In today’s world where the emphasis is on instant gratification, the Alsace winery Trimbach is a throwback to another era. While most wineries are releasing wines from the 2005 vintage, Trimbach’s current releases of its top wines are from 2001.
Jean and Pierre Trimbach were in New York last week to host a tasting of their current estate wines (the firm also purchases grapes for their line of varietal wines) as well as a few gems from the cellar. For Pierre, it was his second trip to New York; the first was 20 years ago.
The tasting began with the two estate Rieslings, both from grand cru sites, the Cuvée Frédéric-Émile and Clos Ste.-Hune. They showed the purity, balance and mineral character that makes Riesling so appealing. These wines are bone dry, a style that was losing ground a few years ago in Alsace, as ripeness increased with warmer vintages and later harvesting.
Trimbach has always adhered to this style. It’s worked for the firm for 12 generations and they enjoy the largest market share of Alsace wines in the United States. And yet, the wines can be austere in their youth. That’s why they believe firmly in holding the wines in their cellars for several years before release.
One exception is the Riesling Cuvée Frédéric-Émile 2003, which was released last year. Coming from the scorching 2003 vintage, the brothers felt that the wine was forward and round, therefore ready to enjoy.
The Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminers are richer and contain some residual sugar, but less than comparable wines from many Alsace estates. Overall, the Trimbach style emphasizes elegance.
Among the older vintages poured were the Riesling Cuvée Frédéric-Émile 1990, a wine we rated 96 points on release. It lived up to that rating, showing the smoky, lanolin and preserved fruit flavors that aged Riesling develops. It was still fresh and lively.
A Gewürztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 1990 demonstrated that this grape can age if grown and vinified well. The brothers also treated the crowd to a Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Noble 1967. This was very complex, with a bouquet evoking almond cake, coffee, fig and flavors of crème brûlée, marmalade and citrus peel.
All the wines were showing beautifully. Trimbach’s philosophy takes some of the guesswork out of when to drink, since they are released when the brothers feel they are ready. But there’s no rush either, as the mature wines were still fresh.
Jean and Pierre were clearly enjoying themselves. In response to a question from the audience about one of the wines, Jean replied: “Ask Pierre. He makes the wines. I just drink them.”