If you think of German wines, Riesling will likely top your mind. But winegrowing in Germany goes far beyond Riesling, and there is now a growing range of Chardonnays from Germany well worth adding to your future tasting list.
Chardonnay is the most popular and most planted white wine grape globally, and excellent Chardonnay is made in nearly all wine regions around the world. Despite this, Burgundy and California are still seen as the world-best Chardonnay wine areas.
Lovers of Chardonnay know very well that finding an excellent bottle of Chardonnay is not limited to those two areas, however. In fact, Chardonnay is made far and wide both in the old and new world wine regions. In the obviously different styles that such a wide range of locations along with different production methods adopted in the wine cellar will bring about.
Germany is no exception although with Chardonnay plantings still very limited across the German wine regions, it is not an obvious location to be found on whatever list highlighting the best international Chardonnays from around the world.
With National Chardonnay Day coming up on 27th May this year, I thought it was time to put together a couple of great Chardonnays to try from Germany.
A quick introduction to Chardonnay
Chardonnay is made from green-skinned grapes that are highly adaptable to different climates around the world.
Depending on the region where it is grown and how it is produced in the cellar, Chardonnay can be either crisp and clean or rich and oaky, light and elegant or full-bodied and buttery.
The different styles are largely down to local climate (with wines coming either from warm-climate or cool-climate areas) and whether the wines are oaked or unoaked.
This difference in mind, Chardonnay will be typically dry, medium to full-bodied and expressing moderate acidity and alcohol. It will usually display flavours ranging from apples and lemon to pineapple and papaya. When it is aged in oak, it will also show notes of vanilla.
Pairing Chardonnay with food
As always, which wine to pair with your food comes largely down to personal taste. That said, there are some rules that apply when looking for the right food to be paired with Chardonnay.
Crisp unoaked Chardonnay pairs well with fresh cheeses, shellfish, or other delicate fish.
Medium-bodied Chardonnay works well with aged cheeses, firmer fish like swordfish, white meats, and pork.
Rich oaked Chardonnay with higher alcohol levels pairs well with creamy sauces, grilled meat and game birds.
What to know about Chardonnay from Germany
Officially, cultivation of Chardonnay grapes in Germany was only permitted from 1991. As a result, just over 2.2 hectares are planted with Chardonnay, roughly 2% of the country’s total area under vines.
Cultivation of Chardonnay in Germany is led by the Pfalz (Palatinate) area and Rheinhessen. Still, excellent Chardonnay are produced across many of the official 13 wine regions.
Despite some quite hot summers in the past ten years, Germany is still considered a cool-climate wine region.
As a result, Chardonnays from Germany will typically display higher acidity with a mineral character and citrus flavours as well as being lighter-bodied and lighter in alcohol.
Five excellent Chardonnay from Germany
Below, I have picked five Chardonnay hailing from different German wine regions that are great examples for excellent Chardonnays made in Germany.
Dreissigacker Westhofener Chardonnay
It’s not the first time a wine from Dreissigacker winery makes it on one of my lists of excellent German wines.; and I am pretty sure it will not be the last.
I still haven’t been to Dreissigacker winery in Rheinhessen personally, but it is firmly on my list of future visits, and I will certainly go there sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will continue to taste more of their excellent wines at home.
Winemaker Jochen Dreissigacker after taking over the winery from his parents is credited being one of the leading figures propelling wines from the Rheinhessen region to a new quality level. In 2018, he also opened a new winery building located in the middle of his vineyards, built to allow grapes to be moved by gravity and incorporating the latest technology and the best sustainable ecological standards.
The Westhofener Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the winery’s vineyards located in Westhofen and certified as organic wine.
In the glass: golden-yellow
On the nose: fruit-forward with typical notes of ripe peach, pineapple, and banana, with notes of brioche and vanilla.
On the palate: spicy and creamy with soaring acidity and a fresh persistent finish of ripe pineapple.
Zimmerle Korber Berg Chardonnay
Zimmerle winery is located in the picturesque Rems Valley just east of Stuttgart, which forms part of Germany’s Württemberg wine region.
Rems Valley follows the river Rems for around 80 kilometres from Essingen to Neckarrems where the Rems merges into the larger Neckar river, and is quite popular for hiking.
Zimmerle winery was founded in 1647 and is currently finishing a new wine cellar located at the foot of Kleinheppacher Kopf, which at 452 metres is one of three widely visible hills of the Rems Valley. The winery will consolidate their production in the new cellar, moving out of three locations in the small Korb village.
The new building will have a high focus on sustainability and offer a highly interactive experience to visitors, including a new tasting room and winery restaurant.
The Berg Chardonny is 100% organic and best enjoyed young.
In the glass, a straw yellow with golden nuances.
On the nose, aromas of green pears, ripe grapefruit, and tangerine.
On the palate, fruity and fresh with elegant citrus flavours.
Franz Keller Oberbergener Bassgeige Chardonnay
Franz Keller winery in the famous Kaiserstuhl area in German’s third largest and southern-most wine region Baden is perhaps one of the most iconic wineries in Germany.
Located not far from Freiburg, the Kaiserstuhl boasts a compact range of volcanic hills and is well known to produce some of Germany’s best red wines. It also yields a range of excelled full-bodies Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Growing of Chardonnay is limited but has started to pick up more recently.
Winemaking at the Keller winery is undoubtedly influenced by the close proximity to the neighbouring French wine region of Alsace.
In the vineyard, a particularly strong focus is taken on organic fertilization, mechanical vineyard cultivation and planting cover cops along with yield reduction through thinning and green harvest.
Franz Keller winery is one of those on my list to visit because of its stunning architecture with a terraced winery built into the steep slopes of the Kaiserstul whose rooftops are covered with indigenous crops from the nearby nature reserve Badberg. The building is home to the wine cellar, tasting room and the particularly well-known Michelin-starred Schwarzer Adler restaurant offering local and French cuisine.
Oberbergener Bassgeige Chardonnay is picked at the well-known unique vineyard form like a bass violin, one of the largest single vineyard locations of the Kaiserstuhl area.
In the glass, a stray yellow with hues of green
On the nose, intense notes of pineapple, apricot and banana with hints of buttery popcorn, crispy cornflakes and sweet cream.
On the palate, a well-balanced, full-bodied wine with fresh acidity. Flavours of fresh stone fruit, green apples and kiwi followed by flavours of white peppercorn.
Markus Molitor Wehlener Klosterberg Chardonnay
One of the beautiful wineries of the Mosel region, winemaker Markus Molitor is on the helm of this family-owned winery in the eight generation. His focus is on authentic wines and in the vineyard he employs selective hand picking.
The winery is located just outside of picture-perfect Bernkastel Wehlen, part of Bernkastel-Kues.
Wehlener Klosterberg is a south-facing vineyard location surrounding the Molitor winery. The vineyard is mostly planted with Riesling and Pinot Blanc but there is also a small area planted with Chardonnay.
In the glass, a light yellow.
On the nose, intensive aromas of yellow fruits followed by notes of ripe lemon and dried tropical fruits. Hints of fresh sage, white peppercorn, cedar, and tarragon. Mineral notes of wet slate.
On the palate, a vivid balance, dry and full-bodied with lively citrus flavours.
Markus Schneider Chardonnay
Growing from only one hectare under wine when Markus Scheider founded his winery in 1994 to todays 92 hectares, the winery has amassed many accolades along the way. Well known for it rather unusual wine names such as Kaitu, Tohuwabohu and Holy Moly, the winery today is one of the new flagships of state-of-the-art winemaking in the Pfalz wineregion.
The Schneider Chardonnay is picked mostly in high-altitude vineyards characterized by late-ripening. Only a small part of the grapes is picked in lower-altitude early ripening vineyards.
In the glass, a bright yellow.
On the nose, aromas of gooseberry, green apples and peach followed by notes of vanilla.
On the palate, elegant and fresh with low acidity and flavours of papaya.
Are you familiar with Chardonnay from Germany and do you have a favourite German Chardonnay?