12 Oaked Chardonnays That Defy Expectations

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Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape variety in the world. It is also the one most often associated with oaky white wine because it takes well to oak, despite whether it spends a year in barrel or just a few months. Oak-fermented or -aged Chardonnays are made across the globe in a variety of climates, so if creamy, buttery, nutty Chardonnays are your palate predilection, these wines are for you.

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Clendenen Family 2016 Le Bon Climat Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley); $50, 94 points. Jim Clendenen saves his richer styles of Chardonnay for this family brand, and he remains a master of the style, adhering to balance while toying with woody lushness. Aromas of roasted nuts, toasted oak and butter meet with crisp and fresh citrus blossoms on the nose, while the viscous palate combines roasted apple, pecan and apple blossom flavors with bright acidity. Editors’ Choice. —Matt Kettmann

J. Moreau & Fils 2018 Valmur Grand Cru (Chablis); $108, 94 points. The richness of oak expresses itself as the scent of roasted hazelnut on this wine’s nose. Smooth and rounded, the palate can handle the oaky resonance that sets the tone. An edge of honey is balanced by lemony brightness. Concentration and freshness signal that this wine will age well. Drink 2025–2040. Boisset Collection. —Anne Krebiehl MW

Vasse Felix 2018 Chardonnay (Margaret River); $39, 94 points. This is classic Margaret River and is an excellent intro into both the region’s and this renowned producer’s Chardonnay style. The nose is fruity but delicate, combining melon and peach notes with cashew, wet stone and a briny, seashell nuance. On the beautifully balanced palate, tingly acidity bounces across the tongue, feeling playful beside the creamy texture. The oak is present but plays a supporting role, and there’s a long, saline finish. Drinking blissfully well now but could age until 2028. Negociants USA–Winebow. —Christina Pickard

Anaba 2017 WestLands Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast); $58, 92 points. From cool-climate vineyards west of Sebastopol, this white is floral in jasmine and earthy, with fresh focused acidity. Apple, citrus and wet stone combine for a light, bright and effusive experience that finishes lushly in oak. —Virginie Boone

Bryn Mawr Vineyards 2017 Estate Chardonnay (Eola-Amity Hills); $40, 92 points. Scents of flint, toast and cream open the door to a lovely wine centered around ripe and pretty nectarine fruit. Nicely focused and deep, the flavors show spicy wood highlights as well as a lingering finish which resolves in a wash of toasted hazelnuts. Credit 18 months in 30% new French oak. —Paul Gregutt

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Paritua 2018 Chardonnay (Hawke’s Bay); $45, 92 points. Vibrant yellow in color, this shows a fair bit of sulfur when first opened, but offers a lovely energy and brightness nonetheless. Vibrant lemon peel, freshly sliced peaches, flower blossoms and a touch of toast and yeast make up the nose. The palate comes with a silky smooth texture, freshened by a lift of acidity and a lick of oak. This is a charming, grown up wine designed for the dinner table. Whanau Imports. —C.P.

Alquimista Cellars 2017 Manchester Ridge Chardonnay (Mendocino Ridge); $57, 91 points. This flashy, complex wine starts with intense butter and toasted nut aromas and offers enticing earthy, baking-spice, and almond flavors that run deep. It is concentrated, oaky and indulgent. —Jim Gordon

Bogle 2018 Reserve Chardonnay (Clarksburg); $20, 91 points. This wine goes all in for the toasted, buttery and bold style. Fermented in new American oak barrels, it offers enormous aromas of toasted oak and melted butter that meet ripe pear and peach flavors accented by almond and vanilla. —J.G.

Levantine Hill 2016 Katherine’s Paddock Chardonnay (Yarra Valley); $85, 91 points. This premium Chardonnay is a classy bottling that emulates high-end Burgundy. Reductive at first, aromas of gun flint, salt and onion dominate. Eventually stone fruit squeaks through and more layers emerge with air and warmth. Polished, vanillin oak is present on the full-bodied palate, which offers a lovely texture and great fruit concentration. Drink 2021–2035. MHW, Ltd. Cellar Selection. —C.P.

Tasca d’Almerita 2018 Vigna San Francesco Chardonnay (Sicilia); $70, 91 points. Fermented and aged in wood, this opens with aromas of toasted oak, hazelnut, ripe stone fruit and eucalyptus. Reflecting the nose, the smooth, polished palate features ripe yellow apple, butterscotch and candied lemon alongside a hint of fennel seed. Fresh acidity brightens the rich flavors. Winebow. —Kerin O’Keefe

We Recommend:

Luca 2019 G Lot Chardonnay (Tupungato); $35, 90 points. A smooth mix of melon, tropical fruit, vanilla and woody aromas open this high-elevation, mostly barrel-fermented Chardonnay that’s balanced yet a touch creamy in feel. Light oak, buttered white-bread toast and subtle white-fruit flavors are short on a plump finish. Drink through 2022. Vine Connections. —Michael Schachner

Robert Eden 2018 Collection Made with Organic Grapes Chardonnay (Vin de France); $25, 90 points. The nose is driven by aromas of coconut, vanilla and lemon. The creamy and rich palate is loaded with biscuit and vanilla flavors, with citrusy acidity and a lingering finish. Vintners Alliance. —Fiona Adams

Published on February 26, 2021
Topics: Wine and Ratings