Ziereisen - Hard 2018

We drink a bottle of 2018 Chardonnay Hard from the Ziereisen winery in Baden.

It’s no secret that I highly appreciate Ziereisen’s wines. The diversity of wines produced by Hanspeter Ziereisen, with his family and team in the southernmost part of Baden, is vast, offering plenty of opportunities for exploration. One such discovery is Chardonnay. True Chardonnay, not to be confused with Gutedel, which has apparently been successfully sneaked into multiple Chardonnay blind tastings. The three-tier classification in the winery, ranging from varietal wines over premium wines and up to the Jaspis series, remains unchanged. The Chardonnay Hard stands at the top of the white premium wines and is simultaneously the smaller Chardonnay in the house, positioned one level below the corresponding Jaspis. After growing on the region’s typical Jurassic limestone, the grapes undergo spontaneous fermentation and are then aged for about 20 months in small wooden barrels following some maceration time. Approximately one-tenth of the wine is aged in new barrels. Consistent with Ziereisen’s approach, the bottling is labeled as Landwein.

Initially, the wine is quite reserved. There is a blend of smoke and lightly flinty reduction. Between stone and wood, the search for fruit in the first moments is fruitless, but there is a touch of bitter honey that fits in quite well. On the palate, the Chardonnay is creamier than expected but also has a considerable acidic bite, accompanied by yellow stone fruit. It is cool, tight, and elegant, with a touch of honey in the finish. Very good, but still quite young. Overall, it feels like I don’t notice much from the particularly warm year 2018 at all. Of course, I have no experience with a Hard from a cooler year, such as 2021, for comparison.

The following evening, it has softened a bit, and indeed, fruitiness and creaminess have emerged in the aroma. There are very ripe, dark yellow stone fruits, honey, and more stone and smoke. Despite the aromatic description sounding noticeably riper than on the first evening, the wine has lost none of its freshness. The acidity on the palate is reminiscent of citrus fruit and passion fruit and lingers endlessly. With more time, the yellow stone fruit transforms into more and more apple, even apple rings. The fruit gums, not the dried, healthy stuff. Accompanied by some herbal notes reminiscent of herbal ointment. It sounds wild but is quite magnificent. With this evolution in the aroma, the drinking experience becomes even tighter. The wood becomes more edgy, and the acidity gains more traction. This is again a case where the initial development in the glass, expected to head towards more maturity, decides to hit the time machine button and become younger again. It actually feels somehow even younger now than on the first evening and yet not too young.

A lot happens while you drink this wine. And what impresses me even more than each individual wine from Ziereisen is the fact that every single wine touches me. No matter what level I reached for in the portfolio, it was always good. And although this was one of the highest reaches into that very shelf and certainly one of the most exciting wines so far, I haven’t lost the desire to simply uncork a Heugumber. I always fondly remember a conversation at a wine fair with a Champagne winemaker who explained that making his flagship blend was quite simple. He just had to take the best of everything. The art was to achieve that in the tiers below as well. And that’s exactly what Ziereisen does every time. Nevertheless, I am now eager to try a Jaspis as well.

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