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Wine of the Week

Alluring Alsatian at a Bargain Price

One of the reasons I am such a fan of Alsatian wines is their terrific value. I'm ambivalent about singing their praises here, as the more people discover just how delicious the wines are and how reasonably priced, the more those prices are going to rise. Hello, Adam Smith. But sacrifices have to be made in the interests of amenability, and besides, the secret will out eventually.

It still amazes me, though, that people will happily spend $25 on a totally indifferent Italian Pinot Grigio when, for little more than half that price they could enjoy a wine (made from identical grapes) such as this Wine of the Week, the Helfrich Pinot Gris 2008 from Alsace.

It's brimming with succulent fruit flavors—think nectarines, white peaches, pears, Braeburn apples. Particularly Braeburn apples, which Wikipedia tells us "are known to have a burst of flavor when bitten into" and "have a unique combination of sweet and tart flavor." This is exactly my first impression of this white wine (and most vins d'Alsace are white). And just like a Braeburn, the Helfrich doesn't stop there; it's not just a flash in the pan, or rather palate—zap and gone. Rather it lingers gloriously in the mouth and through a long aftertaste that teasingly suggests traces of a smoky minerality.

And all this in a $15 wine? Indeed; moreover, this sort of flavor-packed value is far from rare in Alsatian Pinot Gris. I won't get into the reasons why Alsatian wines are so reasonably priced, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Alsace region of France has a strong Germanic background, the result of being controlled by one or the other nation for centuries. That is nowhere more apparent than in its wine. In addition to Pinot Gris, Alsace is renowned for its Rieslings and Gewurztraminer wines, both of which are more associated with Germany and Austria than France. But forget the history, add this Pinot Gris to your shopping list, and enjoy a wine with true artisanal authenticity at a steal of a price.

To find this wine near you, try Wine Searcher.

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary

Food Pairing: Richer fish, chicken, cream sauces

Grapes: Pinot Gris

Appellation: Alsace

Region: Alsace

Country: France

Price: $15

Availability: Moderate

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.

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