserts and produces a great range of flavors for most pie types.


Surprisingly, most vegetables should go well with these unique wine flavors.

For example, bell pepper, carrots, squash, red onions, and eggplant blend well with them. Riesling mainly helps bring a little more flavor and texture to somewhat bland vegetables, such as celery.

Roasted vegetables are delicious when paired with these wines. 

That said, Gewurztraminer also does well with a variety of coconut-related dishes, particularly those that use coconut milk. Artichokes and salads also go well with this wine type, particularly those with fruit.

The fruity tastes of Gewurztraminer help bring out the texture and flavors of these fruits without drowning them in excessive wine aftertastes.


Like with most wines, Gewurztraminer and Riesling pair well with many types of cheese. However, you typically want somewhat delicately flavored and soft cheese.

For example, a great goat cheese often goes well with both of these wines, though most delicate cow cheeses also go well with it, like feta cheeses or even some sharper cheddar options.

That said, any potent cheese with a “stinky” flavor should be avoided.

Limburger, blue cheese, and other cheeses like these just don’t blend very well with Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

Instead, you usually want something with a milder taste and smell, one that doesn’t overpower the relatively subtle flavors of these wines or any breads you may eat with them.

Gewürztraminer vs. Riesling: Which One Should I Choose?

After reading all of this information, you should feel pretty confident about which of these two wines works the best for your needs.

Gewurztraminer has more of a kick and is often a little more complex than Riesling. However, Riesling is more palpable for the average wine drinker and suits more people.

If you’re new to wine, it’s a better choice. On the other hand, those with more complex tastes may prefer Gewurztraminer.

Emma Miller