by Fred McMillin
for October 24, 1997

Winery of the Week

Trimbach, a Chip Off the Old Block


  • Alsace, a fertile sleeve of green along the German and Swiss borders, is the smallest of France's 22 regions. However, it is the country's second richest district on a per capita basis.

    ...New York Times

  • In the last ten years, Alsace has come forward as one of the best wine-growing regions of France, making great white wines that rival those of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

    ...from the "Slow Food Guide to Wine"

  • Trimbach Alsatian wines are known the world over. From a vineyard they have owned for over 200 years, Trimbach Clos Ste-Hune Riesling is considered by many to be the best wine in Alsace.

    ...from the "Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine"

The Rest of the Story: You simply cannot keep a good wine district down...but fate has surely tried. The first winemaking in Alsace started well in 58 B.C. under Julius Caesar. However, the Gaul's wine became a threat to homeland production and in 81 A.D. Roman Emperor Domitian ordered the vines torn out. The edict was withdrawn two centuries later. Winemaking resumed, but by 450 A.D. Rome was losing its grip and the vineyards were overrun by non-winemaking Germanic tribes. and so it went. E.g., in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) Germany lost the land to France but the vineyards again were wiped out. War returned the land to Germanic control in 1870, to French control in 1918. World War II saw six Alsatian villages destroyed and half the vineyards severely damaged. But some 110 villages and 8,000 families bounced back again. One of the most prominent was the 11th-generation Trimbach family.

Their winery was founded in 1626. Their reputation was secured in 1898 when they dominated the awards at a major Brussels wine show. Their current leadership is explained by critic Roger Feuilly: "These aristocrats of the vineyard plainly prefer elegance and finesse to high yields and corner-cutting. Anything with the Trimbach signature on the label will be a pleaure to drink."

Just The Facts

Name Trimbach, Alsace, France
Recommended Wines   Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris
Tasting Notes These are DRY and intense, exciting companions for fish and fowl.
Contact Angela Freire, (800)709-7667

Postscript: Few have appreciated Alsatian wine more than Johann von Manersheid, Bishop of Strasbourg, 1590. He founded a club for the religious elite called "Vom Horn," the contents of which had to be emptied at a single draught. How much wine was in the horn? One gallon!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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