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HELFRICH WINES FROM ALSACE -A WORTHY FIND

By Michael Hepworth

Helfrich wines come from Alsace in Northern France and it is one of only fifty one vineyards that have the Grand Cru designation. The vineyard dates back to the reign of King Childebert 11 (589AD), and the Helfrich family has now been involved for six generations. Despite that history, the brand is hardly known in the USA and the vineyard does not even have its own website. However these wines are well worth tracking down, and are perfect for the upcoming holiday season.  Alsace is cut off from the rest of the country by the Vosges Mountains, and separated from Germany by the Rhine. The area is dotted is with medieval villages and cobbled streets. Very little red wine is produced here, and the wines are an exciting combination of French and German styles.

Located on a steep hillside and with only 8” of loam covering a calcareous bedrock, the grapes are handpicked in October/November. They are destemmed and put through a membrane pressing and then fermented in stainless steel tanks, a cold setting, and then racking on fine lees.  One of the results is an austere and well constructed 2005 Riesling that goes perfectly with smoked salmon, sushi, grilled prawns, roast chicken or duck and mild cheeses. Most people think of Riesling as a sweet wine, but this version retailing for $24.99 is a perfect way to start a meal for house guests. There is a strong hint of grapefruit and other citrus fruits that leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth; this is a good value wine that contains only 8 grams of sugar. Not quite as sweet if that’s what you come to expect from a Riesling, but nevertheless well worth trying.

The 2007 Riesling ($14.99) is slightly different from the 2005 version with the grapes coming from the Couronne d’Or, an association of local vineyards and winemakers that run through the middle of Alsace . This version is crisp and has a hint of apples and peach with a long aftertaste.  The great Riesling’s can be kept for years inn the bottle especially the top ones from Germany, but since Alsace is so close to Germany, the Rieslings from this area continue to be well respected, but lower in alcohol content from the majority of other wines.

Gewürztraminer wines from Alsace are generally dry or off-dry and have a nice rich aroma and flavor. Most of them are big enough to even go with curries, but in general Foie Gras is the favored food of choice.  The 2005 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru ($24.99) from Helfrich on the other hand has 21 grams of sugar content, and is much sweeter with a taste of lychee, rose and spice. You can drink this one as an aperitif with lobster, scallops, spicy Asian cuisine, soft cheeses and even as a dessert wine. It has the same retail price as the Riesling and is hand picked exactly the same way.

The 2007 Gewürztraminer ($14.99) has even more sugar content and is strong on pears and tropical fruit, and goes with Chilean Sea Bass, smoked oysters, quiche Lorraine, roasted chicken and turkey.  However I did like the 2007 Helfrich Pinot Gris a lot ($14.99), a robust wine that leaves an immediate aftertaste inn the mouth that lingers nicely. This wine is bottled in Stelvin screwcaps to preserve the aromatic potential, and this wine will go perfectly with Foie Gras, grilled pork tenderloin, mussels and crab. Alsace is the only place in the world where you will find spicy Pinot Gris, the wine being neutral everywhere else.

Fact Sheet

Website: www.underdogwinemerchants.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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