Gewurztraminer is ridiculous. It’s insane wine, recalcitrant and useless, thick makeup sloppily tear-streaked across its face, blathering on about gods and jungles and high-heeled patent leather and quadruple rainbows and jewelry and procreation, as if so many disparate phenomena could be contained in a single thought.

No, steer clear of crazy ol’ Gewurz when she comes swerving through the town square. Who would ever want to taste so damn much at a given time? No good can come from cavorting with her.

Except when it can. Except when the good you’re seeking is outsized, outlandish, outlying. Then, Gewurz’s extravagance and crazy talk are more important, more welcome and maybe even more useful than anything else at all. There are a lot of bad things that can come of hanging around with Gewurz, but the worst is pretending you shouldn’t anymore.

I’m not the first to call Gewurztraminer (if it’s in a German wine, add an umlaut over the “u”) ridiculous. Gewurz wines invite ridicule, in the way that anything that is very intense borders on the risible. Its aromas are intensely floral, as if a delivery truck full of roses collided with one carrying dianthus on the way to taking out a gardenia store. And/or they are intensely fruity, as if those hypothetical trucks were filled with strange Southeast Asian fruits. After the rapture, the lychee. And coconut and cinnamon. Then the texture, creamy and viscous.

It’s all like that: crashing, tossed together, turned up to 11. Sometimes Gewurz wines are sweet, but even when they aren’t, they seem like they’re just hiding sugar. And the powerful flavors and aromas and overall exoticism are only rarely offset by high acidity, mineral salt notes, effervescence or anything else on the slimming side. Gewurztraminer has one of the lowest natural acidity levels of any grape, red or white.

But I’d like to reframe Gewurz, since so often what we ridicule is what we fear. Rather than labeling it overblown and incompatible, I think of it as civil disobedience: a tight-fisted middle finger to the polished groupthink acquiescence that underlies so much wine appreciation.

To wit: White wine should seamlessly, discreetly sidle up to your dinner; should complement its surroundings; should be crisp, vibrant, subtly fruity but dry, and delicate. I often agree. When I don’t, there’s Gewurz (and sherry and Scheurebe and vin jaune, though the latter is made with Gewurztraminer’s doppelgänger, Savagnin).

If you never drank another Albariño or Sauvignon Blanc or Malbec in your life, you’d be fine. Really. Not so with Gewurz. That this thing could even exist, naturally, amid the sea of crisp, dry white wines, is enough reason to pay it attention.

And if I poured you a glass of good Gewurz but told you it was a cocktail rather than a wine, you’d swoon over its multifaceted complexity! You’d giggle with glee at its bizarro aromatics; praise its soft, enveloping, soothing mouthfeel; revel in its flavors of lavender, coconut, lychee, cotton candy, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rose, lemongrass.

But it is wine, so we confine it to the wine ghetto – where it has lived for a very long time.

The Tramin grape was first mentioned more than a thousand years ago, around the German-speaking Italian village of Termeno, along a road that brought medieval travelers through the Alps from what is now northern Italy to what is now Austria and Germany. The umlaut-laden “Gewürztraminer” was first used in Alsace in the late 19th century, when the Prussians ruled there.

It is best known as an Alsatian grape, though there is good Gewurz in Italy and Germany, too. I’ve had a terrific Gewurz from Chile. And California, Washington and Oregon. In fact, Gewurztraminer’s anti-authoritarianism is exuberantly American in spirit: untutored, singsong, unconcerned, Whitmanian.

Many people call Gewurz the red wine of white wines – that viscosity, power, spiciness and relatively high alcohol – but for all those attributes it is more precisely the Zinfandel of white wines. Come to Gewurz when you want that sort of boisterous, American, piquant all-over-the-place-ness.

One other nation-state analogy is that other enormous, and enormously varied, democracy India. Indian cuisine is often invoked as one of the few that work reliably with Gewurz, and there is chemical-molecular data to back it up: ginger, turmeric, cardamom, mangoes and galangal share the same aroma and flavor compound families as Gewurztraminer.

I love the wines with Indian foods. And I also love them on their own, without food, when their downtown-Mumbai congestion of flavors presents all the gustatory drama one could want. Alsatians and Italians gladly drank Gewurztraminer before those cultures knew anything of India or the East, though. Agrodolce (sweet-sour) preparations do well, as do sausage with coriander, ham with applesauce, and very soft, bloomy cheeses.

Finding the Gewurz you will like can be complicated endeavor. For one thing, good Gewurztraminer is usually expensive, because it’s a relatively difficult grape to look after and nurture. Grapes on a single bunch grow inconsistently, and profusely: aggressive (and costly) pruning is crucial. So is finding the precisely correct harvest time, and the vintage must offer the right fluctuation of warmth and coolness.

There’s the issue of sweetness; some have it, others don’t. Unlike other wines that sometimes carry residual sugar, such as Riesling, the relative alcohol level here is not even a rough guide; the driest-tasting of the wines I list below carries the least alcohol – the opposite of what you’d expect.

Though my intention here is to push you to drink a Gewurz every once in a while, I seemed to have offered mostly reasons not to. But that’s in keeping with the soul of this amazing grape. It will challenge many of your basic assumptions, offend many of your cherished beliefs, and make you unbelievably happy – if you let it.

Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2011 ($24) is a great place to start. 2011 was an across-the-board explosive year in Alsace, but all the explosions in this wine are controlled and accurate. It’s packed with fruit, as if you made lemon squares out of Ruby Red grapefruit, pineapple and lychee. Lots of lychee, with bitter orange rind to offset it. Baking spice flavors follow the fruit, and milk chocolate in both taste and texture carries into a long, focused finish. Welcome to the party.

Domaine Mittnacht Frères Gewurztraminer ‘Les Terres Blanches’ 2012 ($29) is my current favorite. It’s more in the floral realm, but light, meadowy flowers rather than damp tropics. From a biodynamic estate in Alsace, the Mittnacht shows the imprint of that holistic approach to farming: contrast with the Trimbach’s directness a much more discursive, tangential profile; a wine whose T-shirt reads, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer 2011 Reserve Personnelle ($30) was my first Gewurz love, so smooth, smoky and harmonious. Its tropical aspects and caramelized citrus are classic, while its elegance and composure are atypical.

Elena Walch Gewurztraminer 2013 ($19) is from the most recent vintage, and a different place: Alto Adige, kind of the Alsace of Italy. All of Walch’s wines shine bright with acidity, including this one. It’s very dry, lighter on its feet than the others (though you pay a high 14.5 percent alcohol toll), terrifically clean, all candied lemon peel and rose, pretty and flowy, countered by Alto Adige’s inimitably bracing bitter forest-greens character.

There are more, and the domestic expressions are worth exploring as well. With Gewurz, Maine’s somewhat limited wine selection and the limited demand work in our favor: Distributors don’t bother bringing in many of the mediocre wines. Get out there and enjoy the crazy.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

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