Bernhard Huber, Chardonnay R, 2009
What you are looking at is nothing less than the best Chardonnay ever made in Germany. Well, sort of. First of all the photo below only shows Chardonnay grapes and not the bottled "R" as, despite following best practice in digital preservation, our shots of the "R" had an unfortunate encounter with oblivion. Secondly, I have no idea whether Bernhard Huber's 2009 Chardonnay really is the best German Chardonnay ever bottled - but when we heard that the respectable wine guide Wein Plus had made that claim it was time to investigate.
So, ladies and gentlemen, come join us for another mission in our never-ending quest to do our journalistic duty.
Thankfully, this time that duty came at no financial expense as the bottle was a gift from my co-Rambler Julian for my birthday. In what has to be one of the more clever scams out there Julian regularly manages to present spectacular bottles for my birthday and then to drink half of them himself. For our readers that is of course very beneficial as two palates taste more than one (to butcher a German proverb in the translation).
So far, Baden winemaker Bernhard Huber has been featured on the Wine Rambler for his excellent Pinot Noir. Apart from Spätburgunder he also grows Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and a range of other grape varieties including the rare Freisamer (which I have yet to taste). Winemaking has a long history in the sun-kissed village of Malterdingen with its shell lime soils - about 700 years ago Cistercians brought Pinot Noir to Malterdingen, setting up an estate where Bernhard Huber is now based. Over the past decades Huber has built up an formidable reputation with his Pinot Noir. He creates complex wines that age well and are said to resemble the great French Pinots in style. All of that bodes well for the Chardonnay "R".
Thankfully, the wine does not disappoint. I remember that even hours after we had finished the last drop the smell coming from the empty glass was still more impressive than what many wines manage to deliver when they are in the glass. Smoky, spicy aromas with delicious toasty wood notes are the base for a bouquet that features herbs, roast pistachios, citrus, vegetable (cucumber and cooked green beans), beeswax and apple plus overripe cider. Oh, and there is chalky mineral too. The wine is as complex and enticing on the palate as it smells; I really enjoyed the blend of herbal, vegetable and fruit flavours (add dried pear to the mix). The acidity is lively and together with the mineral gives the wine a cool, refreshing touch that balances nicely with the warmer flavours (such as honey) and textures, especially the very neatly integrated oak. At moments it felt like biting into a ripe, roast and in any tasty way imaginable very well rounded honey coated lemon.
There is no doubt that the "R" is an outstanding wine. Whether it is really the best German Chardonnay is probably for reviewers who have tasted orders of magnitude more than us to argue about. I remember having enjoyed other, in some way perhaps leaner, German Chardonnays about as much - but the "R" has complexity and substance that may need a few more years to really show what it can do.