You are using an old browser that may not function as expected.
For a better, safer browsing experience, please upgrade your browser.

Log in Become a Member

Everything but Chardonnay? The variety has long fought against the reputation of being arbitrary. But its many facets open up new discoveries for eating. Southern Styrian sommelier and Chardonnay expert René Kollegger has revealed his favourite pairings - and a few surprises.

A winery in the Südsteirmark traditionally cultivates Chardonnay and runs a very good restaurant where the wines of this variety are always combined in new ways. This exciting combination can be found at the winery of Wolfgang Maitz, who can count on an experienced sommelier in René Kollegger. The winemaker reports that restaurant guests are now fed up with the same old wines aged in wood. His style has therefore become much more "purist and sober". Maitz describes Chardonnay, which is often referred to as "Morillon" in the Styrian region, as a "wine with autumnal aromas: mushrooms, ripe fruit, chestnuts, oranges". For him, the colours of autumn in Chardonnay are "tastily comprehensible". That's why he often chooses dishes that taste autumnal: "While the citrus notes of white Burgundy varieties are a wonderful accompaniment to bright flavours and sea fish, I consider Styrian Morillon to be more colourful in taste. It goes perfectly with sautéed porcini mushrooms, braised and roasted dishes, for example."

René Kollegger, Court Master Sommelier and wine academic with experience in top international and Austrian gastronomy, describes the grape variety as varied, fresh, elegant and juicy. It goes well with fish, vegetables and meat because it offers very different flavours: fresh fruit of citrus, fruit or exoticism, from zero to lots of wood and often a taut acidity. You can always drink Chardonnay with almost any food. "That's why at some point many wine lovers no longer wanted to order it. But it has such an enormous range - from extremely sparse to extremely opulent. Whether from wooden barrels or steel tanks, Chardonnay can be used almost universally as a food companion."

René Kollegger and Wolfgang Maitz enjoy working with wine and food pairings


Vegetables, fish and poultry

Kollegger recommends the following vegetable dish: "Carrots, braised with oranges, accompanied by a fish fillet, depending on your preference: this is wonderfully reflected in lighter and fresher Chardonnays. The wine doesn't have to offer papaya, mango or pineapple flavours."

Young, fruity Chardonnay also goes well with fish and poultry, but not necessarily with dishes with curry or fusion cuisine. The intensity of spiciness or acidity in the dish is particularly important. "Indian-inspired cuisine with coconut and a hint of pineapple and curry requires more sweetness. You can play around with ripe Californians, which are meatier and have less acidity. That smears the palate nicely."

Chablis or other Chardonnays from limestone soils are classics with oysters because their flavours are reflected in the taut wines. Kollegger sees mature white Burgundy as a good pairing for poularde, fish and seafood: "The French are best at this. What could be better than a Thermidor lobster au gratin with a mature Burgundy? That's all you need. There's the crustacean, the fat hollandaise sauce, a glass - or a bottle - of Burgundy, and life is good!"

Chardonnay goes perfectly with mushrooms and autumnal dishes

Wolfgang Maitz winery

Meat dishes

According to Kollegger, the most important thing with meat dishes is whether you want to make a dish lighter and fresher with the wine, i.e. provide a counterpoint: "If so, I need acidity. But if I want to accompany or support it, I go for something mature, with less acidity and more secondary flavours, dark and roasted components. That works." You don't always have to drink Pinot Noir with Boeuf Bourguignon: "A ripe Chardonnay with a little mushroom flavour and a certain butteriness works just as well."

Styrian Chardonnays, with their very individual character, are particularly predestined for stews and strong meat dishes. Wirtshaus Maitz has a number of such dishes on the menu depending on the season: "The T-bone steak of woolly pork with broad beans, summer vegetables and potatoes or the braised shoulder of Ratscher Steinschaf need something mature, preferably from a warmer vintage with less acidity and more exotic flavours. The sheep and its sauce with dates or damsons can handle a somewhat more opulent style of wine. A young, acidic Chardonnay can't do that."

Another of Maitz's dishes is the "Styrian pork tuna": the name can be confusing, as the dish consists of tender, pink roasted slices of Duroc pork with beluga lentils. To complement the acidity of the dish, he opens Chardonnays from warmer European regions with mild acidity: "If you combine acidity with acidity, it quickly becomes too much. You need a lubricant for acidity, almost an oil film. Chardonnays from Vulkanland Steiermark or south-west Germany, for example from the Kaisterstuhl, are very good at this."

In addition, spicy roasted meat dishes often go surprisingly well with strong Chardonnays: "That's the non-plus-ultra!" he cheers. Kollegger also recommends mature wines from warmer regions such as Burgenland or the German wine-growing region of Baden: "They are often a little difficult to drink on their own because they are so powerful. But they are great accompaniments to food."

The 'Styrian pork tuna' is a classic at Wirtshaus Maitz

Wolfgang Maitz winery


When it comes to offal, Kollegger goes into raptures: "Veal kidney with mustard sauce and a ripe Chardonnay from a warm growing region, which has a buttery flavour and a certain opulence - great! Kidneys, sweetbreads, for example baked sweetbreads, brisket (finely chopped lung and heart) or liver in a strong sauce like the classic Fegato Veneziana: I like something lighter and younger from limestone or slate soils, where the acidity is more present. For me, Switzerland is one of the most exciting regions for such cool, elegant wines."

White Burgundy or Chardonnays from the New World with their exoticism and fine fruit sweetness are predestined for a veal kidney as a whole: "All you need is ripeness and flavour. The butterscotch flavour plays wonderfully with the mustard. I also like the mushroom flavour of Chablis. When it develops a certain strength, it takes the edge off the veal kidney."

Cauliflower from the oven: the best dish with Chardonnay for the sommelier

Kosa cooks

Personalised tips

A little-known Styrian recipe is chicken or turkey schnitzel fried in pumpkin seed oil. Yes, pumpkin seed oil can be heated, but not to too high a temperature. Then remove the escalopes and add any fresh herbs you have to hand to the sauce. It goes well with rice - and a good Styrian Chardonnay.

Finally, René Kollegger reveals a personal and very simple insider tip developed by his wife, professional chef Sandra(www.kosa-kocht.at): "She wraps cauliflower with a little butter and stock in greaseproof paper and bakes it in the oven until it is cooked. You can also add a few dashes of pumpkin seed oil. For me, this is the absolute best dish with Chardonnay!"

Tasting: the best Chardonnays of the moment

Related Magazine Articles

View All