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The Kerner Grape

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About Kerner

(Synonyms: Herold Triumpf, Herold Weiss, Weißer Herold.)


Map showing Germany

Kerner is a white-wine grape originating in Germany, where it was deliberately produced in 1929 (though not actually released till as late as 1969) as a cross between Trollinger (aka Schiava) and Riesling; the idea was to produce a Riesling-like grape that could better flourish in colder climates than Riesling prefers. It is one of the few modern man-made "crossing" grapes to make wine that is generally considered to be of well above average quality.

Kerner is today widely grown in Germany, as well as parts of Austria, Switzerland, and Italy (and to a much lesser extent in Canada, England, and even Japan). In the U.S., however, almost all Kerner available at retail comes from the Germanic Alto Adige region of northern Italy.

Kerner does, as its developers hoped, to some extent resemble Riesling. The wines tend to be somewaht lower in acid than Riesling (and so do not age quite as famously as does Riesling), but are somewhat fuller in body. By and large, one may say that if one likes Riesling (and who does not?), one will like Kerner. All things considered, Riesling is arguably the greatest wine grape in the world, but is often priced accordingly, making Kerner a reasonable alternative for the wine drinker (besides its being a blessing to winemakers because it can grow in so many more places than the somewhat fussy Riesling).

All that said, not a few wine critics hold that Kerner should not be viewed as "a Riesling substitute", but rather valued and enjoyed for itself. It does have some small but perhaps subjectively significant differences from Riesling, and its proponents—growing in number—appreciate and esteem Kerner as Kerner.

Factoid: Kerner is often used (or abused) as an ingredient in what one source calls "the infamous Liebfraumilch".

Some Descriptions of Kerner Wines

Some Kerners to Try

(About this list.)

The number of Kerner wines available seems (and is) large, but comb reviews and one would think that there aren't over three or four makers in the world—and even the few leading lights are not much talked about. Still, Kerner is not a "bargain" wine, and when one gets down to Kerners reasonably available at under $20, there really are only a few at retail in the U.S. And these are they; the paucity of reviews, sometimes severe, for most reflects the status of the grape in American sensibilities, which is a shame.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Manni Nössing Kerner
(Sudtirol - Alto Adige.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2012 Kerner captures the essence of what makes Alto Adige and the Valle Isarco in particular, so compelling. A deeply mineral, intense wine, the 2012 saturates the palate with slate, wet rocks, lime, grapefruit and hints of petrol. Magnificent and layered, but also tightly inward, the 2012 is simply remarkable. Once again, Manni Nössing’s Kerner is a reference point, world-class white. 94 points. [Antonio Galloni]

Although it doesn't really taste like Riesling, Manni Nössing's version [of Kerner] shows some of the finest qualities of that particular parent, notably purity, intensity and finesse, though the acidity is a little less piercing. Even with all that intensity and purity, there are some very fine fruit flavours: grapefruit and lime and a lovely herbal character together with a fine stony dryness that I can only describe as minerality. Nor does the intensity of flavour do anything to constrain the wine's zesty freshness and tension - a sort of electricity that requires long pauses between sips. Although it is not aged in oak, it does spend eight months on the yeast lees and this adds weight and richness to the texture. To me it is a perfect example of the combination of very fine, fully ripe grapes and a long, cool, growing season. (The alcohol is 14.5% but totally in balance.) The wine has a wonderfully long aftertaste and continued to taste delicious after it had been in the fridge for the best part of a week (I was trying to make it last).

Really fruity, lots of white peach and green nectarine. Really bright fresh fruits, nice length and texture, clean and pure but very lively. Good clean drinking.

Crisp apple, notes and a slight anise (that's anise... like licorice flavor, smart-ass) lingering in the fore palate. Nice quaffing wine and perfect with shellfish.

Manni Nössing is a brilliant young artisan wine maker who has only been bottling his wines since 2000. He produces only 2,500 cases of wine in total. Prior to that he sold off his juice. Following traditional wine making methods, he hand harvests his fruit, ferments it in stainless steel and ages in stainless steel on the lees for eight months. Today’s wine was crisp and pure on the palate, with a lovely stony minerality and hints of flowers. It was delicious.

[This] is the kind of wine you just don't want to stop drinking; it's bright and fresh and heady with aroma, like a crisp bite of fennel and tangy kumquats dressed in lemon and peppery olive oil. Open the bottle a bit before dinner to let it get some air.

Castelfeder "Lahn" Kerner
(Vignetti delle Dolomiti)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Intense but refined flavors include exotic fruit, juicy white peach, Bartlett pear and citrus accented with nutmeg and mineral notes. It’s balanced with crisp acidity that generates a clean, refreshing finish. 90 points.

Savoury, nutty and citrussy on the nose with a white blossom note. Dry with a saline minerality and fresh acidity, lovely lemon zest and pith citrus fruit, slightly extracted and with a streak of tropical fruit richness. A beautiful, long, rich and drying finish. Complex and distinctive.

Pale gold in color. Delightfully curious nose of lychee, mature apple, young pear and orange zest. In the mouth, this wine is dry, flavors of citrus battle behind gravel and clay minerality and lots of spicy white pepper. The medium finish feels longer than it is, given how dry and gentle the wine seems on first notice. Very well made, easy to appeal to many types of white wine drinkers. . . Gentle fruit, high acidity, and nice finish . . . this seemingly straightforward wine demonstrates power in its taut, angular approach and surprises in the multifaceted structure and finish.

[T]his is a rich and full dry wine that is easy to drink. . . Kerner wines have adequate acid to balance against the delicious apple, pear, stone fruit, and citrus characteristics.

[Google-translated from Italian:] [T]he greenish color; gives aromas of fresh fruit (pineapple, banana, white peach) with subtle pungency of thrush. Lasts long its memory, supported by great freshness, supported by good flavor as opposed to proper charge of softness.

[Google-translated from Dutch:] Kerner; typical aromas of Kerner, intense, a lot of depth, good tension by reasonably strong acids, beautiful fruit, spicy, lightly perfumed, clean smell and taste palette, wine with bite (13%).

I had to ask myself why the hell I hadn’t bought this before – brain didn’t come up with an answer. This was simply awesome. . . What you get is this racing freshness, a hint of smooth sweet white peach and melon and a length that goes on and on. It’s less acidic than a classic German Riesling and for the love of God just because it’s part Riesling don’t think it’s sweet. It’s bone dry and it’s going to be my favorite patio white. Brilliant stuff.

An example from relatively young vines near the southern edge of Alto Adige, where region abuts Trentino. Overtly fruity, with sweet lime, nectarine, coriander and Muscat-like blossoms. A rewarding, young-drinking bottle.

Eisacktaler Kellerei "Cantina Valle Isarco" Kerner
(Alto Adige Valle Isarco; do not confuse this with their pricier "Aristos", "Nectarius", or "Sabiona" bottlings.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages are very confused, with multiple sets of entries for what seems to be the same wine:
   » Eisacktaler Kellerei / Cantina Valle Isarco Kerner
   » Eisacktaler Kellerei / Cantina Valle Isarco Kerner Valle Isarco / Eisacktaler
   » Eisacktaler Kellerei / Cantina Valle Isarco Alto Adige - Südtirol Eisacktaler
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The Isarco co-op, dating to 1961, is one of those cooperatives that not only excels but also has helped to elevate the entire area's reputation. Kerner is a specialty, and this is juicy, with white nectarine and grapefruit rind, and an exotic spicy side, like Szechuan peppercorn.

In the glass, the wine was a lemon yellow color with aromas of petrol, melon and honeysuckle. "Oily flowers" was the sum-up phrase I used for the nose. On the palate, the wine was dry with a rich, oily texture and medium acidity. There were lean fruit flavors of white peaches with honey and a touch of leafy mint on the finish. There was a nice, flinty kind of minerality running through the wine as well. The petrol aromas and flavors were pretty strong here and I'd guess this wine probably didn't have a lot of time left before it fell apart completely [vintage 2006 in 2011]. If the acid level were a little higher here, this would be a fantastic wine, but the rich, oily texture didn't have much to support it. The alcohol here is also sky high for a white wine, clocking in at a monstrous 14.5%. This wine was certainly made from very ripe grapes and was pretty good, considering its age. This had the body to stand up to a lot, but I'd avoid foods with acidity as they'd probably make this taste a little flabbier than it really is. Thick sauces or chicken or pork are probably the ticket here.

♣ Wine Spectator: 15 November 2007, 88 points; 28 April 2011, 87 points.

Light straw color. Nose of pineapple, stone fruits, banana cream pie. Medium acids, lime zest and juice, green apple, honey, flint, flavors similar to nose. This delicious wine pairs well with charcuterie.

Strasserhof Kerner
(Trentino-Alto Adige.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages are rather confused, with two sets of entries for what seems to be the same wine:
   » Strasserhof Kerner Valle Isarco / Eisacktaler
   » Strasserhof Valle Isarco / Eisacktaler
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Here is a beautifully structured and delicious white from Valle Isarco in northern Alto Adige. . . This 2010 version from this renowned producer has explosive aromas of yellow peach, apricot and orange rind, backed by excellent concentration and persistence with lively acidity and a rich, dry finish. Pair this with Thai or Oriental cuisine or with turkey; it will also age well for another three to five years.

Light touches of dry mineral, white flower and stone fruit form a delicate aromatic embroidery that shapes this wine’s feminine personality. The mouthfeel is compact, precise and crisp. 88 points.

[T]he fruit, while intense, is measured, allowing the backbone to stand straight up. The wine is thirst quenching in a way a Txakolina is, but delicious in the way a Mittel-Mosel Riesling is. Perfect harmony. A great 1st date wine, when both sides are feeling things out, putting their toes in the water ever so delicately. Watch out, this wine might have you skinny dipping before the end of the night.

The Strasserhof Kerner is dry with a light minerality and subtle sweetness that would work brilliantly with the crab and other simple shellfish dishes.

Abbazia di Novacella "Stiftskellerei Neustift" Kerner
(Sudtirol - Alto Adige.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[The wine] delights with gorgeous aromatics that start with pear and end with peach, you'll find both echoing on the palate moments later. Bright acidity and a sleek, clean medium-body showcasing remarkable balance make for a terrific end of summer wine.

[T]his silky wine begins with aromas of apricot and grapefruit, with undertones of nutmeg and clove. The crisp palate delvers white peach, pear and mineral alongside fresh acidity. 88 points.

♣ International Wine cellar (date unknown), 90 points:
Medium-dark yellow. Spicy, high-pitched aromas of stone fruits, flowers and nutmeg, along with more exotic notes of ginger and smoked sausage. Enters full and rich, with the sweetness of the apricot and spice flavors tempered by decent acidity and a hint of minerality. The long finish throws off waxy and floral nuances. A dash more acidity might have provided better clarity and lift, but it's a wonderful example of kerner. Abbazia di Novacella is amazingly adept at producing stellar quality entry-level kerner (and usually sylvaner too), and this vintage is no different.

While respectful of tradition, the Abbazia di Novacella winery has also embraced innovation and is today one of Italy’s most highly-regarded wineries and the abbey’s Kerner wine one of its most celebrated labels. The ’07 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner is 100 percent Kerner. It is aromatic with fresh mountain floral scents. It is full-bodied with nectarine and green apple flavors balanced with good acidity and a little citrus fillip.

It is a pale, straw yellow in color with hints of gold and green. Intensely aromatic, with notes of grapefruit, peach, and tropical mango, and mountain flowers. It is full-bodied with green apple and white stone fruit flavors, its sumptuousness balanced with good acidity and citrus.

Floral, woodsy aromas, with a little diesel oil smell (that Riesling ancestry, I guess). Medium-to-full body, with wonderful acid/fruit balance and almost chewy sottobosco flavors. Lovely.

[It's] crisp and generous, balancing bright fruit with notes of flowers and fennel. It’s also amazingly food-friendly. . . 

It offers exotic aromas of white flower, juicy apple, ripe peach, lemon curd and a hint of tropical fruit. The palate bursts with ripe juicy fruit and offers refreshing acidity with a crisp finish. It simply reminds me of summer in a glass.

This Augustinian abbey remains a strong force in the Isarco valley. Its Kerner, grown at around 2,000 feet on gravel, is always strong, and this exuberant vintage [2012] is the best in several years. Full of pink grapefruit and agave flavors, with a wonderful rooty aspect underneath: fennel bulb and lilies. Irresistible.

The wine is gold, very clean, very flowery yet crisp and appealing.

This is a richly aromatic wine with initial aromas of red apple, honeysuckle and white pepper. On the palate, it is a touch off-dry (just 5 grams/liter of residual sugar) with a slick juiciness. The floral and peppery aromas linger into a long petrol-like mineral finish. This 2012 vintage is now a year old (though still available, along with the 2013) – like its Riesling ancestors, I’m sure it has the ability to age beautifully.

For a Splurge

There are actually several reasonable possibilities, but for simplicity we will suggest just one, the Abbazia di Novacella "Praepositus" Kerner

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





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