If you are a regular reader of the Wine Rambler, you may have noticed that we do not review much Chardonnay here. Obviously, this is because we are nationalist Riesling-loving basterds from a country that does not make Chardonnay. All very true, apart from, well, Germans do actually grow Chardonnay, and not only for making sparkling wines. So the other day, when I had a few English friends over for wine and food, I opened one of those Chardonnays to remind myself how good they can be.
The wine in question was made by Philipp Kuhn, a winemaker based in the Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate), a German wine region I am very attracted to at the moment. The Pfalz is the second largest German wine region and offers a really interesting diversity in grape varietals, including Chardonnay (about 2% of grapes grown). The Kuhn Chardonnay comes in a very elegant bottle of typical German, almost Riesling, style. So does it taste 'German'?
The nose definitely had something mineral to it, almost stony; my friend Anna went so far as to call it 'brick dust'. The fact that the wine took a little time to open up added to the initial stony mineral impression, but soon this was joined by fruit, in particular lychee, pear and pineapple (pineapple drops, to be precise); add to that some cassis and hazelnut and we are in business.
On the tongue the Chardonnay was quite lively, with good acidity, dry with some crisp moments, but well balanced by good dosage of fruit (lychee, berries, melon and more exotic yummyness). The wine showed a clear presence and good substance and body in the glass, but it was by no means heavy, just focussed. The finish added a hint of buttery creaminess and more nut, and despite being more on the medium side it eased off very slowly and gently.
The following summaries were given by the English audience: '...a medley of lychee, powder and hazel...'; '...the only time I had cocaine it was cut with brick dust, and I swear it tasted like this...'
As you can see, the Chardonnay entertained us well; I relished the contrast to the other wines we had that night and I am already thinking of various fish or chicken dishes I would want to pair it with - for instance poached in lime juice, soy, water, chilli and garlic.
For those of you interested in the winemaking details it remains to be added that the Chardonnay was matured in old oak barrels, not in barrique. Whether this qualifies for it to be called 'German style' I am not sure, but I think it also does not matter. After all, it is 'just' a really good Chardonnay that is expertly balanced between substance and freshness, so call it what you will.