Domaine Trimbach: Some Wines

To the capital city and to Good Brothers for a tasting with Julien Trimbach, the young man who will one day be the 13th generation winemaker at Domaine Trimbach, one of the best Alsace producers (top three, I'd say). He's a remarkably accomplished speaker, and had some very interesting things to say.

I've never heard another winemaker (or perhaps I should say apprentice winemaker) talk so much about the taste of soil. Perhaps that reflects the diversity of soil types in Alsace, which range from granite, to limestone, to iron-rich soils, and even volcanic to a kind of crumbled granite called grés de Vosges.

We tasted through eleven wines taken from the currently available range, plus a beautiful Pinot Gris from 1990. The house style is decidedly dry, which suits my palate very well.

Riesling Réserve 2014
The grapes for this cuvee are harvested from several different soil types and vineyards, but M Trimbach described it as having a "limestone nose". It's a zingy, fresh wine, with intense lime and grapefruit aromas and a long lasting citric acidity. Delicious.

Riesling Sélection de Vielles Vignes 2012
Described by M. Trimbach as "a classic vintage", he also told us that for this vintage 80% of the fruit is from the Vorderer-Haguenau vineyard, from vines over 80yo. At 4.5 grams per litre of residual sugar it's still a dry wine, but definitely softer than the Reserve. I found a beautiful waxy note on both the nose and palate, and the citrus fruit elements were so ripe they seemed almost tropical.

Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2008
Trimbach are famous for their refusal to use the Alsatian Grand Cru designations on their labels (although that is changing now), and Freddy Emile is in fact a blend of Riesling from two different Grand Cru vineyards, so they wouldn't be allowed to label it as such. That doesn't stop it being a fabulous drop. Where the Vielles Vignes was showing spicy notes, this has evolved into savouriness, while still showing the intense citrus fruit of the younger wines. The texture was wonderfully buttery too.

Clos Sainte Hune 2008
M. Trimbach had stressed that the company likes to hold back wines until they are ready for release, but I guess that's not feasible in this case. Even López de Heredia in Rioja don't wait a quarter century to release Vina Tondonia. And that's the sort of time to mature that I think this wine probably needs.

The Clos Ste Hune is a lieu dit within the Rosacker Grand Cru in Hunawihr. There are just 1.67 hectares of sixty year old Riesling vines, yielding a mere 10,000 bottles annually, on average. Clos Ste Hune's soil is a kind of shell filled limestone called muschelkalk, which is the kind of uniquely Alsatian word which illustrates the mixed Franco-German heritage of the region nicely.

The nose showed petrol and a leafiness - not quite leaf mold, but old leaves. There was also a silky, creamy, mineralic whiteness, as if I were smelling white chocolate, but sans vanilla, or some sort of very rich white flowery perfume.

The palate was soft, rounded, and intense, but very, very tight. It was very well balanced, with a dominant flavour of lime. Of all the wines, this was the only one which seemed warm in the finish. To me, it was on the same level of quality as the other wines I tasted, which I'm inclined to attribute to its relative youth.

Pinot Gris Réserve 2014
Described as "Pinot d'expression", I found this to be very savoury and spicy, indeed almost meaty. I found chestnuts on the nose, which I've never seen in a wine before. The palate was much more about fruit, with green apples and grapefruit, plus a leafier version of the spices from the nose.

Pinot Gris Réserve Personelle 2013
Made with grapes from the Grand Cru of Osterberg, this wine was rather gentler than the 2014, and there was more fruit on the nose; ripe, honeyed yellow apples, even a touch of banana. The palate was sweet and rich, with a lovely soft lemon sherbet finish.

Gewurztraminer Réserve 2011
Less intense than the previous wines, this showed classic Gewurz notes of rose, lychee, and/or turkish delight (take your pick. Or we could just agree to use Gewurztraminer as a descriptor). The palate was very easy going, with a tasty background note of dry savoury spice which somehow made me think of suede.

Gewurztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 2011
Drawn from two Grand Cru vineyards, Altenberg Mandelberg, this wine smelt more spicy than the Reserve, but had less of the floral elements. The palate was riper, too, with the fruit veering into mango territory and a lovely broad mid-toned spiciness.

Pinot Noir Réserve 2015
This was a surprise - a tasty surprise. From a dry vintage, and made "without oak" (actually 80 hectolitre very old oak tanks), it was juicy, fruity, clean, and utterly gluggable. Or, as M. Trimbach more elegantly put it, "not an intellectual wine". The nose was cherry syrup, the palate was redcurrants. Lightly chilled on a warm day, this would be gone in twenty minutes.

Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 2008
This wine perhaps whould have been aired for a little longer, as it initially showed that hint of cabbage which occasionally appears in old whites. With time it developed concentrated buttery and mossy notes. The palate was sweet, with butter orange peel, some green lime notes, and a surprisingly light body for a VT.

Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives 2014
This was described as being a "difficult vintage".

A nose of ripe roses and powdered ginger, which evolved over time to show some leafiness and a slight mushroom character. The palate was very fresh, light, and completely unsticky - brilliant acidity. I found flavours of ripe yellow apples and honey.

Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 1990
A wee treat from the cellar to finish off. If you made a plate of wholemeal toast with lashings of butter and runny honey, and then took away the toast, then you'd have the nose of this wine – except of course that buttered toast is never really elegant, and the wine was so very elegant.

The palate was soft and elegantly glamorous, with plenty of acidity to suggest that the vintage will evolve for many years to come. It was much, much sweeter than the other VTs, and had a glorious complex spiciness which might have been cedar wood.