Riesling vs Chardonnay – The Difference Between Two Classics

comparing white wines

What Is Chardonnay?

Chardonnay, originating in Burgundy, France, stands as a white wine grape celebrated for its adaptability, thriving in diverse global climates.

The grape’s chameleon-like nature produces wines with a broad flavor palette, spanning from lively citrus notes to velvety textures infused with hints of vanilla and butter.

Widely cultivated across continents, Chardonnay’s influence extends to both Old and New World wine regions, solidifying its status as a globally cherished and versatile grape variety.

white wine bottle

What Is Riesling?

Riesling, born in Germany’s Rhine region, is a white wine grape celebrated for its aromatic diversity. From lively citrus and floral nuances to subtle mineral undertones, Riesling adapts gracefully to different climates across the globe.

Its versatility shines through an array of styles, from dry (Kabinett) to sweet (Auslese or Spätlese), making it an influential player in the world of wine.


On the palate, Chardonnay vs Riesling exhibit unique flavor profiles and aromas. Chardonnay wine is known for its full-bodied character, showcasing ripe orchard fruits, butter, and vanilla due to aging in oak barrels. Its taste is often described as creamy and smooth.

On the other hand, Riesling is celebrated for its lively acidity and vibrant fruity flavors, including apple, peach, and citrus notes. The aromatic profile of Riesling tends to be floral, with occasional hints of petrol, providing a refreshing and zesty experience.

While Chardonnay leans towards richness and complexity, Riesling stands out with its lively acidity and a variety of fruit expressions.

Should Riesling be Chilled? Find out!


Riesling and Chardonnay wines both have their distinct color characteristics.

Chardonnay typically displays a rich, golden hue in the glass, ranging from pale straw to deep yellow, influenced by factors like oak aging.

In contrast, Riesling tends to showcase a lighter and more transparent color, often appearing pale straw or greenish.

The differences in color can provide initial cues about the wine’s potential flavor profile and aging process, with Chardonnay conveying a sense of richness (especially oaked Chardonnay) and Riesling suggesting a crisper, fresher quality.

white wine

Body and Acidity

Riesling vs Chardonnay wines differ in body and acidity.

Chardonnay is fuller-bodied with a rich, buttery feel and moderate acidity, showcasing ripe fruit flavors.

Riesling, on the other hand, is lighter-bodied with vibrant acidity, offering a crisp, refreshing taste featuring floral and citrus notes.

Chardonnay tends to be more voluptuous, while Riesling provides a zesty and lively experience.

Origin and Climate

Chardonnay wines, originating in the Burgundy region, France, have become a global favorite. Chardonnay grapes, having transcended their Burgundian roots, flourish in a variety of climates globally.

The Chardonnay grape is a key player in producing sparkling wines, contributing to the renowned Champagne.

The green skinned grapes of Chardonnay thrive in diverse climates, producing a spectrum of styles from crisp and mineral to full-bodied and oaky. The Chardonnay produced in Chablis is known for its unique qualities, blending refreshing acidity with distinctive minerality, thanks to the region’s cool climate.

Moving west, the warmer temperatures of Napa Valley in California tend to yield rich, full-bodied expressions of this white wine, with notes of tropical fruit. In Australia, regions like Margaret River showcase a balance between the two extremes.

Riesling wines, hailing from Germany’s Rhine region, showcase a unique profile. German Riesling wines are celebrated for their aromatic intensity and fruity flavors, ranging from bone-dry to lusciously sweet.

Riesling grapes, rooted in Germany’s vineyards, excel in cool climates. The Mosel region, with its steep slopes along the river, produces exquisite, aromatic Rieslings with high acidity. Alsace, France, offers a drier style of these white wines.

wine from germany

New World regions like New Zealand’s Marlborough and Washington State in the USA also capitalize on cooler climates, producing vibrant and expressive Riesling wines.


Chardonnay and Riesling prices vary widely based on factors like region and winemaker reputation. Entry-level Chardonnays start around $10 to $20, mid-range options range from $20 to $50, and high-end ones can exceed $100.

For Rieslings, prices generally start lower, around $10 to $20, with mid-range choices from $20 to $40. Premium or aged Rieslings can go beyond $40.

Food Pairings

Chardonnay, with its crisp acidity and diverse flavor profile, is a perfect partner for dishes featuring buttery sauces and rich textures. Pair it with classic chicken Alfredo or creamy risotto for a delightful fusion of flavors.

The wine’s tropical fruit undertones also complement grilled shrimp or lobster, creating a luxurious dining experience. For a delightful contrast, try Chardonnay with a simple plate of lemon-infused grilled chicken, allowing the wine’s citrus notes to enhance the dish.

Riesling’s versatility shines in food pairing, thanks to its ability to complement both sweet and spicy dishes. For a sweet wines pairing, indulge in a glass of Riesling with a fruity dessert like peach cobbler or apple tart. On the savory side, the wine’s acidity cuts through the heat of spicy Asian cuisine or tangy barbecue, creating a harmonious balance.

The inherent floral and stone fruit notes of Riesling also make it an excellent match for lighter fare such as sushi or a fresh goat cheese salad.

Which Wine Is Better: Chardonnay or Riesling?

Choosing between Riesling vs Chardonnay depends on personal taste preferences.

Chardonnay is often fuller-bodied with notes of butter and oak, while Riesling is lighter and known for its fruity flavors and sweetness. Chardonnay pairs well with richer dishes, while Riesling complements spicier or lighter fare.

It all comes down to what you personally enjoy.

Which Wine Is Sweeter: Chardonnay or Riesling?

Chardonnay and Riesling are distinct white wines with varying sweetness levels.

Chardonnay is often dry or slightly sweet, its taste influenced by oak aging. Riesling, however, is renowned for sweetness, ranging from bone-dry to lusciously sweet.

Ultimately, personal preference dictates the perceived sweetness, as winemaking styles greatly impact each varietal’s flavor profile.

Stan Kushkin

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