Tasting T2.6 Cool Climate Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

One of the pre-requisites for our ‘60 tastings’ was to educate ourselves in some of the areas that we had pretty much no knowledge of. Especially those areas we should have come across by now.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are favourite grape varieties of Harry, Kim and myself. We have often remarked on the qualities that other areas of the world, for example, New Zealand, Oregon, Chile have brought out in these grapes.

An area much closer to home (no not England) is the cool climate lands of Germany and Switzerland.

It is fair to say that other than an odd ‘frankenwein’ in a Bocksbeutel, (a flat-bottomed wide bottle reminiscent of a Mateus Rose shape) from Germany. A couple of odd bottles brought over from friends that live in Switzerland our knowledge of red wines from these areas is non-existent.

For white wines, we are more familiar with at least Germany. However, the grape varieties we have knowledge of are, Reisling, Gewurtztraminer and similar. Chardonnay from here we are not familiar with.

Geographically, France borders Germany and Switzerland, indeed all three countries meet just north of Basel. Therefore, it is not that surprising that they also have shared vines and knowledge over the years.


White grape varieties account for 66% of the area planted in Germany. Red grapes account for the balance 34%.

Chardonnay is the 7th most planted white varietal in Germany but accounts for only 1.7% of area under vine. However, that is increasing. Riesling dominates the white German wine scene with 23%, that is also increasing.

Pinot Noir (known as Spatburgunder) is the largest red grape variety under vine in Germany at 11.5% of all German varieties planted.

Annual wine production is circa 1.3 billion bottles.


Red grapes account for 57% of Swiss grape varieties and Pinot Noir is the largest red grape in Switzerland accounting for 27%. The remaining 30% made up of other grapes, Merlot and Gamay being the next largest with 8% each.

White grapes account for 43% of Swiss grape varieties. Chasselas being the predominant white grape making up 25%, whilst Chardonnay is only 2%. However, Chardonnay is responsible for the most prestigious wines.

Production is circa 148 million bottles per year. Only 1% is exported.

Useless fact – Switzerland is home to the world’s smallest vineyard, consisting of three vines only and measuring 1.6 square meters. It has been owned by the Dalai Lama since 1999.

Tonight’s tasting will consist of seven wines.

Three white wines, 2 from Germany and 1 from Switzerland.

Four red wines, 3 from Germany and 1 from Switzerland.

There are only four wineries in total, the two Swiss wines coming from Donatsch, the German wines coming from R Furst, Jean Stodden and Markus Molitor.

All the above have been chosen as they represent an extremely high level of quality.

The Wineries are:

R Furst

The family Furst go back as far as 1638 where they had a small farm growing fruit trees, vines and even tobacco. Paul and Monica Furst took over the winery in 1979, continuing to grow the 1.5 hectares that they started with. They gradually expanded their sites and currently have 21 hectares. Sebastien Furst took over from his father and the quality of wines produced has only increased.


Five Donatsch generations have owned the ‘Ochsen’ in Malans for over 100 years. In 1975 Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc were planted by Thomas Donatsch, this was inspired by Burgundy. However, from a legal point of view it was not allowed at the time. Thomas was also the first to experiment with French barrels in Switzerland as well. Throughout the years Donatsch has become known as a quality driven winery of Switzerland with fantastic results.

Jean Stodden

The Stodden family has been committed to viticulture in the Ahr Valley since 1578. In 1900 Alois Stodden started to press his own Pinot Noir himself. There is a huge emphasis on quality management both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Alexander Stodden is currently at the helm and his goal is to bottle the perfect Pinot Noir… quite the task!

Marcus Molitor

In the mid 80’s Marcus took over from his father as the eighth generation of the family. His main goal was to return the estates wines to the golden age of Riesling from Mosel valley. Also to create wines that were extremely representative of their terroir and can be aged for many years. This is an extremely well known winery and one that has continually been at the top of the rankings.

Tonight’s tasters are David, Harry, Kim & Jen.

R Furst Astheimer Chardonnay 2019

100% Chardonnay the grapes are gently crushed using feet, fermentation in small oak barrels. Maturity on the lees for a minimum of 16 months before bottling. The Astheimer Chardonnay grapes come from the grand cru vineyard Karthauser.

Note: Stone fruits, citrus and limes on the nose. Fruit translating really well on the palate, nice and lively with great acidity. Grapefruit and limes towards the finish, a very charming wine with good depth of flavour. Currently tight and youthful, will drink well over the next 4-6 years.

Dontasch Passion Chardonnay 2019

100% Chardonnay. Fermentation and aging takes place in used and 30% new Burgundy barrels.

Note: Ripe fruits with strong stone fruits, similar to Burgundian style Chardonnay. Grass and vegetation coming through as well. Following onto the palate, lemon and grass are very prominent with hints of the stone fruits. Grapefruit and lime towards the finish but extremely clean and less powerful. Good acidity, tight and youthful but with a good 5-7 years ahead of it.

R Furst ‘R’ Chardonnay 2019

100% Chardonnay the grapes are gently crushed using feet, fermentation in small oak barrels. Maturity on the lees for a minimum of 16 months before bottling. The Chardonnay ‘R’ grapes come from the grand cru vineyard Karthauser.

Note: Gooseberry, stone fruits and floral notes, extremely different. Orange blossom with gooseberry really translating beautifully onto the palate. Almost exotic fruits coming through as well. Good acidity with a medium – full bodied wine, clean and rounded. Gorgeously long finish with limes and grapefruit bringing up the rear. A great wine, drink now until 2028.

Donatsch Tradition Pinot Noir 2019

100% Pinot Noir. Classic maceration techniques are used and ageing takes place in used oak barrels.

Note: Raspberry and vegetation dominant on the nose, blackberry leaf and cherries coming through. Vegetation really compelling on the palate, strong leafy notes. Tannins are ever present but integrating really nicely. Good acidity and a short finish leaves this a very good drinking wine. Slightly underrated on first taste, as we moved through the evening this really opened up and the depth of fruit and power really came to light. Fantastic.

Jean Stodden Recher Spatburgunder 2019

100% Pinot Noir. Grapes are hand-picked and strictly selected. Temperature controlled for 18 days without stems and fermented on the skins. Malolactic fermentation takes place for 17 months in new and used barriques.

Note: Blue fruits, blueberries and blackberries, gorgeous. Hints of vegetal and leafy notes, such an enticing nose. Thick tannins which are starting to integrate but very present. Fruit showing itself well on the palate however the tannins do take over for the moment, this is a very young wine. This is outstanding at the moment however, it will be extremely impressive in 5-7 years time.

Markus Molitor Brauneberger Klostergarten *** 2015

100% Pinot Noir. Stringent selection at harvest. Clusters are almost completely destemmed then macerated and fermented for 4-6 weeks. After gentle pressing the wine was matured in French barriques for 18-24 months.  

Note: Extremely earthy with turned soil and slight farmyard. Dark fruits start to dominate, dark cherries and plums. Nice strong tannins which are integrating nicely, quite smooth. Really good acidity and this has a good decade if not more to reach its prime. Really intense fruit flavour with a beautifully long finish. An absolute for your cellar!

Markus Molitor Trarbacher Schlossberg *** 2015

100% Pinot Noir. Stringent selection at harvest. Clusters are almost completely destemmed then macerated and fermented for 4-6 weeks. After gentle pressing the wine was matured in French barriques for 18-24 months. 

Note: Strawberries, raspberries and good vegetal notes, a very impressive nose. Smooth and luscious on the palate, so light and clean. Tannins are really well integrated and this is just starting to shed its baby fat. The acidity sings and works really well with the earthy notes. Fruit translates perfectly on the palate with a great fruit profile. A fantastically long finish, balance and structure of this wine are brilliant. A harmonious wine that could certainly rival Premier Cru Burgundy’s… possibly even Grand Cru.


These wines were extremely good quality. I was slightly hesitant with some as my knowledge is limited with Swiss and German wines (to a point). I was aware of Dontasch and of course Markus Molitor as very impressive wineries. However, I had never tasted them before.

We were all extremely impressed with the quality of all these wineries and the wines they produce. I can only suggest that you explore for yourself as I can guarantee that there will be something for everyone. All wines were extremely representative of their terroir and again the quality was outstanding.

The scores:

Astheimer Chardonnay 2019 – 90 Points

Passion Chardonnay 2019 – 90 Points

‘R’ Chardonnay 2019 – 93 Points

Tradition Pinot Noir 2019 – 92 Points

Recher Spatburgunder 2019 – 91 Points

Brauneberger Klostergarten *** 2015 – 94 Points

Trarbacher Schlossberg *** 2015 – 95 Points

These wineries do deserve special recognition as they produce outstanding wines. Some very well deserved scores here and hopefully this can entice you to explore!

Thank you for reading and we shall be back in two weeks’ time with an Up from the Cellar tasting!

David & Harry

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