We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. The LA Times newsroom or editorial staff was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more

Review: Best Chardonnay

Made from a flavorful green grape that packs a punch, Chardonnay is one of the world's favorite white wines. Chardonnay grapes are grown all over the world, though they were first cultivated in the Burgundy region of France. Though they reached the peak of their popularity at the end of the 20th century, there are still more acres devoted to this Chardonnay than any other white wine grape. Though its popularity has made it unchic in some circles, there are so many ways to style Chardonnay that most people who claim to dislike it would probably appreciate at least one of its incarnations.

Since it's a relatively hardy varietal, Chardonnay can be grown in many different regions. Depending on the weather and the quality of the soil, wine made from these grapes can show flavors of apple, pineapple, ripe fruit, or vanilla. There are a number of ways to style Chardonnay wines. These wines can be aged in oak and finished with a malolactic fermentation, resulting in the big oak and butter flavors frequently seen in California chardonnays. Alternatively, they can be aged in steel, a fermentation technique that allows the green apple tartness of the grapes to shine through. In Champagne, France, Chardonnay grapes are also the only grape that can be used to make blanc de blanc Champagnes.

No matter what you need it for, we have a list of best chardonnay in 2021 for you to help you decide what product is best to buy.

Here are the best chardonnays of 2021

best sonoma coast chardonnay

Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

An incredible wine that wowed the judges at numerous competitions, Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is our favorite Chardonnay. The wine is aged half and half in oak and half in steel, making it incredibly balanced. Indeed, neither the boldness of the oak nor the tartness produced in the steel tanks dominates in this wine, giving it the ability to reach Chardonnay drinkers who like oaky wines as well as those who prefer crisp, Sauvignon Blanc style wines. The nose features stone, oyster shell, and lime, and the mouthfeel is smooth and soft thanks to the malolactic fermentation. Flavors of pear and lemon predominate, giving this wine both an acidic edge and enough fruit to balance it out. This wine really does offer the best of both worlds and is ready to drink now, without any additional time in the wine cellar.

best chardonnays

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay

Though this wine enjoyed 8 months of aging in oak barrels, Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay features plenty of the crisp, clean flavors that are often overshadowed by barrel fermented chardonnays. These grapes enjoy a mild, dry climate that allows flavors to concentrate in the grapes. This wine has plenty of pear and lime flavors that are perfectly complimented by aromas of oak and stone. It's an intense, incredibly flavorful wine and one that will hold up to a few years in the cellar. In fact, this wine is not expected to reach its peak until 2024 though it's so good now that it'll be difficult to leave alone for that long.

best chardonnay

Cupcake Chardonnay

Over the past few years, Cupcake Vineyards has gained popularity with casual wine drinkers. Though the cute name may turn off some serious wine drinkers, Cupcake Chardonnay is not a wine to dismiss. On the contrary, this wine has a complex flavor profile with notes of spice, oak, vanilla, cream, and citrus. The malolactic fermentation gives this wine a smooth, buttery mouthfeel, and a lingering finish. Well-balanced and full-bodied, this Chardonnay is excellent now but will hold up for a couple of years in the cellar.

best sonoma coast chardonnays

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

In order to craft a wine with the rich oaky notes most Chardonnay drinkers crave, as well as the fresh fruit flavors inherent to the grape, La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma Coast is aged partially in French oak barrels and partially in stainless steel tanks. These two wines are then blended to create a richly complex Chardonnay with lots of crisp apple and citrus, as well as candied fruit, toasted oak, and butterscotch. It has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and a long finish that remains perfectly smooth without an acidic bite. The flavor and bouquet of this wine remains largely unchanged from year to year and bottle to bottle, making this a great choice for a daily favorite.

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay.jpeg

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay is one of our Best Picks when it comes to Chardonnay for less than $20. A popular wine that's readily available at grocery stores and restaurants, this is nonetheless an excellent wine make in the oaky, buttery style preferred by most New World drinkers. It shows off aromas of citrus peel and slight sweetness, and rich flavors of vanilla, tropical fruit, and cinnamon. The finish is incredibly long and smooth, thanks to the malolactic fermentation.

Buyer's Guide

Chardonnay is universally loved by most of the alcohol-consuming world. If you want the perfect mood-setting drink to accompany your dinner party, you can’t go wrong with this dry white wine.

Chardonnay can accompany a variety of foods like cheese, fish, and chicken. Of course, it is just as delicious without food - although we would not recommend replacing meals with a bottle of Chardonnay just yet! The drink’s versatility comes from having a variable flavor dependent on several factors, including the grape’s climate and the techniques used to ferment the wine.

But how do you know which Chardonnay is right for you? After all, no two Chardonnays taste precisely the same. To help you make a decision, we’ll be discussing some of the things you should consider before picking a bottle off the shelf.

Check out the rest of the article below.

What are the flavors in Chardonnay?

A Chardonnay is never just one flavor. Usually, you can pick up on a primary flavor (created by the grape) and a secondary flavor (created by the fermentation process).

Primary flavor

From lemon zest and baked apple to chalky minerality and tropical fruits like pineapple, Chardonnay possesses many flavors, sometimes referred to as notes. The reasons for the expansive range of flavors are variable climates and differing harvest dates. For example, more citrus notes mean the grapes were cultivated in a cooler climate or harvested earlier in the year.

Later harvest and warmer climates develop grapes with less acidity and more decadent fruity flavors.

Secondary flavor

Chardonnay also has secondary flavors that come from the winemaking process. When Chardonnay is fermented in an oak barrel, it creates flavors like coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. In addition, American oak can taste like toffee and popcorn, whereas French oak makes gentle nuttiness and slightly smokey flavors. Other factors that affect the flavors and their intensity include the shape of the wood (barrels, chips, or staves), toast levels, and length of time in contact with the oak.

Things to consider when buying chardonnay

When it comes to buying Chardonnay, you need to bear in mind a whole range of factors.

Typically, you will find three main types of Chardonnay in your local store. These common flavors are both popular and versatile. You can make your purchase based on the Chardonnay taste or how well it goes with your meal.

To make the right decision, check out our complete list of considerations below.

Creamy Oaked Chardonnay

If you enjoy a full-bodied white, we suggest purchasing a creamy oaked Chardonnay. These types of wines vary in taste. Some have a richer profile, such as grilled pineapple, lush tropical fruit, vanilla, and butterscotch. Others have a much lighter profile with hints of lemon curd, poached pear, baked apple, and a textural chalky minerality.

Creamy oaked Chardonnay goes well with creamy dishes like mushroom risotto, mushroom stroganoff, lobster bisque, chicken, or leek and ham pie.

If you want to ensure you pick up a quality creamy oaked Chardonnay, you should seek out a Chardonnay that has been aged in oak or both fermented and aged in oak.

You can usually tell something has been oaked because the tasting descriptors will include crème brûlée, vanilla, coconut, baked apple, toasty oak, butter, brioche, butterscotch, or cream.

Also, although some Chardonnay wines will age well for ten years, most oaked Chardonnay wines should be consumed within 3–5 years of the vintage.

Citrusy unoaked Chardonnay

You should try unoaked Chardonnay if you enjoy light white wine with citrus and floral flavors. Unoaked Chardonnay possesses a fruitier profile of fresh pineapple, yellow apple, and mango with floral hints of white flowers, green apple, citrus peel, and pear.

Unoaked Chardonnay pairs well with shellfish and sushi dishes, mussels, and clams. It also goes well with flaky white fish.

Several types of unoaked Chardonnay will age well for up to a decade. However, most unoaked Chardonnay should be drunk young.

Sparkling Chardonnay: Blanc de Blancs

Chardonnay is the most popular sparkling wine - even more so than Champagne! Blancs wines range in taste from a richer profile of honeycomb, Meyer lemon, yellow apple, hazelnut, and toasted vanilla to a leaner, summertime profile of minerals, lemon zest, honeysuckle, and lime.

Blanc de Blancs wines match well with fried dishes like fried chicken and calamari. They also go well with oil-heavy pasta, garlic bread, and chicken kievs.

If you want to find a delicious sparkling Chardonnay, look for 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs sparkling wines. Pay attention to the length of the tirage to find your style preference, and look for wines from villages in the Côtes de Blancs sub-region. Nobody else makes wine quite like this in the world!

Chardonnay price range

For a decent-tasting mid-range Chardonnay, budget between $25 and $78. If you want to buy Chardonnay for a special occasion, you can spend up to $220. You can find Chardonnay for as little as $2, but this will not hold up very well compared to better bottles.

FAQs

How many glasses of wine will get me drunk?

Two glasses of wine in an hour will make you legally drunk unless you weigh 250lbs or more. If you want to drink responsibly, drink wine slowly and alternate with lemonade or water.

Is it ok to drink a bottle of wine a day?

Drinking a bottle of wine a day will hurt you physically, damaging your liver and brain. It will also damage your mental health as alcohol is a depressant. The safe amount of wine to drink for women is one glass of wine a day. Men should only drink two glasses per day.

Is alcohol-free Chardonnay available?

Yes - alcohol-free Chardonnay is available. However, the variety of flavors you get from real Chardonnays will not be present in alcohol-free Chardonnay. You can find alcohol-free versions of most alcoholic drinks.

bestcovery team.jpg
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
Related Content
Go to top