Not a Chardonnay Fan? This List Could Change Your Mind

3 bottles on chardonnay on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Vivino
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Chardonnay has conquered major wine regions globally and is one of the most widely planted grape varieties. From Burgundy and Champagne in France, to Italy, Austria, the United States and beyond, there are exceptional bottles produced all over the world.

But, it can be a polarizing grape. Just ask members of the Anything-But-Chardonnay (ABC) club. But we don’t think that sentiment is always fair. After all, with such a wide array of styles and plantings throughout the world, no two bottles are alike.

To help you get started on your Chardonnay journey (or change some ABCers’ minds) we pulled together the best selections for every palate.

The Best Chardonnays to Try Now


Best Under $20

Chardonnay can command high prices depending on many different factors like location, vintage and more. Thankfully, these exceptional bottles are easy to find for $20 or less.

Robert Oatley 2021 Signature Series Chardonnay (Margaret River)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Pale gold in color, this is a top example of this renowned Margaret River style. A perfume of fresh hazelnut, honeydew melon and lemon is underpinned by some florals and subtle oak. The palate is full bodied. Where it lacks a little in depth and poise it gains in tastiness, helped by supportive oak and a lively lift of citrusy acidity. A lemony finish lingers. Food friendly sipping now until around 2032. —C.P.

$17.99 Wine.com

Lamoreaux Landing 2021 Chardonnay (Finger Lakes)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

With aromas like green apple Jolly Rancher and peach candy—backed by toasted coconut and ground ginger—this is an easy-to-like Chard. The vivid, confected fruit flavors flow through to the palate, where a softly creamy texture is buoyed by a lick of acidity. Balanced, with lovely freshness and length, this is a versatile, food friendly bottling at an affordable price. Best Buy —Christina Pickard

$11.98 Vivino

GĂ©rard Bertrand 2020 Cote des Roses Chardonnay (Pays d’Oc)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Delicate aromas of ripe stone fruits and jasmine lead the nose on this wine. Zesty yet creamy, the complex palate offers crisp apple, pineapple, butterscotch, vanilla and oak before a saline finish. Best Buy —Jacy Topps

$7.99 Wine.com

Glenelly 2020 Estate Reserve Chardonnay (Stellenbosch)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Beautiful floral tones of orange blossom and honeysuckle waft from the glass of this wine upon first nosing, followed shortly by a fruity core of pink-apple flesh, ripe peach and just a touch of mango. It’s well balanced and medium weight in feel, with the ripe fruit tones perfectly matched by lifting acidity and a delicate textural framework. Though drinking well now, this should continue to show well through 2025. Editor’s Choice —Lauren Buzzeo

$15.22 8wines

Best Under $30

Yes, there are plenty of great options for $20 or less, but if you’re willing to spring just a bit more money upfront, you can really start to see everything this grape has to offer. These $30 or fewer bottles are worth a try for a little more cash.

Jax 2021 Y3 Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Fermented in concrete and then aged in neutral oak, this value-minded white is impressive. Bright and fresh in good acidity, it has light layers of lemon and pineapple that deliver plenty of flavor in an elegant package. #73 Enthusiast 100 2022 —Virginie Boone

$23.99 Wine.com

J. Lohr 2021 October Night Chardonnay (Arroyo Seco)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Gardenia, jasmine and apple blossom aromas meet with a touch of stone on the nose of this approachable bottling. The palate offers tuberose and guava flavors that lean quite tropical, but there’s enough stony minerality and citrusy acidity to keep it vivid into the finish. —Matt Kettmann

$22.99 Wine.com

Best Buttery Bottles

Chardonnay often undergoes a winemaking technique called malolactic fermentation (MLF), which gives the wine a creamy mouthfeel and often buttery notes. MLF winemakers use bacteria to help lower a wine’s acidity and bring out these flavors. “During the sometimes month-long process, bacteria change malic acid to softer, creamier lactic acid. Diacetyl, a byproduct of MLF, imparts a buttery taste,” Chasity Cooper previously wrote for Wine Enthusiast. These bottles best represent the buttery notes MLF brings out in Chardonnay.

Shannon Ridge 2020 Buck Shack Whitetail Chardonnay (Lake County)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

This lush, buttery wine is all dolled up in vanilla, almond and cream flavors on a smooth-as-silk texture. It’s full-bodied, broad and soft on the palate. —Jim Gordon

$21.99 Wine.com

J Vineyards & Winery 2020 Chardonnay (Monterey County-Napa County-Sonoma County)

87 Points Wine Enthusiast

This oaky, full-bodied wine offers robust oak spice and toast aromas, butter, pear and vanilla flavors on a smooth, creamy texture. —J.G.

$17.99 Total Wine & More

Best California

Typically, Chardonnays from California are riper, fruitier and more full-bodied than Old World styles. As the most widely planted white grape in the Golden State, it’s safe to say that there are some exceptional examples. Here are some of our favorites.

Three Sticks 2020 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

98 Points Wine Enthusiast

A creamy mouthfeel of exuberant nuttiness is met by an undercurrent of fresh lemon, tangerine and peach in this highly impressive coastal wine. Deliciously balanced, complex and layered, it exhibits length, breadth and tremendous beauty, exceptional in every way. —V.B.

$59.97 Total Wine & More

The Hilt 2020 Estate Chardonnay (Sta. Rita Hills)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a layered yet expertly restrained and mineral-driven Chardonnay. Aromas of white flower petals, grapefruit pith and the slightest hint of toast are wrapped in ashy and chalky elements on the nose. The palate is vibrantly tight with rock and citrus peel flavors, exhibiting a brilliant acidity. Drink now–2040. Cellar Selection —M.K.

$39.99 Vivino

Groth 2020 Hillview Estate Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This white wine from an estate property is bright in lemon and tangerine, with a tasty accompianment of biscotti and anise. Well-integrated oak gives it structure and weight without being intrusive. A touch of pie dough and nutmeg coats the finish. Editor’s Choice —V.B.

$36.99 Vivino

Best Oaked

Love it or hate it, oaky Chardonnay is here to stay.

“The affinity between oak and Chardonnay is so great that oak flavors are often taken as a marker for the grape itself,” Anne Krebiehl, MW, previously wrote for Wine Enthusiast. American oak can give these wines popcorn and toffee notes, while French oak can give wines a nuttier, spicier characteristic. These bottles bring the best of oak to your glass.

Clendenen Family 2018 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

This bottling begins with a mellow touch, and then opens in more toasty ways, showing judicious levels of butterscotch, lemon confit, hazelnut and oak on the nose. Zippy acidity and savory salinity slice through the palate, contrasting the richer waves of toasted nuts, baked lemon, seared peach and white chocolate.  —M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Artesa 2019 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay (Carneros)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

A vivid gold color and extra-rich caramel, almond and butterscotch aromas grab attention quickly with a sniff of this full-bodied, unabashedly oak-aged and nicely mature wine. It feels rich and velvety in texture, concentrated in its baked apple and poached pear flavors. Ample baking spices and buttery tones linger on the finish. Editor’s Choice —M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Rombauer 2021 Home Ranch Chardonnay (Carneros)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

This creamy, layered and well-balanced wine cuts rich Bosc pear and yellow apple flavors with lemony acidity that keeps the palate lively and lengthens the fade. The wine is the best of four current Rombauer Chardonnay releases from Carneros. Smooth and complex, it keeps revealing more nuances sip after sip. —J.G.

$75 Rambeur

Best Unoaked

Not an oak fan? No problem. There are plenty of unoaked Chardonnays to choose from–give these bottles a try.

Chehalem 2021 Inox Unoaked Chardonnay (Willamette Valley)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bright aromas of pear, star fruit and the underside of a pineapple lead to medium-weight, plentiful, crystal-clear stone and tropical-fruit flavors. It’s vivid, refreshing and juicy with a long finish—as good of an unoaked Chardonnay as I’ve had. Editor’s Choice —Sean P. Sullivan

$14.99 Vivino

Jac Cole 2021 Unoaked Chardonnay (Russian River Valley)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Smooth and nicely fruity, this medium-bodied wine tastes fresh, ripe and full of Fuji apple and Bosc pear flavors. There is little or no oak influence, so it’s a pure expression of the varietal grape flavors. —J.G.

$15.99 Naked Wines

Morgan 2021 Metallico Unoaked Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Tightly woven aromas of lime pith, Meyer lemon, chalk and jicama draw the nose into this unoaked bottling. There’s a firmly stony expression on the palate, giving a mineral edge to the honeysuckle and riper apple flavors. —M.K.

$19.99 Wine.com

FAQ

What Is the Best Chardonnay?

Whichever you prefer! Chardonnay is a versatile grape, with flavors and aromas ranging from apple, pear and citrus if it’s from a cool climate region, to banana and melon if it’s from a warmer climate area. It lends itself exceptionally well to oak aging but can also be enjoyed without time in a wooden barrel.  

The best way to find the Chardonnay you like the most is to sample as many as you can in different styles. This grape is a chameleon because it lacks a strong flavor expression of its own. 

Is Chardonnay Best Served Cold?

Chardonnays should be served around 50–55°F. If it’s not oaked, then serve it closer to 50°F.

What Cheese Goes Best with Chardonnay?

The best cheese to serve with Chardonnay depends on a few things. If you have a light, crisp bottle, serve Chardonnay with feta or mozzarella. If it’s a light-bodied, dry, unoaked Chardonnay (think Chablis) serve it with a ripe, pungent cheese, like Camembert or Brie. Lastly, for a lightly oaked Chardonnay, reach for Gruyère, Gouda or other semi-soft cheeses.


Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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Published on March 16, 2023
Topics: Buying Guide