Chardonnay vs Riesling: What Are The Important Differences To Know?

Chardonnay vs Riesling
This is our comparison of Chardonnay vs Riesling. Do you know what are the 8 important differences to know? Let's find out!

This is our comparison of Chardonnay vs Riesling. We’ve extensively researched these two popular sparkling wine styles to help you pick the best for you.

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white wines in the world. In its unoaked version it’s light and crisp and pair very well with a variety of fish including Sushi.

In its oaked version, Chardonnay has more complexity, a different structure, and pairs well with bolder flavors like grilled and smoked dishes.

Riesling is a well known high quality white wine produced worldwide in a variety of styles and at all level of sweetness, which can age for decades.
 
It’s known for its high acidity and intense fruity and floral aromas which depends on the level of ripeness in the grapes.
 

Our recommendation for Best Value Chardonnay is Régnard Grand Régnard Chablis 2019.

For Best Overall Chardonnay we recommend Domaine Blain-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru ‘Morgeot’ Blanc 2018.

Our recommendation for Best Value Riesling is Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling and for Best Overall is Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019.

You’ll find below other recommendations for you. 

Let’s begin with the review!

Wine Selection Overview

Find below our Chardonnay vs Riesling wine selection for you where you’ll find our recommendation for you.

Chardonnay Selection

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier
2020
4.1/5

This delicious Chardonnay offers and incredible value for money.

Here is an extract from Vivino Editor’s note: “Inspired By France’s Best, Napa’s Pine Ridge Packs an Almost Impossible Amount of Deliciousness Into a Sub-$13 Package with This 4.1 ★ 2020 Napa White!”

What are you still waiting for???🤩

Régnard Grand
Régnard Chablis
2019
4.4/5

There are many great wines around, but this one offers an incredible price-quality ratio! I’d be quick if I were you…

Bright, pale-straw accented with green reflections.

On the nose it is elegant and fresh with notes of green apples, lemon and apricot, it has a notable intense aroma.

On the palate it is rich, rounded and mellow.

There are ample ripe lemony fruit and white peach flavors.

Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru 'Morgeot' Blanc 2018
4/5

We love this one and we are not the only one! This an extract from the Vivino Editor’s note:

“The Morgeot premier cru sits on the border between Côte d’Or and Saône-et-Loire regions—a Roman-era plot that sits atop a bed of chalk and limestone soils.

It’s a coveted piece of real estate, with neighbors like Louis Latour and Louis Jadot.

We think this Morgeot is the cream of the crop.”

Riesling Selection

Hans Baer Riesling Trocken 2020
3.8/5

If you are after a great dry, light and refreshing German Riesling for a very good price, you’ve just found it!

It’s pretty popular amongst the Vivino’s community too, and for a very good reason!

Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling
4.1/5
This Riesling is an authentic dry Mosel wine that reflects the classy nature of the grape variety as well as the character of the Moselle.
 
It offers a great value for money, as similar wines usually costs 3 times as much. If I’d were you I’ll be quick here!
Dr. L Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
4/5

Spätlese Riesling or late harvest, comes with more concentrated and riper lemon, lime and peach flavors than Kabinett. 

This one has a lively minerality, along with a delicate and crisp acidity that perfectly balances the bright white peach and lemon fruit.

Comparison

Let’s now take a closer look at the difference between Chardonnay vs Riesling so that you’ll have enough details to make an informed decision.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: Where are they produced?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling from regions and wine styles points of view.

Chardonnay’s an extremely versatile grape that grows worldwide in different climates and soil. Chardonnay does best in clay, limestone, and chalky soil. 

The climate affects the tasting profile of the wine in the following ways:

In cool climates, Chardonnay tends to be mineral with citrus flavor, high acidity, and medium body. 

Regional areas examples: France (Champagne, Burgundy), Northern Italy, US (Sonoma Coast), New Zealand.

In warm climates, Chardonnay tends to have tropical and stone fruit ripe flavor, lower acidity, and full body. 

Like Sauvignon Blanc, if the over-ripening is not properly controlled it will considerably reduce aromas and acidity. 

Regional areas examples:  Southern Italy, South Australia, and South Africa.

Read this article do find more about Chardonnay.

Riesling is a cold-hardy white grape that gives it’s best in cool and moderate climates. Generally speaking we can say that:
 
In cool climates, like Germany for example, the typical traits are high level of acidity, sometimes balanced by residual sugar and apple and pear notes.
 
In warmer climates, like Alsace, citrus and peach notes are more common.
 
There are at least 6 different Riesling styles, of which the primary 2 are German and French Riesling.
 
  • The two primary features of a German Riesling is that it’s almost always produced in purity, i.e. no blending, and it’s rarely aged in oak.

    German Riesling is also produced at level of sweetness.

  • French Riesling, or better Alsace AOC, has a higher alcohol content, usually 12%, than the German style and it’s dry.

    It is more rounded thanks to its ageing in steel tank or oak barrel.

Find out more about the other Riesling styles here.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: Which grapes are used to produce them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling from a grape point of view.

Chardonnay is made with Chardonnay grapes.

Riesling is made with Riesling grapes.

Both are white-wine grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: What's their alcohol content?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling from an alcohol content point of view.

Alcohol content or more precisely Alcohol By Volume, i.e. ABV, measures the alcoholic strength of a drink.

There is a direct relationship between the sugar left in the wine after the alcoholic fermentation has taken place, i.e. Residual Sugar or RS, and ABV.

During the alcoholic fermentation, the yeast transforms the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol.

Grapes with high residual sugar will therefore produce dry wine with a high ABV.

Depending on the different styles, Riesling’s ABV is usually between 9% to 12%, whereas Chardonnay’s ABV ranges between 10.5% to 14.5%.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: What's their taste profile?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling from a taste profile point of view.

Chardonnay is a dry to off-dry wine with a pale lemon to deep gold color. Depending on the style it can be light, fresh, and crisp if unoaked or rich, buttery and full-bodied if oaked.

Typical flavors for unoaked Chardonnay are lemon zest, peach, honeysuckle, and green fruit or tropical fruit depending on the ripeness.

These wines tend to have medium-high acidity and a medium-full body.

Typical flavors for oaked Chardonnay are butter, vanilla, spice, apple, chalk, and citrus fruit for cool climates or tropical fruit for warm climates.

The wines tend to have medium-low acidity and a medium-full body.

Riesling is produced in a variety of styles and at all level of sweetness. Find out more here.

Expect high acidity, light to full body, dry to sweet and an ABV that ranges between 10%-12%.

Typical notes for just-ripe grapes are green and citrus fruit, i.e. apple, pear, lemon and lime.

For ripe grapes you should expect stone and tropical fruit, i.e. peach, apricot, mango and pineapple.

If you happen to perceive gasoline as well, don’t worry as it’s actually pretty normal for aged and high quality Riesling.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: Are they sweet or dry?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling in terms of sweetness level or residual sugar.

The sweetness level of a wine is expressed in grams of sugar per liter, aka g/L, or as a percentage.

10 g/L equals 1% which, if you are interested, represents 6 calories per 5 oz serving. 

You can find Chardonnay primarily in dry to off-dry sweetness levels.

A dry wine has less than 15 g/l and and off-dry wine has between 15-30 g/l.

Riesling is produced at all level of sweetness. The sweetness level of a wine is expressed in grams of sugar per liter, aka g/L, or as a percentage. 

  • A dry wine contains less than 15 g/L.
  • An off dry wine contains between 15-30 g/L.
  • A sweet wine contains between 50-100 g/L.

Read this article to know more about wine sweetness level.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: Which are the recommended food pairings?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling from a food pairings point of view.

Chardonnay pairings depend on the style. 

Unoaked Chardonnay goes well with salad, veggie risotto, paté, chicken, shellfish, sushi. Cheese wise go with fresh cheese like goat cheese.

Oaked Chardonnay can be paired with bolder flavors like prosciutto crudo, pumpkin, pork, grilled meat, roast chicken, grilled fish smoked salmon, and crab cakes. 

Cheese wise go for cream to triple cream cheese like Brie or Brillat-Savarin. 

Riesling is a versatile wine and it’s high acidity makes is good match with salty food, such as French fries, salty olives, salami.
 
If you prefer the sweet Riesling, you’ll find that it’ll match very well with spicy food, such as Chinese, Thai and Tex-Mex cuisine as well as roasted pork, duck and gooes.
 
Veggie wise onion, carrot, eggplant are very good much as are white fish, shrimp and crab.
 
Cheese wise go for semi hard cheese, like Parmigiano, Pecorino, or creamy cheese like Camembert and Brie.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: How should you serve and store them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling in terms of serving and storing the wine.

Chardonnay shouldn’t be decanted. The service temperature and the storing period depend on the style.

For Unoaked Chardonnay serve at  45 – 50 °F (7 – 10 °C) in a Chardonnay or Viognier glass. [1] The recommended storing period is 2-3 years for normal bottles.

For Oaked Chardonnay serve at  50 – 55 °F (10 – 13 °C) in a Chardonnay or Viognier glass. The recommended storing period is 5-7 years for normal bottles.

Riesling doesn’t need to be decanted. Serve it at 43 – 46 °F (6 – 8 °C) in a Viognier glass for non dessert wine or a Fortified glass for dessert wine. 

The recommended storage period is up to 10+ years.

Chardonnay vs Riesling: How much do they cost?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Chardonnay vs Riesling from a price comparison point of view.

Let’s start by saying that both wines are affordable.

Chardonnay‘s price range is on average between $10-$50. You’ll find more expensive Chardonnay over $100 especially from France, Italy, and the US. 

If you are after some luxury bottle, there is a rare example of over $10k a bottle, yes $10k, such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru.

For Riesling you’ll find good entry level bottle between $10-$20. 

Great bottles will generally be around $30-$50 and outstanding bottles and usually ice wine, spätlese and auslese can go up to $100.

For those of you who are after the luxury segment be prepared to spend several $100s.

Our Verdict

If you have been through the guide, by now you are a Chardonnay vs Riesling expert!

You should also have a good idea of what to expect from your glass of Chardonnay and Riesling. 

Our recommendation is based on what you’d fancy the most at a particular given moment or event. 

Unoaked Chardonnay are usually good choices for a hot summer day since they are refreshing, very light, and easy to drink.

Oaked Chardonnay offers more complexity and can be paired with bolder flavors like grilled meat or fish. It’s therefore a more all-year-round wine in a sense.

Our recommendation for Best Value Chardonnay is Régnard Grand Régnard Chablis 2019.

For Best Overall Chardonnay we recommend Domaine Blain-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru ‘Morgeot’ Blanc 2018.

Are you instead after the freshness and variety of sweetness that Riesling can offer?

Our recommendation for Best Value Riesling is Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling and for Best Overall is Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019.

As always make sure to serve your Chardonnay and Riesling at the right temperature and glass, so that you can enjoy them at their best.

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