- Rating: 94 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: No
- Reservation Required: false
Most people come to Ribeauville to visit Maison Trimbach, which is famous, has a large production each year, and has a good amount of distribution in the USA. I did too, but unfortunately Maison Trimbach was closed when I arrived in August. In fact, many wineries in France are closed for vacations between late July and mid-August before the harvest. Fortunately Cave de Ribeauville, the second largest place in town, was still open and I quickly diverted there out of the drizzling rain.
Though Cave de Ribeauville has a large production (it its actually Top 5 in the Alsace region), it is not because it is a large winery. Rather, it is a large cooperative of many small producers that go in together, share equipment and facilities, and bottle wines under the same brand. Some of the producers will also bottle some wine under their own brand per the cooperative’s guidelines. It’s rather remarkable that in today’s capitalistic markets, you can still find examples where people work together for everyone’s benefit. Thankfully for the rest of us, this cooperation also results in better product and amazing prices…
I must admit that the exterior of the building had me rather skeptical at first, but that impression changed immediately after stepping foot inside, as you can see above. It reminded me of the interiors of wineries back home. Though as a bonus, they also had display cases, exhibits and maps that explained the history of the area as well as the surrounding grand crus to help familiarize folks with the region. As I had arrived soon after the building opened and on a weekday, I was left to my own devices for a while. After inhaling a bit of history, it was time to head to the counter and taste some wines.
At most wineries in the area, there is usually a tasting menu or whoever is pouring for you will choose a lineup of the portfolio. Here, there are so many wines on the list that it’s not really possible to do either. Since I looked like I knew what I was doing (taking notes on the laptop helped with that impression), they let me taste around on the list until they got busier. A shout-out to the two people that ran my tasting below - I got to try a number of really interesting wines thanks to them.
Without further ado, the wines:
- Cremant Giersberger Brut (8.95€)
- A sparkling blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxeroiss. Light green apple aromas on the nose with very high acid and flavors of green apple, lemon, lime and similar notes on the palate. I didn’t get any minerality, but the high acid could obscure that. A good choice served cold on a hot day in Alsace.
- Cremant La Grande Cuvee (18.70€)
- Vin de France reviewed this wine at 14.5/20. A Pinot Noir + Chardonnay blend with more complexity going on aromatically than the Giersberger. It still leans on the lighter, fruity side rather than secondary/tertiary aromas. The palate displays that brioche character from lees aging for a significant period, but the wine still has plenty of warm yellow fruit on the palate. The acid is very high, leading me to believe they skipped MLF before the 72 months in the cellar.
- Muscat Collection 2017 SEC (8.35€
- The nose on this wine is downright powerful. Orange, blossoms, and all the other notes you expect from a blend of Muscat Ottonel and d’Alsace. The body and acid are smooth and hold up the wine wonderfully. I would love to serve this as an aperitif for meals because of its huge aromatics, dryness and easy drinking.
- 2012 Pinot Blanc Barriques (8.80€)
- Spends a year in barrel unlike most Pinot Blanc from the region. Thanks to this aging, the aromatics are exponentially greater than their other traditional Pinot Blanc. Apple pie, coconut, light spice and vanilla character dominate the nose. The palate is as or more intense than the nose. People may not like this wine because it’s so big and different. But because of its unusual profile, you know I bought a couple bottles…
- 2013 Riesling Lieu Dit Haguenau (10.00€)
- High pitched intensity aromas of lemon, petrol and maybe some almond oil as well, but the fruit was much more subdued than I was expecting. High acid and intensity of the same flavors on the palate. I really enjoyed the complexity and that fact that neither the primary or tertiary flavors were dominant - a nicely balanced wine at 5 years old.
- 2010 Riesling Comtes De Ribeauville (9.30€)
- Similar notes to the Lieu Dit Haguenau on the nose, but the Comtes is a bit deeper and richer with almond milk notes and reveals more petrol plus minerality. The acidity is quite a bit less which enhances the richness of the coconut, almond, and petrol a bit more. The lemon and yellow fruit take a backseat here to the tertiary character and that is not a bad thing…
- 2014 Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg (20.20€)
- Bright, light stonefruit and petrol notes on the nose. The palate is similar in profile with a little white spice on the finish as well. I need to call out the balance of the acid, body, and alcohol here - they are already integrating very well. The acid is higher than the Kirhcberg, which makes this more refreshing and easy to pair in a meal, but the balance also means you can easily enjoy this wine by itself.
- 2016 Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauville (19.70€)
- High intensity stone fruit with undulating coconut oil, and a light layer of petrol on the nose. You can pick out the stonefruit but it’s very well integrated. The palate emphasizes the stonefruit but is balanced by the acid so that is doesn’t taste/feel overly ripe for a Riesling. Like the Osterberg, this is also very smooth and has a strong medium+ body for a Riesling. Enjoy this wine by itself - it deserves it.
- 2012 Rosacker Riesling Grand Cru (15.20€)
- This Riesling is on the lighter/creamier side. The stonefruit comes right out on both the nose and palate. This wine is so well rounded, I’m guessing it may have a tiny bit of residual sugar that balances the high acidity and gives that mouthfeel that roundness. The flavor of the wine is similar to the others with its stonefruit, vanilla, and coconut notes. But it is the tactile roundness that distinguishes this wine.
- 2015 Riesling Vendanges Tardives (17€ for 500mL)
- Their late harvest Riesling. The acidity feels just right on the palate and the flavors are balanced between the fruit and the petrol. The acidity is still high and gives the wine that clean finish which keeping the nose a bit lighter than the other Rieslings. This is a sweet wine, but it’s not too sweet. Combining that character with the high acid and medium(+) body, this would make a great dessert wine but I could see myself drinking it by itself too. Again, the balance here is key…
- 2012 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauville (17.20€)
- Bright, light, ripe yellow fruit on the nose with medium(-) intensity. I’m guessing that there is some residual sugar because the palate seems beyond ripe with the stonefuit and melon. Though I really appreciate the beeswax and honeycomb that is here too. Medium acid that rounds out the mid/back palate. This is definitely a ripe, complex wine that US drinkers would like and need more exposure to.
- 2010 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim (18.40€)
- The deep color on this is almost of a late-harvest wine. High intensity aromatics of pineapples and other tropical fruit. This wine had everything working for it: 2010 was a great ripe year, Altenberg is one of their best grand crus, and Pinot Gris is a very aromatic grape. Put them altogether and its no wonder this smells like a late harvest wine. Because of the ripeness, the palate seems to lack the acid necessary to age this wine, though the residual sugar may help. If you want a sweet wine without the thick body or pure sugar flavor, this is a great wine to try.
- 2012 Clos du Zahnacker (23.20€)
- The Clos du Zahnacker wines are from a very special plot of co-planted varietals on very old vines that produce very distinctive wines. The nose on the 2012 is very soft and integrated. The palate mirrors that integration with medium(+) acid and a very smooth palate. This wine is as complex as you want it to be - the deeper you dig into the integrated whole, the more pieces you begin to feel out. By the same token, you can also sit back and just enjoy this as a easy drinking wine if you don’t want to think about it. A great wine.
- 2013 Clos du Zahnacker (29€)
- The 2013 feels more dominated by the Gewurztraminer in the blend. There is more intense varietal character here (though still medium intensity) and more acid than the 2012. Building on that acid is a salinity in the wine as well. The 2013 doesn’t quite have the integration and just seems a bit more clunky than the 2012, but that probably will smooth out over time. Another wine that is very interesting to dive deep on and decompose.
- 2015 Riesling Selection de Grains Nobles (25€ for 500mL)
- The nose is much lighter than I was expecting, given its Riesling and an SGN at that. And though the body is medium(+), the acid is still high. Contrasting those contradictions, the flavors are much more balanced than I thought they would be, and without much petrol character. Yes the wine is sweet, but it seemingly emphasizes the ripeness of the fruit more than the residual sugar content. This is probably the first SGN I have had where I think (well, nay, I know) that I could drink more than one glass in a single sitting.
Again, this was quite a lineup that even I had a hard time getting through. While all of the wines were solid (and some even more than that), the Clos du Zahnackers were just special. A 4000 bottle production each year and exclusive property of the “Le Cave de Ribeauville” since 1935, located in the heart of the Grand Cru Osterberg vineyard. It is said that Louis XIV liked this wine, which is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer that are grown intertwined and are pressed/vinified together. I walked away with several bottles, which is saying a lot since I only had room for 16-20 wines in my luggage for a 3 week trip. And when you see vineyards just down the street from the winery (see picture below), how could I not pick up multiple bottles.
I think the greatest surprise of all, even more than the great quality and variety that had at the winery, was the price on these wines. Normally when you think of “Grand Cru” the price ends with at least two 0s. But most of the Grand Crus here were under 20€!! I literally asked multiple times that the prices listed were for 750mL (normal-sized) bottles, which they were. The Vendange Tardives and Selection de Grains Nobles cost more than the other Grand Cru because they must be picked by hand, and therefore the labor costs / costs to produce the wines are higher. Over the course of the tasting, I saw at least 20 different people come in, get a sample of a wine, buy a box of it, and walk out. At these prices, I would too!!
Unfortunately, the shipping prices to the USA is prohibitively high. I asked for the names of their distributors; Eastern Wine Distrubutors (NY) and Golden Ram LLC (NY) are the closest to my area. I will be reaching out to them soon to see where I can find these wines in stores or if I can purchase from them directly because if the prices are anywhere near what I listed above, the quality will be well worth the price.
I do regret not spending more than a day in Ribeauville and it has been added to the top of my list to visit again. The wineries in town are all rated very highly by travelers and by the wine ambassadors that work at the wineries. And when you visit, please do not overlook Cave du Ribeauville. I promise you will find something you like (as long as its a white wine, haha). Cheers!!
Rating: 94 out of 100