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11 best chardonnays that aren't over-oaked

Light and fruity or rich and full-bodied, these are modern white wines 

Stacey Smith
Tuesday 07 April 2020 16:30 BST
Enjoy with a crispy salad or fresh seafood in the sunshine
Enjoy with a crispy salad or fresh seafood in the sunshine (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s fair to say chardonnay is not a particularly fussy grape, which is why we see it doing so well around the world. It’s a cheerful blank canvas for winemakers to leave their mark on – the chicken of the wine world if you will.

However, as you can imagine, not all chardonnay is created equal, with varying flavour profiles depending on the climate and technique applied.

From cooler climes such as Burgundy, the best examples are steely and elegant with minerality and good acidity – indeed, they’re some of the best dry white wines money can buy – with the price tag to match. While from warmer climates such as Australia, you can expect to find softer more tropical fruit.

In the not too distant past chardonnay was often released over-oaked (hence people’s perception that they don’t like this grape – despite its starring role in champagne).

Now we’re seeing a move away from this, with well-integrated, more balanced styles coming through. Although not all chardonnay is oaked, so don’t be put off if you’re dead set against this.

Thanks to this vast difference in styles, it’s particularly food friendly – with wines like chablis pairing well with fresh shellfish and white fish, and fuller bodied styles perfect with smoked fish, chicken and creamy sauces.

Purists would expect us to start this round-up with wines from Burgundy (chardonnay’s spiritual home) however it was a bottle from California that really blew us away.

Without wanting to start another “Judgement of Paris” (a blind tasting of Californian and French wines which took place back in the Seventies in which the American wines controversially came up trumps) let us begin with a selection of new world wines. And to make sure you can get your chardonnay fix fast; we’ve only included wines from companies still able to fulfil orders during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The verdict: Chardonnays

Spell chardonnay is a dreamy find. If buttery white wines float your boat, you’ll be thrilled with this elegant expression. However, if we were you, we’d put this new world bottle up against the excellent Domaine de Montille bourgogne blanc to recreate your own “Judgement of Paris”.

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