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The Trimbach family is one of France’s greatest winemaking dynasties, having made wine in Alsace for over three centuries. The family produces outstanding wines from all the classic Alsace varieties, but their two greatest wines are made from just one variety, Riesling. In fact, Trimbach’s Clos Ste. Hune and Cuvée Frédéric Emile are not only Alsace’s two greatest dry Rieslings, they may well be the two finest examples made anywhere.
In 1919, after centuries of making Rieslings, the Trimbach family created one of the world’s greatest dry white wines: Clos Ste. Hune.
Trimbach produces this holy-grail wine from the tiny 3-acre Clos Ste. Hune. The Clos lies within the Rosacker grand cru. Yet, the Trimbachs label their treasure simply as Clos Ste. Hune, just as they have since 1919. They refer to neither Rosacker nor grand cru; Clos Ste. Hune transcends both. It is hors classe in the same way that Ch. d’Yquem is in Sauternes.
Clos Ste. Hune balances its enveloping richness with an intense minerality, remarkable finesse and great structure. This is thanks to Clos Ste. Hune’s 40-year-old vines, planted in cool, calcareous-clay soil with a gentle incline and a high percentage of limestone. Thus, like a Raveneau grand cru Chablis, the more it ages, the more profound Clos Ste. Hune becomes.
The Trimbachs continue to make Clos Ste. Hune as they did in the past: a cool, slow fermentation; a quick racking to remove the wine from the lees; no malolactic fermentation; and a short period of aging in neutral wood foudre before bottling early to retain the fruit. The wine is then aged for an incredible five years in bottle before being released.
In great years, tiny amounts of Vendange Tardive are made, but they are different from other VT’s. They result not from botrytis but passerillage—dehydration caused by the sap returning to the vines root system. They boast immense concentration and complexity, but only off-dry levels of residual sugar, as Trimbach vinifies them to be as dry as possible. Like other Clos Ste. Hunes, the VT’s are capable of immortality.
By the 1960s, the Trimbach family decided that it was time for a second great dry Riesling, and so they created the Cuvée Frédéric Emile. Unlike the mono-cru Clos Ste. Hune, the new cuvée was a blend of two grand cru sites: Geisberg and Osterberg. The soils in both crus are clay and limestone over sandstone; the soils are not only stony, they are strongly alkaline, producing a wine of intense minerality and powerful acidity.
The site also benefits from the strong winds that blow across it, keeping the grapes dry and lessening the incidence of botrytis. This is essential for the purity, precision and restraint that define Cuvée Frédéric Emile. The cooling wind also allows extended hang time, yielding fruit of stunning complexity.
Like Clos Ste. Hune, Cuvée Frédéric Emile has astonishing aging capacity—with time developing remarkable expressiveness, including a nuance that the Trimbachs describe as “toasted bread and white truffle.”
As with Clos Ste. Hune, when the conditions are right, the Trimbach’s don’t hesitate to make stunning Vendange Tardive and SGN bottlings of Freddie Emile. Despite their richness and concentration, they maintain the gyroscopic balance and sense of grace that are Frédéric Emile’s hallmarks.
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