Perhaps I keep a bit too quiet about my interest in Riesling - I enjoy examples from the Clare Valley in Australia to Wachau Rieslings in Austria to the great Rieslings of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and Nahe in Germany. I am also a fan of Riesling from Alsace in north-eastern France, though I sometimes find issue with the weight of the wines and the residual sweetness that can vary from one vintage to the next, without any indication on the label. This coupled with a bewildering list of Grand Cru, not all of which are deserving of the status, and a whole host of Germanic sounding names, can make it difficult for consumers to get a handle on Alsace.
At their best, Alsace Rieslings are mesmerising wines, that can be enjoyed in their youth when they offer pure, zippy limey citrus fruits, or with bottle age when complexity starts to develop. One producer that has a reputation for unerring consistency is Trimbach, whose history in the region goes back to 1626 and whose successes can be attributed to twelve generations of winemakers! Situated in the picturesque village of Ribeauvillé, Trimbach own approximately 40 hectares of vineyard comprised of 50 distinct parcels across three main villages, namely Bergheim, Hunawihr and Ribeauvillé itself. They supplement production from their own vineyards by buying high quality fruit from selected growers in the region, but the standout wines come from the finest vineyards that have been in the family for generations.
I have been fortunate enough to taste a number of vintages of the Clos Ste Hune from Trimbach with considerable bottle age…I could argue that this is one of the great dry white wines of the world, such is its capacity for ageing and the resultant complexity. Clos Ste Hune is a small parcel of just over one and half hectares in the Grand Cru of Rosacker in the village of Hunawihr. Its ageing potential is a result of the distinctive limestone terroir known as Muschelkalk. While it may be Clos Ste Hune that steals the headlines, I would draw your attention to Trimbach’s Cuvée Frédéric Emile – you won’t see the words Grand Cru on the label as this is a blend of fruit from two Grand Cru and wine laws do not allow the mention of two sites on the label. It was in the 1960s that the Trimbach family decided to release the Cuvée Frédéric Emile as their second dry Riesling, made by blending the two Grand Cru sites of Geisberg and Osterberg. As is often the Trimbach way, the fruit is harvested late; they aim to manage the wine’s inherent acidity so that they retain tension without the wines appearing strict in any way.
Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emilie is a remarkably pure interpretation of the fruit; the winemaking is straight-forward, the fruit is gently pressed, the fermentation is temperature controlled and the wine is fermented to virtual dryness. No oak is used for ageing and the wine is bottled early to retain freshness. While it may be bottled early, it is released late – Trimbach like for the Cuvée Frédéric Emile to come to the market with some evolution and therefore age the wine in bottle for several years before release.
I was really taken with the 2011 when I tasted it in the last couple of weeks. It has that signature Trimbach style; a certain lightness of touch, a distinct purity and a fruit that already shows complexity. It is no mean feat to pick late and retain tension as they do, as has been exhibited by so many different vintages. The 2011 reveals fine aromatics capturing limey notes, hints of wet slate and lemon verbena tea. With a certain oily texture on the palate, the fruit shows fine precision and perfect balance – this is already so enjoyable with seamless fruit; zesty, slightly saline, certainly mineral, with hints of white stone fruit allied to the citrus characters. Such complexity is born of great vineyards as the winemaking is relatively uncomplicated – this is an example that tells you great wine is made in the vineyard. Drinking superbly now, this will age for another 10 years or possibly more should you wish.
I am always surprised that such wines have not gained more popularity, as dry styles of Riesling, with just a hint of residual sweetness, can be such versatile partners to all types of Asian cuisine.
2011 Riesling, Cuvée Frédéric Emile, Trimbach
£195 per 6 bottle case in bond
92+ points, Ian d’Agata, vinous.com
Pale straw-green. Minty green apple, jasmine and minerals on the enticing nose. Bright flavors of green apple and ripe citrus fruits are joined by stone fruits and minerals on the long finish. Has enough acidity to maintain clarity and cut. According to Pierre Trimbach, this is on a par with other great recent vintages for this bottling.
I might not be expecting a tidal wave of orders, but I thought this was worth drawing to your attention, particularly with the added maturity. Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,