Friday, February 27, 2015

At Maison Trimbach in Alsace with Hubert Trimbach – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Picture: Annette and Christian Schiller and Steven Kent with Hubert Trimbach at Maison Trimbach

The Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014) included a visit of a French winery - Maison Trimbach in Alsace. When you look at the map, Alsace is just opposite of the Baden region on the other side of the Rhein Valley and below (south of) the Pfalz region, which is also on the western side of the Rhein Valley. So, being in the south of Baden with a number of wineries in the Pfalz as next leg of the trip, Annette had included a night in Alsace coupled with a visit of Domaine Trimbach and a dinner in an Alsatian brasserie. Good thought!

Picture: Arriving at Maison Trimbach

It was very interesting to taste the Trimbach wines and compare them with the German wines. Even wines of the same grape variety are distinctively different. This is due to different terroir but in a large part to the different philosophy of winemaking in Germany and Alsace. In a nutshell: the modern German winemaking aims at elegant, fruity, crisp, perfectly balanced wines whereas the Alsatian winemaker wants body, boldness and strength for the wines to accompany the hearty Alsatian food.

This “detour” gave us the opportunity to explore the small, picture-perfect, medieval Alsatian village of Ribeauvillé. We had a memorable dinner at a local brasserie, eating typical Alsatian food and drinking Alsatian wines.

Jean, Pierre, Anne and Hubert Trimbach

Trimbach is one of the big names of Alsace. Outside of Alsace many people associate Domaine Trimbach with the face of Jean Trimbach. Because it is him, who tours the world and promotes and sells the Trimbach wines around the world (with 85% of Maison Trimbach wines exported), while his brother Pierre Trimbach stays in Ribeauvillé in the winery and looks after the winemaking. So, I have enjoyed a number of evening with Jean Trimbach and his wines in Washington DC, as well as a tour and tasting at the winery in Ribeauvillé with Jean Trimbach.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Annette Schiller with Jean Trimbach at Open Kitchen, Virginia, USA

This time, Jean was travelling as was his nice, Anne Trimbach, Pierre’s daughter, the oldest member of the 13th generation, who is working alongside Jean and also travelling around the world, and we were hosted by a very competent Domaine Trimbach employee. But Jean’s uncle, Hubert Trimbach from the 11th generation, dropped by and we had a chance to chat with one of the Trimbach family members. His brother, Bernard Trimbach, father of Jean and Pierre Trimbach retired in 2008, when Anne Trimbach joined the team.

Maison Trimbach

Maison Trimbach’s wine-making history goes back to 1626, when Jean Trimbach was recognized as a citizen of Riquewihr in Alsace. From then on, the Maison Trimbach became renowned for its wines. However, it was not until the turn to the 20th century, when, under the leadership of Frédéric-Emile Trimbach, business really took off. Since then, Maison Trimbach has remained a family run business, based in Ribeauville, just a few miles north of Riquewihr, were it all began almost 400 years ago.

Maison Trimbach is very export-oriented with more than 85 percent of the production being exported. It is both a domaine and negociant, thus it produces wine sourced from own vineyards (40 hectares) and from lease contracts (60 hectares).

Winemaking Philosophy

Maison Trimbach's vineyards are all situated around Ribeauvillé, where the soils are mainly limestone. The best sites include the Grands Crus Rosacker, Osterberg and Geisberg, but as indicated above, Maison Trimbach is one of the winemakers in Alsace that are staying away from the Grand Cru AOC system, while Maison Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune, a Grand Cru, is arguably the finest wine of Alsace. In terms of grape varieties, the emphasis is on Riesling, but Maison Trimbach also grows all other classic Alsatian grape varieties, such as Gewuerztraminer.

Pictures: Cellar Tour at Maison Trimbach

Jean explains Trimbach’s wine making philosophy: “In the vineyard, the vines are cared for with a restricted approach to the use of chemicals, including insecticides and fertilizers. We ferment at 20 to 21 degrees Celsius in stainless steel tanks and large, wooden barrels. It does not really matter, if a wine is fermented in a tank or a barrel. It is more a question of fitting our needs with what is available. The barrels are smaller than the tanks and therefore the wines we produce in smaller quantities tend to end up in the wooden barrels. We never use new oak. We never do malolactic fermentation. As a rule, we bottle very early to preserve the freshness and the fruitiness. This is what Alsace is all about. The wine then matures in the bottle. The same principle as vintage port. We release wine often only 5 years later. Sometimes we wait up to 10 years.”

The Trimbachs let their wines age in the bottles in the cellar during several years before they release them on the market, especially the grand cru wines, such as the Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile. Wines are tasted frequently and released when deemed appropriate.

The Maison Trimbach Wine Portfolio

The Trimbach wines come in 4 quality groups: (i) the Classic range, (ii) the Reserve range, (iii) the Reserve Personelle range and (iv) the Prestige and Collection wines.

Trimbach Classic: This is the Trimbach entry level range. These wines represent the traditional, dry, crisp Alsace white wine style and come as Trimbach Pinot Blanc, Silvaner, Gewuerztraminer and Riesling.

Trimbach Reserve: The Reserve wines are made from sections with mostly old vines. These are more complex wines than the Classic wines and can age longer. The Reserve wines come as Muscat, Riesling, Gewuerztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Maison Trimbach is not particularly known for red wines, but they do produce a Pinot Noir Reserve as well as a Pinot Noir Reserve Personelle.

Pictures: Tasting Trimbach Wines with Hubert Trimbach

Trimbach Reserve Personelle: The wines of the Reserve Personelle range are from the best terroirs of the estate and not produced every year. These wines will keep for years. There are 3 Reserve Personelle wines: (1) the Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile, (2) the Gewurztraminer Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre and (3) the Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle. They are clearly recognizable because of their golden labels. The Cuvée Frédéric Emile is probably the best known Trimbach wine. It is one of the finest wines of Alsace, if not one of the world's greatest white wines.

Trimbach Prestige and Collection Wines: This group comprises (1) the Riesling "Clos Sainte Hune", (2) the Vendanges Tardives wines and (3) the Sélection de Grains Nobles wines, made from Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewuerztraminer. The Clos Sainte Hune is an exceptional terroir, exclusively planted with Riesling, located in the heart of the Grand Cru Rosacker, in Hunawihr. This Clos totals 1.67 hectares and has been in the propriety of the Trimbach family for more than 200 years.

The Wines we Tasted

2013 Muscat Reserve Euro 12,40
2012 Riesling Classic Euro 11,40
2011 Riesling Reserve Euro 15,05
2011 Riesling Reserve Vieilles Vignes Euro 17,25
2009 Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile Euro 41,00

2009 Riesling Clos Sainte Hune Euro 133,00
2008 Pinot Gris Reserve Pesonnelle Euro 24,25
2007 Gewürztraminer Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre Euro 30,65
2007 Gewürtztraminer Vendage Tardive Euro 34,30
2007 Gewürtztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles Hors choix Euro 113,00


Alsace is one of the several world class French wine regions, which produces many excellent still and sparkling, red and white wines, but above all it is highly appreciated for its unoaked, dry and crisp white wines. They tend to be different from those in the other parts of France: Higher in acidity, sometimes really sour, but always a pleasant experience to have them in the glass. And they go very well with the Alsatian food, which is also unique in France. The famous choucroute you find only there in France. But of course, you find it also in neighboring Germany, for example in Frankfurt am Main. Compared with Germany, which also is famous for its world class dry wines, Alsace wines tend to be drier, more full-bodied and higher in alcohol. Finally, sweeter white wines and red wines play only a minor role in Alsace, but they have a very good sparkling wine, the Cremant d’Alsace.

Pictures: Arriving at our Hotel in the Center of Ribeauvillé

Alsace sits in the northeast corner of France, sheltered by the Vosges mountains to the west and hard against the German border to the east. The vineyards reach from around Wissembourg in the north to Mulhouse, 70 miles south. Some 12 million cases are produced annually from 32,000 acres of vineyards.

Alsace is a fascinating amalgam of the German and French. The end of the 30 Years’ War in 1648 gave Alsace to France. In 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Alsace was taken by Germany. After World War I, it was once more part of France — until 1940, when Germany reclaimed it. With the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, Alsace became French yet again — and so it has remained. Wine production in Alsace traces its beginnings to the early centuries of the Roman Empire, when the Romans conquered Alsace and introduced wine.

Pictures: Strolling through Ribeauvillé with Ellen Kirch

One of the most intriguing characteristics of Alsace wines is that they are bottled under their varietal names, unlike virtually all other French wines. Four grape varieties are considered to be the best:(i) Riesling – like in Germany, the most celebrated grape; (ii) Muscat – often used to produce sweet wines in France, the Alsace version is bone-dry; (iii) Pinot Gris and (iv) Gewurztraminer – Alsace's signature grape. Three other white grape varieties are also grown: (i) Sylvaner – A high-yielding grape, producing a refreshing wine, often used for blends, (ii) Pinot Blanc and (iii) Chardonnay – used only for sparkling wine. In addition, Alsace does have a little red wine made from the Burgundy grape, Pinot Noir. The Alsatian red wines tend to be quite lightweight, but can be delicious and interesting.

Dinner in Alsace

We ended the day witth a relxed dinner at a local brasserie.

schiller-wine: Related Postings (Domaine Trimbach)

A Feast with Jean Trimbach, Maison Trimbach in Alsace, and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too in Washington DC, USA/France (2014)

Back in the Washington DC Area: Jean Trimbach Presented Maison Trimbach Wines at a Winemaker Dinner at Open Kitchen, USA (2013)

Visiting Jean Trimbach at Maison Trimbach in Ribeauville in Alsace (2011)

With Jean Trimbach from Domaine Trimbach, Alsace, at Bart M. Vandaele’s Belga Café in Washington DC (2011)

Jean Trimbach and the Wines of Maison Trimbach in Washington DC (2010)

schiller-wine: Related Postings

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013 

In the Vineyard and the Wine Cellar (and Lunch) with Robert Schätzle, Owner and Winemaker, Weingut Schloss Neuweier in Baden – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting Luncheon at 1 Star Michelin Röttele's Restaurant im Schloss Neuweier in Baden, with Winemaker Robert Schätzle and his Weingut Schloss Neuweier Wines – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Weingut Zähringer in Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Winemaker Paulin Köpfer – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombasy (2014)

Weingut Freiherr von Gleichenstein in Baden: Tour and Tasting with Baron Johannes von Gleichenstein – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014), Germany

Weingut Franz Keller in Oberbergen, Kaiserstuhl, Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Fritz Keller – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Lunch at Restaurant Schwarzer Adler in Oberbergen, with Weingut Franz Keller Wines – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting at Weingut Bernhard Huber – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Visit: Weingut Dr. Heger in Baden – Germany-South Wine Tours by ombiasy (2014)

Weingut Karl-Heinz Johner in Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Karl-Heinz and Patrick Johner – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

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