Gewürztraminer started out as traminer, an ancient grape, probably related to both riesling and viognier. It may come from, and was certainly named for the village of Tramin, or Termeno, in Italy's German-speaking Alto Adige region. Wines labeled simply Traminer are still made, but in the late 19th century, somebody started tacking on the modifier gewürz — German for spicy — in recognition of its intensely aromatic character. (The Alsatians spell the name without the umlaut.) The grape is said to contain somewhere between 200 and 500 aromatic compounds, in fact, and there are similarities between its aroma chemistry and that of lychee. Most wine lovers agree that the grape finds its highest expression in Alsace, where it produces both dry and sweet wines. It is also popular in Germany and in its home region of Italy, and good examples are produced in Australia, Canada, and a number of American regions (that from Mendocino County's Anderson Valley in California is particularly good).
Clams and oysters, lobster and other crustaceans, grilled vegetables, and grilled or fried chicken (for acidic, grassy sauvignon blancs); baked or roasted fish, cream sauces, dishes flavored with lemon or lime, and pork or veal (for richer, rounded sauvignon blancs).