Grapevine Archive for Trimbach
And to finish my piece on the ‘Alsace spring’, events relating to visits by the Hugel family…
Hugel is The Society’s oldest supplier for Alsace. We are not sure when the romance started; suffice to say that The Society is Hugel’s second-oldest customer in the UK after The Savoy!
Our first purchase was likely to have been a modest chasselas-sylvaner blend. This has now evolved over the years and today The Society’s Vin d’Alsace (£7.95) is a very smart dry white indeed. Sylvaner remains the base but nearly all the region’s grape varieties are included in the blend. Currently we are on the 2013 vintage which is the best made for a while. 2014 promises also to be pretty special.
This year Hugel et Fils changes its name to Famille Hugel: recognition that three generations now work for the business and that at least one of them is not a man! Times are a-changing.Not to be outdone by their cousins, the Trimbachs, Hugel are also releasing something grand and mature for the first time. And what is really exciting is that it’s a completely new wine made from riesling.
This will be a riesling, from the great 2007 vintage and it will come from a single vineyard called Schoelhammer, a small plot of old vines on the grand cru Schoenenbourg above the town of Riquewihr.
Such an event had to be marked by a grand occasion and so journalists, buyers and sommeliers were invited to taste the new baby on a wonderfully sunny spring day in London. The event was not disappointing. Riesling Schoelhammer is unquestionably a great dry riesling and I can’t wait to have it here in Stevenage for members to buy.
Three generations from the Hugel family came to London that day. Etienne Hugel was there together with his son Jean-Frederic. Better still, André came to represent the senior generation at the unveiling of Schoelhammer Riesling. Etienne’s father is 86 years old and hasn’t really retired. (The senior Trimbach, Bernard, 83, is much the same.)Born in 1929, André Hugel is the survivor of three extraordinary brothers whose lives encompassed the tragedies of the war years. Alsace did not just suffer occupation as with the rest of France: it was officially annexed by Germany which meant that Alsace men could be called up. Georges, the eldest was called and was wounded on the Eastern Front. Johnny fared better, serving mostly in Italy and avoiding any fighting, acquiring fluency in Italian instead.
Johnny would come to occupy a central place in Alsace not just for Hugel but as a veritable ambassador for Alsace wines in general. André was 15 when on 5th December 1944, Riquewihr was liberated by a Texan regiment. Andre Hugel ensures that the flag of the lone star state is hoisted above the town hall every year to mark the anniversary.
For André Hugel this was his first ever visit to the UK. As Riquewihr’s residential archivist and historian, a visit to London seemed long overdue and thanks to Ray Bowden, one time chairman of The Society, visits to the Cabinet War Rooms were duly arranged. That was in the morning before all three Hugels travelled up to Stevenage. They were greeted by both past and present Chairmen of the Society and by our Chief Executive for a guided tour of the premises followed by lunch.
A Note on Trimbach
Trimbach have also been busy buying up vineyards, never too far away from Ribeauvillé, but these will allow them to improve quality and launch new wines. Indeed, a new Trimbach riesling will be launched this year and it promises to be something very special. Watch this space.
Also exciting from Trimbach is the new bottling machine, an expensive investment, but one which will have a positive effect on quality and even allow for bottling under screwcap. We’ve just taken delivery of the 2013 Pinot Blanc (£8.95) under screwcap, and the wine is quite delicious.
Find wines from Hugel and Trimbach in our current offer of the 2013 Alsace vintage.
Day two and the weather’s not so good: damp and foggy. Up to see the vineyards overlooking Riquewihr: really very steep and difficult to work. Cheerfully told the Moselle is worse.
Extraordinarily, Hugel’s whole operation is in the centre of this pretty and cramped medieval village – underground. Little sign of it in the entrance room until an almost secret door is opened…
Hugel, Trimbach and others don’t use the Grand Cru designation for their best vineyards and wines. Hugel uses ‘Jubilee’ to denote their third level, above ‘Classic’ and ‘Tradition’, and they are good. No fertilisation, sweetening (chaptalisation) or oak (of course). Founded in 1639, making The Society (1874) a recent invention by comparison.
Then onto Trimbach (1626) to taste with the 12th generation and to meet the 13th. We worked our way through the ‘09s. Austere rieslings; again hard for me to imagine how these would emerge eventually. The pinot gris and gewurz are rounder, easier to understand now. Finally a few ‘05s and a 2002 gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, which was remarkable.
Then off to lunch: pig’s knuckle and sauerkraut. Delicious. I was warned that Jean (Trimbach) might have a quick burst of song and was not disappointed!
35 more wines at Beyer, including the 2010 pinot blanc, which was fresh and very pleasant. Again Marcel is focusing on the 2009s for his May/June offer.
Back to Basle for the flight home after not far short of 200 wines tasted in 2 days. Marcel will continue for 3 more days: 500 wines. Last year’s offer contained 35. This careful selection and expertise is at the heart of The Society – does any other merchant taste 500 Alsace wines with their growers? Marcel deserves the Specialist Merchant of the Year award.
Then, as I began, Gatwick, rain, M25, roadworks …