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vendanges tardives

Fréd, you’re late

[trimbach cfe vt]Trimbach 2001 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) — Soft steel dripping with dewsparkle and the sweet nectar of honeysuckle. Beautifully balanced, precise, yet the sweetness is a bigger factor than the heft at the moment. More age? Perhaps. (7/16)

[trimbach hors choix]

Or ə

Trimbach 1989 Riesling Clos Ste-Hune “Vendanges Tardives” “Hors Choix” (Alsace)

I don’t normally include tasting notes in the the blog’s main feed (they’re exiled here), because I feel that they’re one of the least interesting ways to talk about wine. (The worst are point or ranking systems, of course.) But this bottle overflows with personal meaning…both its past and its present…and to relegate it to a word-salad of descriptors was to do it, and me, a disservice.

I can only find four instances of Trimbach doling out the incredibly rare “Hors Choix” designation, though there may be more about which I don’t know. Two were for sélection des grains nobles bottlings that were/are so overwhelmingly sweet that finding a sensible occasion to open them is virtually impossible. (Not that they’re in any danger of fading; they may well be essentially deathless.) I own one of those — a gewurztraminer so dark brown with botrytis that I think even the richest possible pâté de foie gras might fade into nothingness — and while it’s unquestionably an extraordinary experience, it’s more or less the Sagrada Familia of wine: impressive to admire, to be sure, but what does one do with it?

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Trimbach 2001 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) — From 375 ml. Weak-kneed, lacking the intensity, richness, spice, or sucrosity one truly expects from this wine. The fruit hasn’t developed at all, it has just faded. It’s sweet, no question, but it’s one-note; from Alsatian VT gewurztraminer, I expect a body slam. This is a gentle tickle. No one’s heart is in it. (5/16)

And the Windsbuhl “Mary”

Zind Humbrecht 1994 Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl “Vendange Tardive” (Alsace) – My expectation of this wine is that it will be very, very sweet. It is not. Oh, there’s sugar to spare, but the non-sugar dry extract – well, as geeks would name it; regular drinkers might just want to call it “stuffing” – is immense, and in fact it is the latter that dominates the wine. Long, big, muscular, a little more monotonal than I think a VT should be (then again, I’m not convinced that the Clos Windsbuhl is more than a good to midlevel site within the Alsatian pantheon), with a very long finish that brings ever-more of the same. It’s a pretty striking wine that doesn’t really go anywhere. I would say, from the metallic edge to the bronzed pear fruit, that it’s probably about as mature as one would wish. (12/11)

…and some are sheim

Boxler 2004 Riesling Sommerberg “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – A bit closed, which here means that it’s showing more riesling and late harvesting than Sommerberg at the moment. It is, like most Boxler Sommerbergs, poised and confident, but I think it needs a whole lot more time before it’s ready to strut. (8/11)

Rolly polly

Rolly Gassmann 1998 Gewurztraminer Stegreben de Rorschwihr “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Not all that sweet, actually. Leaves, dark skins, and structural acidity dominate. Perhaps a bit of weediness? A pleasant kind, if so. Juicy and rather beautiful, though I think it needs drinking. (3/10)


Trimbach 2000 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Impossibly tight and unyielding to any amount of air, swirling, or overnight oxidation. It just sits there, closed-in about itself, wondering why you were crazy enough to open it now. I wouldn’t even think of touching this for another ten years, if this is the stage it’s currently in. (1/10)

Braised tardives with morels

Trimbach 2000 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Trimbach’s late-harvest wines, especially their gewürztraminers, are packed to the gills with sugar. Their nearly singular achievement, however, is making it seem like they’re not. 2000 wasn’t a firm, crisp, high-acid year, and yet this wine seems only marginally sweeter than many a “regular” gewürztraminer from some of their hangtime-obsessed neighbors, and pairs that sweetness with a surprising wallop of firm acidity. The fruit’s peach and cashew with only hints of lychee, and the minerality’s copper and salt. Bacon, smoke…only suggestions at the moment, and their full expression is far, far in the future. A lovely wine, deft and delineated…and when’s the last time you read that about a late-harvest gewürztraminer? (7/09)


Trimbach 1989 Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – Weirdly muted and overly mature. The signs of a great old late-harvest CFE are there – creamed steel and corn starch, salt, lead crystal – but the wine’s just not what it should be. The cork seems fine, and over the course of three days there’s no whiff of TCA from cork or (empty) bottle, but…well, this is a disappointment. Something – most likely the cork, absent any signs or signatures of heat damage – failed here. (5/09)

VT prevention

Trimbach 2002 Gewurztraminer “Vendanges Tardives” (Alsace) – The first night, this is tightly-wound bacon-wrapped cashew and metal, with fine internal structure. The next night, it’s explosive, not yielding a bit of that vibrant structure, but much more generous with both the fruit (moving into orange and lychee) and the black-hearted minerality (coal and iron). Fabulous, though it will unquestionably need significant age to show its true qualities. (4/09)