While the rest of the country digs out from snow, spring has sprung in Florida. The weather reached a high of 84 degrees, and after a day in the sun I was looking for something refreshing to drink. I decided to open white wines from the Alsace region of France that I have had in my cellar for a number of months. While information about the producer is nearly non-existent on the web, and various articles site different longevity information about the producers, one thing remains constant. The riesling, pinot blanc and gewurztraminer from Helfrich are pretty darn good.
Several writers have met with Anne-Laure Helfrich the sister of Frederick Helfrich and note in their writeups that she is the sixth generation Alsatian, while others note her father is third generation in the wine business. Regardless of how long they’ve been in Alsace, or the wine business, Helfrich offers two levels of wine, the noble variety (entry level) which all retail for $15 and the Grand Cru which are single Vineyard offerings which retail for $25. The Alsace wine region, which is in France on the border of Germany, is one of the smaller wine producing areas in France. The region typically produces dry riesling, while the other notable varieties pinot gris and gewurztraminer are typically off-dry, with some residual sugar left after fermentation.
The first offering that I tried was the Helfrich noble variety Riesling 2008. The nose, or bouquet is stone fruits and petrol, with mineral notes. The palate comes across as tart green apples, citrus and is very mineral driven. Though not very acidic, some acidity is definitely noticeable on the mid-palate and finish. With some time, and air, the wine opens up nicely. The flavors round out a little, becoming a little less tart green apple, and more focused on citrus flavors. The wine comes across very dry, and can remind you of a sauvignon blanc. The winemaker’s suggested food pairings are sushi, white meats, Alsatian tarts and smoked salmon.
The second wine from Helfrich was a the 2008 gewurztraminer, which I just popped and poured. The nose is a little floral, with melon notes coming through as well. On the palate, it’s a medium weight with white flowers upfront followed by a burst of sweet stone fruit. There is a sprinkling of white pepper on the finish, but it’s lost amongst the flavors of flowers and peach. Typically, gewurztraminer has a nice spicy component, and the name actually means Spicy Traminer (a grape). However, after 20 minutes in the glass, the wine warmed up a little and with air has opened a lot. The palate is much more white flowers now, with a nice vein of spice on the finish. I really enjoyed this wine, especially as it opened up. It has a nice bit of sweetness that will appeal to many, while the structure and balance make it a good buy at $15.
Finally, the Helfrich pinot gris 2008 rounded out the tasting for the day. With a mineral driven nose of stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches, this white wine from the Alsace region of France has a delicious bouquet. Slightly viscous with a medium mouth feel, the initial approach of this wine is super ripe stone fruits, particularly apricots. There is a honeyed fig component as well, and this wine is very reminiscent of the late harvest semillion I had from Apex recently. The Helfrich pinot gris comes across a little sweet, however its finish leaves crisp and clean and purely fruit driven. Again, aerating this white wine opened it beautifully. After 15 minutes in the glass it’s become a bit more balanced, the sweetness is a bit more tame, though prominent, and the spice little bit more noticeable throughout the palate.
The Helfrich gewurztraminer 2008 and pinot gris 2008 were both off-dry wines, what most people would think of as “sweet”. The sweetness, and fruit forward nature of both of these wines make them a perfect pairing for spicy foods, as well as the typical “Asian” food pairings. The pinot gris may go well with pork, perhaps slow cooked with onions. All of these white wines were refreshing on a hot day, perfect summer sippers, and food friendly. At $15 each, there’s no reason to avoid them, so let me know what you think.
These wines were provided as trade samples for me to taste and review honestly.