As one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world, Chardonnay is a one of the rare wine grapes that is able to perform well in a variety of climates, soil types and production methods. From the flinty, restrained versions grown in cool-climate regions like Chablis in Burgundy to the richly fruited offerings from sunny, warm Australia, quality Chardonnays abound. Iterations include oaked and unoaked styles that range from some of the most expensive wines in the world to some of the most accessibly priced.
After tasting nearly 2,000 Chardonnays throughout this year, the reviewers at Wine Enthusiast have selected their best pours for our three Top Lists of the year: Top 100 Best Buys, Top 100 Cellar Selections and the Enthusiast 100.
Here are the 18 best Chardonnays we drank the year, organized by those we suggest drinking now and ones to cellar for later. Best of all? Every wine on this list just so happen to be under $100.
Lynmar Estate 2016 Monastery Chardonnay (Russian River Valley); $55, 98 points. Salty, briny and beautifully spicy, this wine offers full-bodied richness that’s completely in balance and remarkably memorable on the palate. Everything is well integrated, from the entry to the long, lingering finish. Editors’ Choice. –Virginie Boone
Pyramid Valley 2016 Field of Fire Chardonnay (North Canterbury); $90, 96 points. The last vintage of the Weersing’s gorgeous Chardonnays before the winery changed hands, this slightly cloudy, unfiltered Chardonnay sings of its place. Electric charges of minerals crackle with notes of lemon peel, bay leaf and fistfuls of freshly plucked wild herbs and flowers. The palate is utterly beautiful with its sliced crystalline acidity that lifts flavors of limestone, citrus, salt, herbs and flowers. Pyramid Valley Vineyards LLC. Editors’ Choice. –Christina Pickard
Diora 2017 La Splendeur du Soleil Chardonnay (Monterey); $22, 93 points. Bright aromas of lemon candy, sea spray and lime balm meets with a touch of pastry on the nose. Richer flavors of white peach and sea salt ride a light and bright texture on the palate, which grows more oaky toward the finish. Editors’ Choice. –Matt Kettmann
Snake and Herring 2017 Tough Love Chardonnay (Margaret River); $28, 93 points. A graceful nose of grapefruit and orange starts off this wine and melds with salt, smoke, toast and crushed stone. The palate slithers along with a slick textured but crackling with crunchy acidity and a long, oyster shell finish. Drink now–2023. Saranty Imports. Editors’ Choice. –C.P.
Soter 2017 North Valley Chardonnay (Willamette Valley); $30, 93 points. North Valley is the blended, midpriced tier of the Soter portfolio, and it overdelivers in every way. This is a bright, spicy Chardonnay, with a jumble of pear and melon fruit highlighted with white flower aromas. The wine gains weight through the midpalate, with just a hint of barrel flavor from 6% new French oak. Editors’ Choice. –Paul Gregutt
Giesen 2017 Chardonnay (Hawke’s Bay); $15, 90 points. Pale yellow in color, this wine shows notes of flint, salt and seashell along with tangerine, ginger and grapefruit. The palate is texturally rich but is lifted by bright acidity and offers a balanced combo of tangy citrus fruit and toasty oak spice. Drink now. Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits. Best Buy. –C.P.
Lohr 2017 Riverstone Chardonnay (Arroyo Seco); $14, 90 points. This wine starts with plush aromas of yellow melon, plumeria, wild lime sorbet and a hint of cream. There is ample zip to the palate, where acidity and a strong floral character keep the honeydew and white peach flavors in check. Best Buy. –M.K.
Bulgariana 2016 Unoaked Chardonnay (Thracian Valley); $12, 89 points. Aromas of green apple, white flowers and white peach excite your palate for bright fruit flavors of Granny Smith apple and yellow peach. This wine is well balanced, with a crisp and clean finish. G&B Importers. Best Buy. –Jeff Jenssen
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Chardonnay (Columbia Valley); $11, 89 points. This wine’s aromas are pleasing, with notes of apple, cream and spice. Full-feeling yet nuanced fruit flavors follow. Spice notes linger on the finish. It displays a lovely sense of balance that kicks it up a notch. Best Buy. –Sean P. Sullivan
Black Box 2017 Chardonnay (California); $25, 88 points. This is a rich style of Chardonnay that shows pear and apple aromas, with vanilla and butter flavors. The palate offers a good balance of ripeness and natural acidity. It’s medium in body and smoothly textured without feeling too soft. Best Buy. –Jim Gordon
Oxford Landing 2018 Chardonnay (South Australia); $10, 88 points. This easygoing, fruity Chardonnay offers notes of stone fruit and lemon, with undertones of wool and ginger. Crisp, crunchy acidity freshens the fruit on the palate, which is chalky in texture and medium in weight. Drink up. Negociants USA–Winebow. Best Buy. –C.P.
For the Cellar
Chanin 2017 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley); $39, 96 points. Extremely delicate and pure aromas of lemon, nectarine, gardenia and lily are soft and inviting on the nose of this bottling. The palate sizzles with acidity, offering focused but austere flavors of lemon zest and crushed gravel that surround an immensely chalky core. It will mature well through 2042. Cellar Selection. –M.K.
Stony Hill 2016 Chardonnay (Spring Mountain District); $54, 96 points. This mighty white from the historic producer rarely disappoints—a study in nuanced structure and ageability. Crisp, focused acidity boosts a core of delicious green apple, lemon verbena and wet stone. The wood imprint is subtle and quiet, the wine having aged 10 months in neutral French oak. Allow this to age; enjoy 2024–2028. Cellar Selection. –V.B.
Jean-Marc Brocard 2016 Les Clos Grand Cru (Chablis); $90, 95 points. This is a structured wine, ripe yet layered with minerality and a full texture. Rich yellow and white stone fruits are cut with steely acidity that shows the wine’s aging potential. Coming from arguably the finest of the Grand Cru vineyards, the wine is still young. Wait until 2023. Verity Wine Partners. Cellar Selection. –Roger Voss
Château de Fuissé 2017 Le Clos Monopole (Pouilly-Fuissé); $87, 94 points. This smoky, wood-aged wine comes from a walled vineyard next to the Château de Fuissé. Produced from old vines, it has concentrated apple and pear flavors, a touch of spice as well as bright acidity. The generous, opulent character will allow it to age. Drink from 2022. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. Cellar Selection. –R.V.
Lavinea 2016 Lazy River Vineyard Chardonnay (Yamhill-Carlton); $45, 94 points. This wine was barrel fermented in 20% new French oak. It’s racy, inviting and aromatic, with sharp flavors of lemon, gooseberry, lime and cantaloupe. Tart and stylish, it’s built for aging. Drink through 2028. Cellar Selection. –P.G.
Sixto 2016 Roza Hills Chardonnay (Washington); $55, 93 points. This wine comes from vines planted in 1977 at 1,350 above sea level—high by the state’s standards. Half fermented in concrete with the rest in oak barrel before being aged in puncheons, aromas of toast, pineapple, lanolin, cream and spice lead to a full-bodied palate, with textured tropical-fruit flavors. It’s a tasty, full-bodied, rich, very stylistic offering of the variety that need some time in the cellar. Best after 2023. Cellar Selection. –S.S.
Stéphane Aladame 2016 Les Vignes Derrière Premier Cru (Montagny); $42, 93 points. From a small premier cru in the south of the appellation, this wine has a taut texture and bright minerality. It has a tight structure that is crisp in a citrus fruit flavor. The wine needs time, and should not be opened before 2021. Becky Wasserman Selections. Cellar Selection. –R.V.