As someone who is fairly new to the world of wine I decided that it would be beneficial for my studies if I were to attend as many tastings as possible and I am lucky that living were I do there are loads of great wine merchants hosting such events.
On the 25th January I attended such an event at Great Western Wines in Bath where they were hosting a tutored tasting event with Jean Trimbach. As we came in from the cold we were greeted with a glass of Pinot Noir Réserve 2010. The wine was well balanced and full of crushed raspberry and strawberry aromas and a bargain at £15 a bottle.
The tasting was held in the shop where in place of the usual displays of wine there were two lines of tables covered with white tablecloths, glasses and baskets of crackers.
At first Jean seemed quiet and reserved but once he began talking about his wine he became animated and incredibly passionate about not just the wines but also the stunning corner of France they come from. He gave us a history of the area and the Trimbach company and spoke about his older brother Pierre who is the winemaker.
We started the tasting with two Pinot Gris – Pinot Gris Réserve 2007 (£15.95) and Pinot Gris Réserve Personnelle 2005 (£26). Jean explained that 2007 was an exceptional vintage in the Alsace and this clearly shone through in the wine which was well balanced with aromas of peach and tropical notes. The 2005 is part of the Réserve Personnelle collection of wines which are only produced in the best years from the best areas on the estate. It was a well structured wine with a hint of residual sugar that could easily age for many more years.
The next three wines were all Rieslings in various guises and spread over a wide price range. We started with the Riesling Réserve 2009 (£17.70) – a bright and lively wine full of lime, lemon and floral notes. Next we tasted the Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2005 (£35), made from vines from the Geisberg and Osterberg areas of Ribeauvillé, the vines have an average age of forty-five years. This wine, Jean said with some pride, is served in every three Michelin starred restaurant in France. This was a complex Riesling with floral and lemon aromas, and when someone piped up with ‘and petrol,’ Jean was quick to step in with ‘I prefer to say white truffle.’
Our final Riesling was the Clos Sainte Hune 2005 (£135). Made from a small vineyard (1.67 hectares) in the village of Hunawihr this is one of the Maison Trimbach prestige wines. As they only produce 8000 bottles a year I felt very privileged to be trying this wine. The wine was very bright and full of colour; it was both pronounced and subtle – the aromas gently massaging your olfactory senses until there was nothing else in the room. The palate was complex with a striking amount of fruit and an underlying hint of minerality. A delight, but one I might have to reserve for future tastings as I don’t think I can afford to be part of the elite that purchase this one.
Next we moved on to Gewürztraminer – my favourite. We tasted the Gewürztraminer Réserve 2005 (£20.50) and the Gewürztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 2004 (£26). Both are only made in the best years, the latter is produced from very old vines from the former wine estates of the Lords of Ribeaupierre. Both were delicious but the complexity of flavours in the Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre was incredible – rose water, lychee, gingerbread, marzipan and someone even said toasted marshmallows.
The evening was concluded with two sweet wines – Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 2000 (£35) and Gewürztraminer Sélection des Grains Nobles 2001 (£49.50 37.5cl/£100 75cl). The Pinot Gris was delicious and a new experience for me. I love sweet wines and am amazed at the complexity that comes with age. This one was still bright and fruity with pronounced aromas and flavours. The Gewürztraminer Sélection des Grains Nobles was sensational – I had to be stopped from running my finger around the inside to scoop out the last heavily viscous drops. Jean said that he has seven bottles of the 1834 vintage in his cellar – would you ever dare open them? On a younger note he said he had recently tried the 1967 and that it was comparable to the 2001 in quality and ageing potential. According to the website this wine has only been produced in ten out of the last forty five vintages.
The evening was a fantastic insight into the Alsace and a family run wine business with a great history. Jean was an entrancing speaker and the staff at Great Western Wines were great hosts.