Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spatlese Chardonnay

This wine was a new one for me -- I didn't know Chardonnay could be Spatlese.

But why not? Spatlese, like Auslese and Kabinett, is a description of the grapes' ripeness, not the wine's sweetness. This is something you learn quickly when you drink German wines in Germany, because unlike German wines here, the great majority of them are dry ("Trocken").

This particular winery, Gerold Spies, doesn't export; it sells most of its wines to a mailing list and actually picks up the bottles for recycling. So it's not a product you're going to run into very often.

Wine purists might be aghast at the idea of Chardonnay grown in the land of Riesling and Sylvaner. It has only been permitted since 1991, and Chardonnay plantings are still minimal -- about 1,500 acres, or 0.6% of Germany's total vineyard land, according to Wines of Germany.

There's no reason to expect German Chardonnay to suddenly take off in the world market, either. Production costs -- and weather risks -- are high enough to make competition difficult with other countries not known for Chardonnay, like Italy.

How was the wine? It was OK, drinkable but not worth seeking out. It tasted unoaked, and the fruit was bright, more on the melon side than lemony/citrusy. If would guess it went through partial malo at least, because while it wasn't buttery, the mouthfeel was fairly rich. I had it with sausages and potatoes, and frankly I would have preferred a nice trocken Riesling, which is of course the conundrum for any grape new to a country: why grow it if it's not an improvement?

I guess at some level I'm a purist after all, but you would not have been able to tell from my empty glass.

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