Terroirs at Trimbach
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
25 May 2017
Earlier this month, it was great to meet Julien Trimbach, son of Jean Trimbach, and nephew of winemaking director Pierre Trimbach of the celebrated Trimbach Estate in Ribeauvillé in Alsace.
Trimbach wines are “go-to” in the sense that you can always rely on a pure, dry expression of Riesling, especially, that on their entry level brands at least quenches your (wine) thirst. Upper levels amount to wonderfully sublime experiences, for certain brands that the family produces.
The family has held this domain since the 17th century, and their strong brand name has succeeded worldwide and at all price points: from entry level Pinot Blanc to top notch Riesling. Clos Sainte Hune, anyone?
But the 13th generation, along with cousins Frédérique and Anne, daughters of Pierre Trimbach, has been emphasizing terroir-named wines that seem to be appearing like so many autumnal mushrooms throughout the region.
More information on how the younger Alsace generation is focusing on terroir based wine? Here my article in Decanter from a few years back, still applicable today.
Just a few years ago, the name of the vineyard or vineyards would not have appeared on any Trimbach bottle. Of course, in addition to the Clos Sainte Hune, the family still makes the amazing Cuvée Frédérique Emile (CFE) brand, along with their Reserve and Classic bottlings, partially made with purchased grapes.
I consider CFE best overall, in terms of both price and quality. But today more than ever, the family stresses the fact that CFE comes from two grand cru vineyards, Geisberg and Osterberg. My recent visit with Julien indeed began with a view of both vineyards, noting soil differences. Later, we visited stock rooms where, Julien explained: “We used to play hide and seek as children.” In one such room? The first ever Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling by Trimbach.
On to the tasting notes.
As usual when in bold, I like in particular. If red and bold, even more. When underlined, too? A wine nirvana – and there was one such nirvana, in particular, during my recent visit here. Oh, and if there is an * next to the review, a recommendation to buy.
Pinot Noir Cuvee 7 2015 – Old vines from Rotenberg. More interesting than the regular Pinot Noir cuvee, which is fine enough. Perhaps the 35-year-old vines lend more depth? No oak aging. Not made like in Burgundy, explained Julien. In any case, the wine illustrates how much better Alsatian Pinot Noir can be when compared to the caricature of tepid reds (still) served at so many bistros in Strasbourg, for example.
Sylvaner 2016 – First time ever made with old vines, the Sylvaner, and 100% Trimbach owned grapes. A bit resin like in aspect, yet with iodine like freshness, too. Perhaps a bit more concentrated, due to the age of the vines. The yields are lower than usual, at 50 hectoliters per hectare as opposed to 80. Fine!
Pinot Blanc 2015 – Now you’re talking. This one got my attention, as the first really interesting wine of the tasting. In a solar vintage, the Pinot Blanc seemed wonderfully ripe, with juicy, yellow peach aspects. Although a touch warm on the finish, it was overall a very enjoyable drink, medium-bodied and juicy and more than just a summer barbecue party wine. At just over €10 a bottle, a good deal too.
Muscat “Reserve” 2015* was also delicious and grapey. A pleasing summer sipper, whose light-hearted, yet brisk delivery convinces.
Riesling Reserve 2014* – It is not for nothing that Pierre Trimbach was rated as one of the top ten white wine makers in the world by Decanter. There is a crystal clear aspect to this wine, of burgeoning gunflint (not heavy handed), with richness and a juicy mid palate that has grip and bright acidity to the finish. Made from some purchased grapes as well as from grapes on young vines of grand cru vineyards. This is really delicious wine. Bravo! €17.60 a bottle at the property. 92/100
Old Vine Selection Riesling 2014* – Ah, the silver label did not do it for me in 2009, as it seemed a bit heavy, reflecting a hot vintage. But this one? Excellent! Coming from a cooler vintage? Yes! A gorgeous wine. I am not sure how one could choose from a magnificent panoply of wines produced at this domain in such a vintage. From old wines in Hunawihr. For €22, a very good deal. 94/100
Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2014 – First ever vintage for the family from granite terroir, two hectares of which they bought in 2012. A good choice for a first vintage, as 2014 is perfect for pure and crystalline Rieslings. Planted in horizontal terrasses, south facing just under the forest, the vineyard with granitic soil benefits from a cooler microcosm. I loved its pure acacia flower aspects, with a certain soft delivery in fact, stressing more precision than opulence. Indeed, the estate is calling this and the earlier released Grand Cru Geisberg (2009 sold out, 2011 current) as but a “beginning” of a “Grand Cru Collection”. The fine label was designed by Frédérique, Anne’s sister. I did not ask for the price …. But it was delicious! 93/100
Cuvée Frederic Emile Riesling 2009* – I call this the French kiss wine. Believe me, this wine is sexy and exuberant. Rich, opulent, complete but not heavy handed or jammy as one may possibly expect from the vintage. The bottle had been opened a few days ago, explained Julien. Really? You know what people say about premature oxidation of whites? That it could come more readily from a hotter vintage? Never mind that here. Lovely grip and lift on the finish. All I could say was wow! And that I would buy some on the market, as it is no longer available at the property. 95/100
Cuvée Frederic Emile Riesling 2008* – Just opened that day, so admittedly tighter when tasted just after the 2009. Still, the nose to me is more precise – and more interesting. A bit unfair on the palate, when compared to the 2009, given the time of opening. Overall, a fresher sense, a brighter sense of the fruit, although the acidity was far more noticeable and the sensation not as much of opulence or richness, but rather linearity. I understand why the legendary French wine critic Michel Bettane gave this a perfect score. I can only expect the 2010 to be even better. €44.90 at the property. 96/100
Grand Cru Geisberg Riesling 2011 – The family has been leasing the vineyards of the Convent of Ribeauvillé for several years now and the first vintage was 2009. The limestone, Alsatian gré and sandstone subsoil, old vines and southern exposure along small steep terrasses yield a delicious 2011 both floral and very ripe. Loads of juicy sap, the palate comes across opulent and round, but not heavy. Fine lift on the finish. Only 3,000 bottles produced. The fine label was designed by Frédérique, Anne’s sister. 93/100
Clos Sainte Hune 2011 – The world famous monopole vineyard, all 1.67 hectares in the family since over 200 years… Of course the vines lie on two grand cru terroirs: Rosacker and Hunawihr. Now, not as immediately flattering as, say, the CFE 2009, but there is subtle intensity to this wine. Acacia, white pear, wet stone, succulent, too, but “contained” as framed by the acidity. Will 2010 be more precise? That vintage is not yet available, and I am expecting great things from 2010. Julien said that 2010 has more precision and length as well as a bit of succulent ripeness. In any case, a great wine in the making with only about 8,000 bottles produced for worldwide (high) demand. €139 per bottle at the property. 96+/100
Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre Gewurztraminer 2011 – The flagship of Trimbach Gewürztraminer, and a style more dry than opulent, which I like very much. 2011 was somewhat solar, so you have a richer feel, but what devilishly delicious wine, akin to biting into a gingerbread cake. Spicy and floral, with excellent dry extract, lending grip, in so far as the variety is known for low acidity. We spoke about what to eat with this, and cheese is the ticket: rather robust cheeses with character to stand up to the spicy and rich aspects of the wine. 93/100
Cuvée Frederic Emile Riesling SGN 2001* – This was perhaps the nirvana wine of the tasting. Sure, I really liked the dry CFEs and the other dry wines. Like most people these days, I cannot hang around and drink a bottle of “sweet” wine in one go. Or could I? This one, sure! It has about 70 grams of residual sugar but that is not what you notice. No, what you notice is exquisite balance: concentrated acidity, dry extract and fruit as well as notes of pure botrytis spice. Black tea for me. Then quince, lemon peel, fig, white pepper and so many other flavors that literally seduce you. The last time the Trimbachs made this Riesling SGN? Yes, the 2001 vintage. Not made since. “We only make it in exceptional vintages,” Julien said. 2001 is indeed exceptional. 98/100