The exact origin of the white grape variety is uncertain; it could come from Germany, France or the Czech Republic (Moravia). Although the different varieties differ in terms of berry colour, aroma, leaf shape and grape size, as well as in terms of vigour, yield and susceptibility to disease, they have almost the same DNA profile with minor differences. They are therefore regarded as a single grape variety, although in many grape variety catalogues they are listed separately as independent varieties. There are the following three main varieties:
Savagnin Blanc (France) or Gelber Traminer, Weißer Traminer, Traminer (German-speaking area): The French name (also called Savagnin for short) is mostly given in international sources. Whether it is then really White Traminer or Gewürztraminer is not always beyond doubt. This variety is characterised by odourless, yellow-green berries.
Gewürztraminer or Red Traminer or (especially in France) Savagnin Rose Aromatique: The German name (often with "u" in the English-speaking world) is surprisingly also common internationally. This by far the most common variety is characterized by aromatic, reddish/orange berries, which give the wine its typical, name-giving note
Savagnin Rose or Klevener de Heiligenstein or Savagnin Rose Non Musqué: This non-aromatic variety with reddish-brown berries is rare; it occurs almost exclusively in the French Alsace and in the municipality of Durbach(Baden).
In the German-speaking countries, the sources usually distinguish between two types of Traminer: White Traminer or Yellow Traminer and Gewürztraminer or Red Traminer. If only the name Traminer is given, it is usually the Gewürztraminer, but it can also mean the White/Yellow Traminer. For the two varieties Gewürztraminer and Savagnin Rose there are separate keywords with additional information (see there).
DNA analyses carried out independently by various biologists in Italy, France, Germany and Austria have proven that the French varieties Savagnin Blanc, Rose and Aromatique, the Swiss varieties Heida, Heidarot and Païen, the Italian Traminer Aromatico and all varieties known as Traminer in the German-speaking world are identical. The Swiss biologist Dr. José Vouillamoz therefore believes that it is wrong to speak of a "Traminer family", as this would also associate other relationships such as "siblings" or "aunts" and "uncles", which is not true.
The approximately 200 synonyms in countless languages are a record and prove the high age and wide distribution. In most countries, there is no separation in the recording of the varieties, but they are usually listed together. The following synonyms are used as a general, neutral designation for Traminer or for the white/yellow variety, but confusingly often for all varieties (there is no clear assignment). The most important synonyms grouped alphabetically by country are Adelfranke, Edeltraube, Fränkisch, Frennschen, Frentschen, Klevner, Rotfrensch, Weißfrennschen(Germany); Edler Weiß, Weißedler(Alsace); Beaunié, Fromenteau, Fourmentans, Gentil Blanc, Naturé, Naturel, Sauvagnin, Savagnin Jaune, Savagnin Vert, Viclair(France); Traminac(Croatia); Klevner(Austria); Heida, Païen(Switzerland); Brynšt, Drumin, Prync, Tramín Bíly(Czech Republic); Traminec(Slovenia); Altdeutsche, Malvoisie(South Tyrol); Formentin(Hungary). The specific synonyms for the two varieties Gewürztraminer and Savagnin Rose are listed there.
Despite several DNA analyses, Traminer's parenthood has not been completely clarified, or there are three different theses. The first thesis is that Traminer was selected from wild vines. Now, according to the DNA comparison, there is a parent-offspring relationship between Pinot and Traminer. However, the assumption of a direct wild vine descent of the Traminer is only valid if Traminer is a parent (and not a descendant) of Pinot. This in turn would be consistent with the assumption that the French name Savagnin is derived from "sauvage" (wild) and with the morphological similarity between leaves of Savagnin and wild vines found in the Rhine valley. To date, however, no genetic link between Traminer and wild vines has been discovered. The second thesis assumes a cross between Pinot x unknown variety and the third thesis assumes a cross between two unknown extinct varieties. The most probable thesis is a presumably natural cross between Pinot x of unknown variety.
The Traminer, like Heunisch(Gouais Blanc), is one of the most important performance varieties, from which many others are descended. Its descendants can be regarded as the Franconian gene pool of Central European grape varieties. Thus, along with Gouais Blanc (White Heunisch), it played a decisive role in the development of many valued European varieties. By means of DNA analyses, many direct descendants resulting from presumably natural crossings were identified and parent-progeny relationships were established (which means that Traminer could be either a parent or a descendant). In addition, Traminer varieties have been crossing partners in many new breedings.
The Traminer is one of the oldest cultivated vines in Europe besides the Muscatel. There are various hypotheses about its origin. An origin from Egypt or the Near East was based on archaeological finds of ancient grape seeds, which are said to resemble the Traminer (Savagnin Blanc). This is doubtful, however, because it is very difficult to compare or identify them by means of grape seeds. An origin from Greece is also unlikely, as no genetic links to Greek varieties have been found to date. The German ampelographer Hermann Goethe (1837-1911) suspected a descent from ancient grape varieties and names the Aminea mentioned by Pliny the Elder (23-79). In other sources Nomentana is also mentioned. However, there is no botanical evidence for this.
A frequently mentioned origin is South Tyrol, because there is a place south of Bolzano called Tramin (Termeno). The German botanist Hieronymus Bock (1498-1554) reported in his "Kreütter Buch" in the 1546 edition of "vil (viel) in der Etsch und zu Tramyn growing Traminner grapes". The French ampelographer Pierre Galet (1921-2019) also subscribed to this theory, saying that the variety is said to have spread first to Switzerland and Germany and then to France. There are, however, a number of facts that speak against South Tyrolean origin. For example, ampelographic works from Italy before the 19th century lack any reference to Traminer or any of its synonyms. Although Traminer wines from South Tyrol were traded since the Middle Ages, the name probably refers to the "Great Traminer" = Räuschling (Traminer descendant), which has been mentioned in Tyrol as "Deutsche Trauben" (Drutsch) since the late Middle Ages.
The biologist Andreas Jung suspects the origin to be Moravia, a part of the Czech Republic. At the time of the Frankish Empire, during the Christianisation of the Slavs, it was introduced together with other Frankish varieties from the eastern Awarenmark via the Danube to Franconia and Württemberg and from there to western Central Europe. In the Franconian Empire it was widely spread as "Kleinfränkische" or "Rotfränkische" along the Western Alps (Savoy, Valais, Western Switzerland) as well as in the French Jura and Alsace. The Pannonian Traminer descendants Grüner Veltliner, Rotgipfler and Silvaner support this thesis (Pannonia included Lower Austria and Burgenland, as well as Western Hungary).
However, according to the available historical and genetic data, most of them now assume origin in north-eastern France (Franche-Comté, Chamapgne-Ardenne, Lorraine and Alsace) and south-western Germany (Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg). The variety was often mentioned in old documents under its numerous synonyms (also used for other varieties), which makes an exact identification difficult. For example, Gentil Blanc was used for the varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Savagnin Blanc. Fromenteau was also a frequently used name. In South Tyrol, a "Vini de Traminne" was mentioned in Bolzano as early as 1242 (and interpreted as proof of origin), but this means a "wine from Tramin" (i.e. the place) and not the grape variety.
The first reliable mention dates from 1483 in the monastery of Bebenhausen near Stuttgart as "Frennsch und Traminer Stoeck". The Swiss botanist Johannes Bauhin (1541-1613) mentions "Muscateller" and "Traminner" as widespread varieties in the Rhine Valley in his posthumous work published posthumously in 1650. In the Palatinate village of Rhodt, a Traminer wine was mentioned in 1591. There is also a vineyard here, which is under monumental protection. It is said that there are already 350 year old Traminer vines from the time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) from which wine is still being pressed. In Switzerland, the Heida variety was mentioned in the canton of Valais in 1586. Much later, in France, it was mentioned in 1736 under the name Savagnin Blanc. This makes its origin in Germany much more credible.
The early ripening vine is resistant to various fungal diseases, especially botrytis, due to the relatively thick skin of the berries. As a rule, the berries have a balanced sugar-acid ratio. The variety produces well-structured white wines with quality and ageing potential. Especially the most common variety Gewürztraminer yields white wines rich in extract and alcohol with intense aromas of musk (musqué), bitter orange, lychee (lychee tree), marzipan and roses. Therefore the vine is counted among the bouquet varieties.
In many documentations or statistics it is not clear exactly which Traminer type is involved. However, as the Gewürztraminer is by far the most common variety in terms of quantity, this is unproblematic. Most countries show all Traminer variants together in their statistics, with the exceptions of France and Switzerland. In Kym Anderson's statistics, quantities are shown under the three names Gewurztraminer (with "u"), Savagnin Blanc and Savagnin Rose (here there are only two countries). The first two quantities are included under the keyword Gewurztraminer.