Wine Review: 2006 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve

29 06 2011

Long time no PnP!  Sorry about that — I was away on the weekend and discovered both at the time and after coming back that trip-related schedule lulls are multiplied tenfold when babies are involved.  However, I am now back in the saddle and again devoted to reducing my cellar one bottle at a time.  Tonight’s wine seemed like a promising combination:  a region (Alsace, France), producer (Trimbach) and varietal (Pinot Gris) that I love, all at a bargain price (I think this bottle was $17).  Too good to be true?  Oh yes.

"Reserve" is the wine equivalent of "part of a nutritious breakfast".

For those of you wondering if Pinot Gris has any relation to Pinot Grigio, the Italian white that I reviewed a few wines ago, they’re actually the exact same grape, although they usually manifest themselves in the bottle in very different ways.  Pinot Grigio is grown and made to be light, crisp, refreshing and neutral-tasting, whereas Pinot Gris is much fuller, lusher, riper and more flavourful.  If you taste classic examples of the two back to back, you wouldn’t believe they were the same grape.  Pinot Grigio’s home is northeast Italy, while Pinot Gris is best known from Alsace, where it is one of four “noble grapes” allowed to be in the region’s top Grand Cru wines (the others, if you’re curious, are Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat).  I personally prefer the Gris to the Grigio, as I find it more interesting and think it has much more personality in the glass.  Even better, like many Alsatian wines, it can be a value:  I’ve seen Grand Cru Pinot Gris on sale for less than $30 a bottle.  It’s also consumer-friendly, because all Alsatian wines actually list the grape on the bottle label, unlike the wines from almost every other spot in France.

Bonus question:  what does the word “Reserve” mean on this bottle?  Absolutely nothing!  The term “Reserve”, “Riserva” or “Riserva” only has a legally defined meaning in three wine countries — Italy, Spain and Portugal — where it indicates that the wine in question has spent a minimum period of time aging before release.  In all other cases, the word is simply a sales pitch to make the wine seem more special than it actually is.  In cases like this, where “Reserve” is slapped on a sub-$20 bottle of wine, I would seriously start to wonder…logic suggests that there is no way that this wine compares favourably to the rest of Trimbach’s (much more expensive) collection, so the labelling is likely just filler.

Cork Rating: 8/10 (The cork and the price almost make this bottle worth it. Almost.)

On to the wine, which I can best describe as “strange”.  It was fairly deep in colour, but not in comparison to most other Pinot Gris:  it was still straw-coloured and not deep gold or amber like some other PGs I’ve seen.  The nose wasn’t particularly intense, with golden apple being the most obvious aroma, mixed with some odd vegetal flavours (celery and pickles…mmm) and an overarching mineral note.  Then things really went bizarre.  After a couple swishes, sips and swallows, my tasting notepad had the following three words on it:  “Soap?  Banana?  Beer?”  If you can conjure up a mixture of those three flavours, dressed up with some more standard wine notes like pear, white peach and bath salts, then tacked onto a medium body with high-ish acidity and a short, puckery finish, you’d have this “Reserve” in a nutshell.  I don’t really know what to make of it, and I can’t really say why it is how it is; all I can say is that it’s not really typical of the grape or the producer, who is one of Alsace’s best.  It’s not like it tastes BAD, but intriguing weirdness only takes you so far…there’s nothing that makes me want to crack another bottle of this ever again.

Still, unimpressed review notwithstanding, please don’t get down on Pinot Gris, which is probably my second favourite white grape after Riesling.  Put down the bottle of Grigio, go to the France section in your local wine shop, look for the tall skinny bottles and give one a shot — just not this one.  Any other one.

82+ points

$15 to $20 CDN 

UPDATE:  I just got a message from Domaine Trimbach on Twitter stating that they thought my bottle might have been defective, as they have recently had this wine (with mushroom risotto!) and it was completely different than I described.  While I didn’t notice any obvious fault, it’s certainly possible that there was an issue or some variation with the bottle reviewed, so keep that in mind when reading this post.  According to the producer, the 2006 Reserve Pinot Gris should be “a full-bodied wine, fruity (yellow peach, apricot), a little smokiness, clean finish”, which sounds a lot more like the PG I’m used to seeing.  Thanks to Trimbach for reading and responding! 

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