The world’s ubiquitous white wine grape, Chardonnay is revered for its versatility. Malleable to the styles and influences of the winemaker and region, it can take on a whole range of flavours and be so easily influenced by climate and terroir, which is why it is so varied from region to region.
A grape that flourishes in cooler climates, Chardonnay tends to have higher acidity with citrus fruit flavours, often held in check with malolactic fermentation and sometimes oak barrel ageing. If you’re a fan of Chardonnay you’ll no doubt be attuned to the different styles of Californian Chardonnay to French, both of which are distinguishable from Australian or South African.
What is the difference between oaked and unoaked chardonnay?
Oaked Chardonnay has been aged in oak barrels and takes on the oak flavours and develops dairy notes through fermentation. Unoaked is aged in steel or plastic tanks.
If you like creamy textures and richer flavours then you’ll most likely lean in more to oaked Chardonnay. For dry, crisp and more refreshing Chardonnay, unoaked may be better aligned.
Arguably too broad a variety to condense into such a roundup, we’ve included a selection of wine to suit all budgets and preferences, exploring regions from Burgundy to California, Piedmont and Kent.
Shop our edit of the best white wine glasses to ensure the perfect serve.
Kistler Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2017
With only 6,875 bottles of this Sonoma County Chardonnay produced, it is an exciting vintage worth getting your hands on. Youthful with good cellaring prospects, it is bold with exciting complexity from the get-go. Notes of peach, pear and a hint of jasmine on the nose unveil waxy lemon and delicate butterscotch on the palate with medium acidity and a satisfying finish.
A region that has benefitted from the cooler climes that have come global warming, this Tasmanian vineyard (acquired by Shaw & Smith back in 2011) is located on the Coal River Valley and reaps the benefits of the maritime climate. The wine has a delicate hint of smoke on the nose, green apples, vanilla and a spritz of lemon on the palate, held in point by firm acidity. It's light and easily enjoyed, definitely one to try this year.
Gusbourne Guinevere 2017
One of the rare still releases from this English Sparkling estate in Kent, situated close to the English channel. The Guinevere is made of 100% Chardonnay grapes and has all the tells of a classic barrel-fermented wine (20% new, 80% old). Enjoy buttery pastry on the nose with sweet apricot and citrus, the latter of which follows through on the palate alongside toast and oak in a satisfying finish. A fantastic English Chardonnay to have in the mix.
Rully Blanc Domaine Jacqueson 2018
From the small Burgundian village of Rully comes this dry Chardonnay, from an esteemed Domaine with age-old vines. It is redolent of Champagne on the nose with biscuits and pear with a creamy palate of stone fruit and toast. A great value Côte Chalonnaise.
Pierro Chardonnay, Margaret River 2017
Often heralded as one of Australia’s top Chardonnay producers, Pierro can be found on the rocky soils of the Margaret River, languishing in the cool sea breeze and warm Aussie sun. A high-density vineyard, Pierro’s 2017 Chardonnay is best enjoyed now. It’s fairly dry with a punch of peach and baked apples laced with vanilla and juicy lemon, all in harmony.
Talley Estate Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande 2016
If you’re not keen on a heavy oak Chardonnay this is a great option, from this family-run Californian winery. With only a whisper of butter and oak, enjoy refreshing apple, lemon and pineapple in an elegant summer wine.
La Bioca, Bissia, Langhe Chardonnay, 2017
Chardonnay isn’t commonplace in Piedmont, but we've seen a surge in Langhe Chardonnay in recent times. This is where you’ll find this small winery, La Bioca, in the hilly terrains of Serralunga d'Alba. It’s youthful with medium acidity, it’s light on the nose though green apple, lemon peel and minerality are defined on the palate, oak is almost indistinguishable. It’s an interesting introduction to the world of Langhe Chardonnay.
Hyde De Villaine Chardonnay
A marriage of old world and new world wineries, Hyde de Villaine brings together Burgundian and Californian techniques at this Napa winery. A wonderful nose of peach and lemon peel are balanced with pear, oak and subtle salinity on the palate. A strong match for Sea Bass.
Giant Steps Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2018
Located on the exposed slopes of Australia’s Yarra Valley, this Giant Steps Chardonnay is a blend of the winery’s five vineyards. With pear and hint of smoke on the nose, the palate sings of tree fruit and soft oak with wonderful complexity. A fantastic, affordable Australian Chardonnay.
Bread & Butter Chardonnay 2018
Rich in colour and flavour, this is a heavy Napa valley Chardonnay with hearty notes of oak and lashings of butter. Like a comfort wine, it’s indulgent and bold with a creamy texture and palate far butterier than the others tasted.