‘Riesling is Trimbach’: Jean Trimbach on his winery’s first ever Grand Cru

Richard Woodard

18 April 2018

Jean Trimbach represents the 12th generation of his family to make wine under the Trimbach name, which is best-known for its dry Rieslings, especially Clos Ste Hune and Cuvée Frederic Emile. Having recently launched two new Grand Cru Riesling wines – Grand Cru Geisberg and Grand Cru Schlossberg  and with plans for a third – Grand Cru Brand – the time seemed right for a catch-up

You’ve recently moved into releasing Grand Cru wines, specifically Geisberg and Schlossberg. Why was there a reluctance to do this previously?

We talked about Grands Crus when it came to our top-quality wines, but never labelled them as such, that’s true.

Previously, there were no real rules [around labelling for Gran Crus]. Now the rules have changed for the better and each Grand Cru is Appellation d’Origine Protégée with minimum potential alcohol for each of the grape varieties, maximum yields within each Grand Cru.

Finally discipline came into the picture, so we said it’s the perfect timing for us finally to jump in.

Tell us about the two new arrivals.

In 2012, we bought two hectares of Grand Cru Schlossberg, and about a year ago we bought about two hectares of Grand Cru Brand. So, Geisberg: limestone, calcaire; Schlossberg: granite; and Brand: granite as well.

And Grand Cru Brand – another Riesling?

Funnily enough, yes! Well, Riesling is Trimbach; Trimbach is Riesling. Riesling in Alsace is 22%; for Trimbach, Riesling is over 45% of what we produce.

We have two hectares of Grand Cru Brand and we just replanted a little bit less than a hectare, so it will be a small introduction to start with. At the moment, we don’t know when the first vintage will be bottled.

Tell us about recent vintages in Alsace.

Alsace has never experienced such a quality decade [as 2007 to 2017. Our papa is 85-years-old and he has never seen such a quality decade – it’s amazing. If there was one 'good' vintage, it’s 2012. The rest are very good to exceptional.

Why the emphasis on Riesling at Trimbach?

Our papa always loved Riesling and, because we were very fortunate to own the Riesling Clos Ste Hune for so many years, we have seen what can happen with such a great terroir. Riesling is the grape variety that can mirror the terroir at its best.

Clos Ste Hune is widely regarded as your top wine. What’s special about the vineyard?

The very high proportion of calcaire. There are three terroirs with a very high proportion of calcaire in Alsace, and Clos Ste Hune is definitely one of them. Old vines as well – 1953 for the oldest that we know of. We have older vines, but we don’t know exactly when they were planted.

There’s a perception that Alsace under-achieves in the UK. What’s your take on that?

I’m in the UK two or three times a year, and I have to say that Alsace hasn’t the reputation it deserves yet here. We are working on it, and this is why we have created an association called ACT – Alsace Crus and Terroirs:, [which is made up of] 19 of the top producers of Alsace. We travel together, do masterclasses and try to really present another view of Alsace.

There is also a reason which lasted 10 to 15 years, say from 1990 to 2005. Too many Alsace wines were in a sweeter style, so many people have been disappointed – they were expecting Alsace to be dry.

Having said that, Alsace probably since 2005 or 2007 is much drier again. The historic producers are much drier again and there is a new generation of say 30- to 40-year-old growers in Alsace who are into the traditional dry Alsace style. This is very reassuring and will help to establish another kind of image when it comes to Alsace wines.

Trimbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2015, £29.84 (dpd)

Trimbach Grand Cru Geisberg ‘Vignoble du Couvent de Ribeauvillé’ 2013, £35 (dpd)

These and other Trimbach wines are available from Enotria & Coe; 020 8961 5161

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