The virtues of the 2001 Trimbach Rieslings will by now be well known to readers, but in another year or two they will release a 2001 Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 375th Anniversary representing a small lot of late-picked Osterberg. Smelling of honey and herbal elixir, it offers a creamy texture, refined peach, honey and mint flavors, and a vivid sense of salt, chalk and wet stone minerality. This might ultimately approach the quality of the 2001 Clos Ste-Hune, and will be one to enjoy over a twenty year period, as despite its elegance it is uncannily concentrated (and, incidentally, despite its richness perfectly dry). The Trimbach family continues to render some of the world’s finest Riesling; to uphold the principle that wine of Alsace (unless V.T.) should not taste sweet; to release wines only when they believe those wines say “it’s time”; and to ship 40,000 cases (or 40% of their production) to the United States. Notable developments on the occasion of my recent visit were the enhanced quality of their reserve level wines as well as outstanding performances with Pinot Gris. The wines on which I report below include some of those currently in the marketplace or about to appear, but most of the 2004s and 2005s will not be released for 1-3 more years. By the time early October rains struck in 2005, the team here had harvested everything other than their top Riesling. Yet, even though some of their most striking successes were picked unusually early, the upper-tier Rieslings here seem to have suffered neither dilution nor obscurant botrytis. The Trimbachs clearly rolled with any punches nature administered in 2004 (although by the time they harvested, abundant initial bunches had morphed into low yields), delivering Riesling of startling clarity and concentration that showcases its minerality and acidity. But in view of so much negative rot, they declined to attempt any nobly sweet selections. 93/100
On the Eastern border of France lying between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine river, this much-disputed area has for a large part of its existence been in the hands of Germany. This is visually apparent in the half-timbered houses lining the streets in medieval-looking villages and vinously evident in the prevalence of white wine in the region. Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat make up the majority of plantings and are the only varieties permitted in the Alsace Grand Cru appellation. Pinot Noir (the only significant black grape variety), Pinot Blanc, Chasselas and Sylvaner also get a look in. Wines are made in all styles from sparkling and dry to the most unctuously sweet botrytised pudding wines.