Jürgen Leiner, Chardonnay "Handwerk", 2011
The German word "Handwerk" stands for the trades that build, that craft things with their hands. It can be translated as "craft", "handicraft" or "artisanry" and it has a very solid connotation. Solid work, handmade for the customer, set against industrial mass-production, this is the message that Sven Leiner's wine range "Handwerk" is meant to convey. Thankfully, Leiner's artisanry is not of the type that will put you out of pocket - priced below €9 these wines are perhaps not cheap enough for everyday drinking if you are on a budget, but also not expensive for a quality product that is also certified organic.
It all sounds rather nice and I would have reviewed a "Handwerk" much earlier, were it not for a not so pleasant encounter with a Leiner wine a few years ago from which I only remember an unbalanced acidity which had put me off. Can Sven win back my trust with his craftsmanship?
"Handwerk" is one of three ranges of wine offered by the Pfalz winery. It starts with "Fusion" - easy to drink, competitively priced blends from different vineyard sites, then follows "Handwerk" and last but not least the single vineyard, single variety wines. Leiners grow a range of grape varieties from Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Dornfelder, Tempranillo or Pinots Blanc and Gris, and they also offer sparkling and sweet wines. Wines are certified as organic by Ecocert and so it won't come as a surprise that the Leiner philosophy speaks a lot about working with and not against nature. The grapes for the Handwerk Chardonnay were grown on soil composed of clay and chalk and fermented in stainless steel with natural yeasts.
Now all this sounds rather nice, but what does it come to in the final "artisan" product? Something rather nice, I would say. The Chardonnay features exciting aromas of bitter apple, yellow fruit, orange and a touch of sugared strawberry - spiced with citrus and herbs. Neither of the fruit bomb nor of the very reserved, lemon mineral type the Chardonay's bouquet to me is very animating. On the tongue "Handwerk" has a nice dynamic between a fruity, creamy, almost bonbon-like round texture and more zingy moments - there is a little fizz still in the wine. Its fruitiness almost reminded me of a multivitamin juice, but in a rather elegant, precise way and not like an overpowering fruit-and-blender massacre. Add a bit of herbal freshness and you have a wine that is animating, drinks very well and still has some complexity. Very convincing, especially for the price! "Handwerk" certainly has won back my trust in Sven Leiner, in fact I am keen to try more.
I can see that you're more serious than ever about giving German Chardonnay its well-deserved chance. I may need some more time to fully embrace my inner Chard, but there is no doubt that, as they get better and better, a sort of friendship will be struck up. I remember reading about Leiner a few years ago, when he was a dedicated, but somewhat unhappy young winemaker, having just alienated his father's old customers as well as his own friends with his move towards organic winemaking and biodynamics. Good to see him doing so well.
In reply to German Chardonnay by Julian
Interesting, I missed the bit
Interesting, I missed the bit about the crisis - but then it seems to be common when a winemaker/vintner changes direction as it always takes a few years to match new practices in the cellar with appropriate viticulture methods. And regarding German Chardonnay: I have a very promising looking one here, if you could be tempted...