IN MAY, we traveled to Alsace and drove the winding roads of the wine-producing valley between Ribeauville and the half-timbered houses of Riquewihr. The wine making in this region combines French and German influences, and while the technical finesse may be said to be Germanic, most Alsatian table wines are dry-finished with all sugars fermented in the French style.
We had lunch at a mountain chapel site with Bernard Trimbach, whose family has made wine here since 1626. Trimbach's are among the Alsatian wines most familiar to Americans, along with those of Hugel & Fils, growers since 1637.
As the country vegetable soup tureens were passed, Trimbach appeared with one of his great vineyard-designated prize wines, Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 1985 ($14.50). Swirling the bowl of the glass brought forth the flowery-clean bouquet, well-preserved through Trimbach's fermentation technology, which uses stainless-steel equipment. The expanded winery in Ribeauville, holds batteries of stainless-steel fermenters and, surprisingly, some big, handsome, 150-year-old oak casks, most of them with tartrate crystal linings to prevent wood-exchange with the wine. Even those, however, had plastic girdles around them, filled with cold water for cooling.
The wine I was looking forward to most, of all, the Trimbach Gewurztraminer "Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 1985 ($15.50), arrived. The bouquet of this wine reinforces the memory standard for perfect Gewurztraminer. Its scent and taste suggest litchi nuts, the tropical fruit of Asia. Totally dry, but wonderfully aromatic, Trimbach Gewurztraminer has a separate nobility among white wines. (At this writing, the 1983, a vintage that wine writer Hugh Johnson describes as "outstanding in every way" is available in Southern California; 1985 is on the way. Both vintages are superb.)