This past evening we made a blind tasting of German Chardonnays. Chardonnay isn’t of course a typical German variety; it is rather a Burgundian variety, very famous for its Chablis wines.
Since some years, several German winemakers planted Chardonnay and tried to surf on this internationally popular wave.
These last years also, my father and I tried one German Chardonnay and were very convinced. This made us curious of course if there are more such convincing “Chards” growing here. So we decided to organize some more samples and blind taste them in a nice round. Actually this was our first real blind tasting, honouring the name of this blog: a shame it came that late!
So here’s the plot: we had 5 bottles, 4 of them being German and one of them from Austria. 2 of the bottles I already knew. One of the bottles was my father’s favourite wine, but I filled it in another bottle so he couldn’t recognize it! (All of the bottles had their labels covered by a cooling sleeve). I asked everyone to give the wines a grade between 1 and 10 while tasting them.
Our first wine was a Franz Künstler 2005 Chardonnay from the Rheingau. We all liked it, and even more as it got warmer (I kind of overcooled all the bottles so that they all have the right temperature). It had a nice nose of citrus fruits, like grapefruit for example and for me it also had a slight almond/nutty aroma. On the palate it was again fruity, with citrus fruits. Oskar also noticed that it had a hint of honey. We agreed. Besides It had a complex minerality, as you would expect it from some good Riesling, and this one actually comes from a famous Riesling terroir, doesn’t it. It also had a somehow thick mouthfeel, indicating a nice extraction. At the same time, you could still taste the yeasts from its youth. Maybe it needs a half year to get more maturity and taste more precise. (By the Way, I have already tried several Künstler wines, check them out in the Rheingau section)
Our second wine was at first try really a shock. Much more dry and acid then the first wine and a slight wood tone (this was the only wine of the tasting matured in barrels) immerged our palates; our first impression was…”beurk, throw it away”, but good as we are, we gave it a second, a third and a fourth chance. Ok, as it warmed up, the 2005 Würtz Weinmann Chardonnay from Rheinhessen, got more aroma; some smell of lemon balm and herbs. But all in all it had a lot of acidity and wasn’t very balanced. It seemed to me as if the winemaker tried to copy the Chablis method, where Chardonnays in barrels yield very good results. Unfortunately this didn’t work out for Rheinhessen Chardonnay. This was definitely our least favourite wine of the tasting. Maybe we should give it a try on its own another day since it had a completely different style than the other 4 wines which were much more on the fruit. Anyway, I know for sure that Dirk Würtz makes some terribly good Rieslings which I can only recommend.
This third bottle then is my fathers preferred wine. Kind of his MVP wine, his babe etc… And I must admit I like it very much too. The 2005 Wageck-Pfaffman Chardonnay from the Pfalz region has a youthful fruitiness which floods your mouth with an instant happiness guarantee. Its nose is of course super-fruity too reminding English candy, the one in the metal box (you know which!?!). It has a thick body with hints of minerality and some crisp carbon-dioxide and a little yeast, revealing its youth. But these aromas don’t bother, I think they rather structure the wine and intensify its “happy feel”. As a slight critique we noticed that it has a slightly bitter finish and lacks a little complexity compared to our first wine, the Rheingau Chardonnay. Also we wonder how it would taste in half a year, when the youth-aromas diminish. We have the feeling that this wine is made to be drunken that young. Still, this was one of our preferred wine of the tasting. And for sure, The preferred choice wine of my father!
Our fourth wine, the 2005 Ludi Neiss Chardonnay comes from the same region than number 3 and also had a similar aroma. The slight difference was that it had a little late harvest touch, or to be more specific, a Riesling Spätlese touch. Its body had a little honey-like touch and even its finish was sweet. So this one has a point here compared to the previous Pfalz-Chardonnay. This one also has less yeast and appears a tick more mature. Difficult tot tell, which of these last two was better!
Our last wine, wasn’t a German one. As a matter of fact, I chose an Austrian Chardonnay (they speak some kind of German still) in order to realize ( or not) its similarities (varietal-wise) with its German fellows. Surprisingly (or not), this 2005 Chardonnay Sinner, from Prieler in the Burgenland region was quite similar to its 2 predecessors. It had a tick more acidity and the fruit was present but not as dominant as the 2 before. It was a much more round wine, very pleasant to drink. But it couldn’t top number 3 and 4. If I would be fair I would say it’s a draw between 3, 4 and 5, but I have the feeling that it was a tick behind them.
So as a final cut, what can we say? There wasn’t one winner in this tasting. Except for number 2, all the wines had a similar fruity style, and were very appealing. These had only slight differences. For me number 1, 3 and 4 were my choices, whereby number 4 I found was a nice discovery. My father liked 3 and 4 the most, but I guess number 3, his baby remains his number 1 all-time choice and he was quite happy that none of the competitors punched it off its foundation. As for Oskar, I guess, he also liked 1, 3 and 4 the most but I think that he had a slight faible for the first one with its hint of honey and slight complexity, am I right?
Of course we all agreed that number 2 is the loser of the evening!
As a whole, German Chardonnays are an interesting discovery, very different from its international fellows. I guess also, that for a lot of wine lovers it would be difficult to recognize them as Chardonnay if tasted blind.