Alsace Day 2 - Ribeauville & Lindeplatzel
Our first morning in Alsace. Another beautiful sunny start and our first tasting appointment of the day was at Trimbach in Ribeauvillé, just a short journey away. We were met by our Master of Wine guide for this tour, Richard Bampfield and his wife Jackie.
A substantial winery producing almost 1,000,000 bottles a year, with a history dating back to 1626, we were welcomed by Anne Trimbach, the daughter of the owner. Anyone else starting to see a pattern?
Their wonderful tasting room has one sign behind the bar "Say no to oak and put the fruit back into wine". A clear indication that the wines we were about to sample would be tasty and full of flavour. They do use oak casks but all of them are very old. In fact the oldest dates from 1770! The also use concrete, glass and stainless steel tanks to ensure that the wines stay dry and fruity.
We started off with the Pinot Blanc 2009, the wine the family refers to as a "glug, glug" wine. Made from Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois grapes, this light, dry wine is good on its own or with a light meal, or as an aperitif.
Next came three different Rieslings: the 2010, a textbook example with lots of zest; the 2009 Vielles Vignes where the vines are at least 35 years old; and the signature wine of Trimbach, the 2007 Riesling - Cuvée Frédéric Emile named after Anne's great-great-great grandfather and picked from the Geisberg and Osterberg slopes which overlook the winery.
They were followed by two Pinot Gris: the 2008 Réserve, a smooth creamy wine with good fruit and length and then the 2005 Réserve Personelle. A dry but by contrast, sweet wine which shows the wineries style perfectly. They try to keep the dryness in all of their wines to provide that freshness to balance with the fruit.
Our final two wines were Gewürztraminers. A 2010 which was sweet but light and still capable of ageing a further five years, and the 2007 Vendages Tardives (late Harvest), a wonderful sweet wine which was very light and balanced. To quote from one of their Dutch visitors "it's like an angel peeing on your tongue". And a good time to say our farewells, after a few purchases of course!
After a magnificent lunch at Restaurant am Lindeplatzel in Mittelbergheim, it was a short walk up the hill to our second winery of the day. The amazing vineyards at Domaine Rietsch. A tiny producer with only 11 hectares of vines, our host, Jean- Pierre Rietsch began production here in 1987 and has been making exclusively organic, natural wines since 2008. I'm beginning to sound a bit naive but again it was a first for me tasting organic wines. His grapes are hand picked at a precise pH level into small buckets to avoid crushing, then lightly pressed to give a clear juice and allowed to settle, with the process completely avoiding the need to add sulphites. The wine is then added to old oak and stainless steel tanks for maturation. His philosophy in winemaking is to let the grapes make the wine. He doesn't like to expend a lot of energy 'tinkering' to create a commercial style wine through an industrial process and all his wines reflect that. We tasted his Crémant d'Alsace Extra Brut 2009/2010 to start: 50/50 Pinot Gris and Riesling, producing a very dry but well balanced wine.
Next up was the Sylvanner Vielles Vignes 2011 from his 'Les Insolites' collection - literally 'The unusual ones' these wines are very different from what you'd expect of an Alsatian grape variety. This one has a very nutty bouquet and taste and a natural element of oxidation helps the wine to relax and open up. A huge contrast to our following wine, a 2011 Sylvanner Nature despite being made with the same grape. Another from his Insolites collection was the Murmure, a wine made from Muscat Ottonel 2011and a 2011 Riesling 'Vins de Cepages' followed then another two Rieslings made from single vineyards - the 2010 Brandluft and the Zorzenberg Grand Cru 2009. We had the chance to taste his Klevener de Heilgenstein 2009 and his Pinot Noir 2011 before we departed but this will stand out in my own mind as the most unusual winery we will have visited this trip as these wines differ so drastically from the Alsatian standard. And the methods used are both economic and less invasive in determining the final product. Dinner in Obernai and a return to the hotel after a hot and sticky day. Roll on the tastings tomorrow.