Want to learn about chardonnay? Looking for the best chardonnays to buy? Our wine expert gives her advice on which bottles to pick. Trying oaked wine next? Check our our guide to the best oaked wine.


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What is chardonnay?

Once upon a time, it seemed that chardonnay was practically shorthand for white wine. Served everywhere, from the smartest of restaurants to the grottiest of pubs, it was the go-to choice for many drinkers.

A lot of chardonnay came from Australia, whose sunny climate was particularly suited to high yields and reliable harvests. The Aussies made their chardonnays big and blousy, often with ABVs of 14% or more, and usually heavily tinged with oak. It seemed we Brits couldn’t get enough of it.

Then along came Bridget Jones in the smashhit movie of 2001, knocking back buckets of the stuff to drown her many romantic sorrows. Around this time, we began to fall out of love with it (though whether the blame can be put at Bridget’s door is questionable), and ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) became our battle cry as we switched our allegiance to lighter, fresher pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.

I was one of those who shunned the grape for years but my affection for it has returned. Chardonnay can be so much more than those harsh oak-bombs we drank back then – it is one of the world’s most widely planted grapes, grown in pretty much every wine-making region, and made into so many styles. In France, chardonnay’s historical home, it ranges from beautifully lean and steely chablis to big and buttery burgundies such as top-notch (and top-dollar) montrachets and meursaults. It is also one of the major grapes of champagne and as such finds itself in much of the world’s finest fizz, including our own English sparkling wine and franciacorta from Italy.

While some of the most prestigious chardonnays are fermented and/or aged in oak barrels to give their characteristic creamy texture and toasty notes of vanilla and gentle spice, oak is often used to mask low-quality base wine, often using highly toasted oak chips or staves to keep the cost of production down, along with artificial acidifiers and/or sweeteners. Happily, these clunky, over-processed chards are becoming superseded by fresher, more elegant styles to suit the modern drinker.

Chardonnays from the cooler parts of California, along with those from Chile, Argentina and South Africa, are all worth looking out for, though the latter three will generally give you more bang for your buck. Australia’s offerings have also come a long way in terms of quality, especially those from the Margaret River region, but for my money it is New Zealand that takes the top spot of producers in the southern hemisphere, both in terms of quality and of price. For so many of us, chardonnay just used to be about ‘tasting the timber’, as the Kiwis say. Now winemakers around the world are treating it with the respect it deserves and are making chardonnays that demand our attention once again.

The best chardonnay wines to buy

Domaine Maire ‘Grand Heritage’ Chardonnay 2018

A bottle of Domaine Maire ‘Grand Heritage’ Chardonnay 2018

Oak-aged savagnin is added to chardonnay for depth. Notes of orchard fruits with citrus and ginger. Try it with tarragon butter chicken.

Available from:
Majestic (£14.99, £12.99 when buying six)

Florent Rouve Chardonnay Arbois

A bottle of Florent Rouve Chardonnay

Fermented with native yeasts in oak barrels for a chardonnay that sings of its terroir. Honeyed and gently spicy with minerality, it’s great with creamy dishes.

Available from:
Waitrose Cellar (£19.99)

Familia Falasco Hermandad Chardonnay 2018

Hermandad chardonnay

From Argentina’s Mendoza valley high up on the Andes, a delightful chardonnay that stands up well against good white burgundies. Notes of pineapples, lemons and vanilla with a silky, buttery finish.

Available from:
The Secret Bottle Shop (£23.95)

Tesco Finest Chablis Premier Cru


Savoury and textured with juicy, orchard fruits and bright acidity softened by a subtle touch of oak. Try with our spaghetti alle vongole with samphire.

Available from:
Tesco (£18)

Kaesler Stonehorse Chardonnay


Modern Australian chardonnay that’s a world away from the harsh oak bombs of the past. Full-bodied and generous but with clean and lemony fruit, and just a little warming spice.

Available from:
Taurus Wines (£15.99)

Asda Extra Special Chablis

ASDA Extra Special Selection Chablis

Floral and aromatic with lychees, quince and lime peel notes and a classic, chablis mineral finish. Try with our baked lemon chicken recipe.

Available from:
Asda (£12)


Check out more wine guides here:

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Best Rieslings to buy
Best chenin blancs to buy


Kate HawkingsWine Columnist

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