Are you ready for the epic Riesling vs Chardonnay white wine battle? There’s no doubt that Chardonnay is the more popular grape variety. Yet, Riesling has a passionate following partially because Riesling has excellent potential to age and develop over time.
Riesling vs Chardonnay white wines have little in common. Chardonnay is famous for its creamy quality, while Riesling offers a refreshing experience due to its acidity. Both white wines are great to enjoy once you understand their differences.
1) Riesling vs Chardonnay: How Do They Taste?
These white wines are quite different in taste, so let’s look at the fruity flavors, secondary flavors, acidity, and alcohol level you can expect.
What Does Chardonnay Wine Taste Like?
Chardonnay wine has very different tastes depending on where it is grown and how it is made. As a result, Chardonnay is sometimes described as the winemaker’s grape because the winemaker has a significant role. In general, you can expect the following flavor profile in your glass of Chardonnay wine.
- Fruity Flavors. Typical fruit flavors include pineapple, baked apple, and lemon zest. You can expect to taste more citrus flavors when the wine is grown in a cool climate.
- Secondary Flavors: Vanilla, creamy, and popcorn notes are typical when the wine has been aged in oak. Further, malolactic fermentation often gives Chardonnay a further buttery or creamy taste.
- Acidity. Expect to experience moderate acidity in the glass.
- Alcohol. Typically, Chardonnay wine has a 13.5-14.5% alcohol level.
By the way, Chardonnay is one of the three grape varieties used to make the world’s most famous sparkling wine in the champagne wine region.
What Does Riesling Wine Taste Like?
This white wine grape variety comes in multiple styles. In terms of typical taste, look for the following aspects.
- Fruity Flavors. Apples, Apricots, Peaches, and Peaches are common in most Riesling wine varieties.
- Secondary Flavors. In some cases, you might detect other flavors beyond the primary flavors of fruit. With Riesling, you may find honey and ginger flavor.
- Acidity. Expect to taste a refreshing level of acidity in your glass of wine. Acidity in a glass of wine can be excellent. It is the same principle that makes lemonade so appealing in the hot summer months.
- Alcohol. Typically in the 12.5% to 13.5% range. For a low alcohol Riesling, look for a German bottle of wine.
2) Riesling vs Chardonnay: Sweetness Levels (Dry vs. Sweet)
Comparing Riesling vs Chardonnay in terms of sweetness is easier when we make some distinctions. Start by looking at the effect of climate. In winemaking, we usually separate wine regions into cool climates (e.g., Canada and Germany) and warm climates (e.g., California and Australia).
Cool Climate Riesling vs Cool Climate Chardonnay
- Cool Climate Riesling Sweetness: In Germany, higher acidity in Riesling wines is sometimes balanced with residual sugar. Without this sugar, the wine might come across as unbearably tart.
- Cool Climate Chardonnay Sweetness. Generally, a cool climate, Chardonnay has more acidity and citrus flavors. At your next wine tasting at home, consider tasting a German Riesling and a cool climate Chardonnay from Ontario and see how they compare. You might find that these two white wines have more in common than you might have thought.
Tip: Check out the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C) to discover more about the wonders of cool style Chardonnays. The event features white wines from Ontario wineries (e.g., 13th Street Winery, Cave Spring Vineyard, Inniskillin, and Henry of Pelham) and international wineries (Villa Marika and Esk Valley from New Zealand).
Warm Climate Riesling vs Warm Climate Chardonnay
Warmer temperatures mean different flavors in your glass of wine.
- Warm Climate Riesling. Riesling is typically associated with cool climates, but it is sometimes made in warm climates as well. According to the International Riesling Foundation, California produces some quality warm climate Riesling wines.
- Warm Climate Chardonnay. Typically grown outside of Europe, warm climate, Chardonnay tends to have higher alcohol and lower acidity. Further, you will probably taste fruity flavors like pineapple and yellow peach.
In addition to climate, harvest timing matters. When a grape is left on the vine longer, it has the potential to become sweeter. Of course, there are trade-offs to a late harvest, like a higher chance of rotting. With Riesling, a late harvest approach leads to a sweeter wine.
Finally, the impact of oak is sometimes perceived as sweetness. While putting wine in oak barrels does not add sugar, it can add flavors like vanilla which some people perceive as sweetness.
3) Riesling vs Chardonnay: What Are Good Wines Under $50?
You can find plenty of affordable wines from Riesling and Chardonnay producers. To give you better options, let’s look at wines up to $50 per bottle. While it is possible to find quality wines as low as $20, the task is much easier when you have a slightly larger budget. It’s often best to save up a bit to spend on one high-quality bottle of wine versus multiple bottles of cheaper wine.
Quality Chardonnay Wines Under $50
- Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis. This Burgundy wine is typically priced between $25-$35. The 2018 vintage earned a score of 91 from wine expert James Suckling who described the wine as “rich and well balanced.
- Smith-Madrone Chardonnay. Produced in Napa Valley, this Chardonnay offers rich wines that come from forty-year-old vines. Expect to enjoy a classic creamy texture in this bottle of wine which is aged in new French oak.
- Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bourgogne Blanc. This Burgundy wine is typically priced from $39 and up. The wine itself is a blend of two vineyards. The wine has earned an average score of 88 out of 100 from wine critics.
Quality Riesling Wines Under $50
- Cave de Turckheim Riesling. Produced in Alsace, France, this bottle has earned an impressive score of 94 out of 100 from wine critics. The 2017 vintage has a price of approximately $25. The winemaker describes this wine as “fruity and easy to drink.”
- Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine. Produced in Ontario, Canada, this icewine is a perfect choice for dessert. Expect to pay $40 or more for a half bottle. Icewine is expensive to harvest, which means the price you pay is higher. The wine has earned an average score of 90 from wine critics.
- Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling. Our final Riesling recommendation comes from the Mosel region of Germany. Priced at $49, this Riesling wine has earned an average score of 91 out of 100 from wine critics.
4) Riesling vs Chardonnay: Where Are They Made?
Riesling and Chardonnay wines are made around the world, with certain wine regions becoming particularly well known.
Chardonnay: Top Countries and Region s
- Top Countries: France (46%), USA (34%) and Australia (5%)
- Significant Wine Regions. In terms of French white wines, look for Chardonnay from Burgundy. In the USA, California is the best bet to find a warm climate style of Chardonnay.
Riesling: Top Countries and Regions
- Top Countries: Germany (59%), the USA (13%), and France (8%) are the top producers.
- Significant Wine Regions. In France, look for Riesling in the Alsace region. In Germany, you can find quality Riesling wines in Mosel, Rheingau and Pflalz.
5) Riesling vs Chardonnay: Easy Food Pairings
When you have a bottle of Riesling or Chardonnay, what should you eat with it? Use the following tips to prepare a fantastic meal.
Riesling Wine Food Pairing Ideas
- Cheese Pairing. Riesling goes well with blue cheese, feta, and aged gouda.
- Vegetarian Pairing. Beets and Cauliflower curry pair well with Riesling.
- Meat Dishes. Riesling goes well with spicy foods like Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes.
Chardonnay Food Pairing Ideas
- Cheese Pairing. Chardonnay goes well with Brie and Mozzarella.
- Vegetarian Pairing. Green peas, Zucchini, carrots, corn, and pumpkin go well with Chardonnay.
- Meat Dishes. Chardonnay is a classic pairing with roast pork chops, baked chicken, and turkey bot pie.
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