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.
The many nuances & faces of Chardonnay
I have been hearing & reading many good things about Herr Huber's Spatburgunder, it seems that even across the Atlantic in the U.S. quite a few wine blogs & on-line wine magazines have been praising & appreciating his elegant, rich & structured Spatburgunders.
So reading about his Chardonnay R is quite interesting, it seems to be at a halfway point between classic Chablis & the rich, creamy butter Chardonnays that you often find from the New World.
I had an interesting Chardonnay from Markgraferland in 2013; a Zafiringer EcoVin '04 trocken. At the time i was sort of an ABC in regards to Chardonnay; but this bottle changed my mind. As it was a well made wine which expressed both the cultivar & the terrior.
Since then I have drunk a Premier Cru Chablis and other Chardonnays, & yesterday in my WSET Level 2 course we had a Puligny- Montrachet 1er Cru which was quite a treat. We also had a Chablis, i think Villages level which was pretty good; our last Chardonnay was from the Adelaide Hills, South Australia which was a good balance between expressing the fruit & well integrated oak.
Next time I am back home in Baden I will try to search out the 'R' Chardonnay and set what its like. Would you know its retail price by any chance?
Keep up the writing, its always an enjoyable read. :-)
In reply to The many nuances & faces of Chardonnay by Solomon Mengeu
Interestingly, just a couple of weeks ago when I was in San Francisco I had a Puligny- Montrachet and it was somewhat underwhelming, at least considering the price. Happy you enjoyed yours better, Solomon. Huber is certainly one of the German winemakers to watch. Sadly, with international fame also come higher prices, but overall I feel that Germany still offers good value. I have recently had one of his cheaper wines which I will review here at a later stage. With regards to the price of the R unfortunately I cannot help you as it was a present. I have seen that the 2011 vintage appears to be comfortably above €40 though, so this is not an every day wine...
Thank you for your kind words and comment, Solomon!