Native to Burgundy, France, Chardonnay is known in the United States for its rich, buttery taste and versatile flavor profile — from high-alcohol decadence to sessionable tropicality. And though classic offerings from Burgundy and Chablis are still coveted, Chardonnay is now made and beloved across the globe.
From classic French offerings to Californian bottles that prove there’s more to American Chardonnay than oak and butter bombs, plus some surprising hits from New York, Sicily, and even Virginia that will blow you away, this list demonstrates the multifaceted nature of the world’s most popular white wine.
Read on for the 25 best Chardonnays to drink in 2021, with reviews from VinePair tastings director Keith Beavers. Looking for our 2020 edition of this list? Check it out here.
Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2018 ($45)
This is a truly brilliant American Chardonnay. If you want to know what balance in wine is, buy this bottle. The subtle depth is balanced by the bracing acidity. The alcohol is perfect, not intruding on the aromas, which smell like freshly picked honeysuckle, sweet Meyer lemons and a quiet whiff of vanilla bean. If you want to know how America makes Chard, this is the bottle to try.
Hyde de Villaine Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 ($76)
Every layer of this wine is in harmony. Soft feels float on the palate, guided by an excellent showing of acidity lifting the wine. Aromas of fancy French butter and a whisper of caramel are balanced and using their inside voices. This is a quintessential American Chardonnay.
EnRoute Brumaire Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2018 ($42)
This is what I would call the future of American Chardonnay. It has depth, with an excellent perception of minerality, and just the right amount of oak. It grips your palate with ripe fruit, begging for a food pairing. I’m talking goat cheese and arugula salad with some walnuts (so Cali), and even some lean protein, like grilled chicken. It’s a bit pricey, but definitely worth the splurge.
Planeta Chardonnay Menfi DOC 2018 ($41)
This is a balanced, modern style Chardonnay from sunny Sicily. It has soft fruit with a calming kiss of butter. The acidity is frothy so that the depth of the wine doesn’t overwhelm — it almost tingles the tongue. It’s a wonderful, refreshing, rich white wine.
Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay 2019 ($46)
This wine hits all the pleasure points for a California wine. It has a richness to it that will soak into your palate and not let go. It has a nose that will remind you of baking spices and sliced pears. You will want to drink this wine all day long. You won’t want to share, but you’ll feel compelled to show people how great the wine is.
Albert Bichot ‘Secret de Famille’ Bourgogne Côte d’Or Chardonnay 2017 ($24)
A Chardonnay that is as crisp and refreshing as it is deep and luscious — there is no oak here, but clean lines of structure with some smells of sliced apples. This is a great example of the grape from its home in Burgundy.
Alesia Rhys Vineyards Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2016 ($49)
This wine is wonderful. It has depth, balance, and such a nice, subtle oak aroma. The medium acidity gives it a just-right weight on the palate. There is an elegant softness to this wine that makes it a joy to drink.
Giant Steps Winery Chardonnay 2020 ($29)
Nice, rich, and aromatic on the nose, this Chard smells like a faint whiff of caramelized pears and cream. The palate has excellent balance with frothy acidity and a comfy, grippy mouthfeel. Great to sip on its own or with some hard cheeses.
Gundlach-Bundschu Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 ($25)
Excellent balance for an old school, Cali-style Chard. The wine smells like stone fruit and wet rock. The palate has a comfy weight, with wonderful acidity lifting up the wine and keeping it refreshing.
Trombetta Family Wines Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay 2018 ($65)
This is a great American Chardonnay. It has all the old-school vibes, with the smells of fancy French butter and a freshly-sliced vanilla bean and granola vibe. The palate is crazy balanced for all the depth it gives. Just sip this one. Maybe pair it with some cheeses, but this has a drink-on-its-own quality to it.
Mail Road Mt. Carmel Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 ($82)
Not your typical oak bomb. This is a coastal Chardonnay that takes acidity to the next level. The brightness of the wine balances the wooded vibes and makes this a refreshingly deep Cali Chard.
King Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2018 ($28)
Virginia is for lovers — and clean, crisp, beautiful Chardonnay. This bottle is only available on the winery’s website, but it is worth the time online. This is a vibrant wine, with bracing acidity and a wonderful grip on the palate, and with a glorious 13 percent alcohol this wine is refreshing and ready to jive with all kinds of food, like summer salads with goat cheese and arugula, grilled veggies, and roasted chicken. It would be killer on your holiday table, too.
Long Meadow Ranch Chardonnay 2017 ($40)
Smells like honey, vanilla, and pears, with a slight high-tone of cracked white pepper. The palate hits nice and deep, with a grippy mouthfeel and juicy fruit vibes. This is a wonderfully structured Chardonnay.
Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($26)
This is a nice and refreshing Chardonnay. It’s briny with ripe fruit, and it smells like bananas. The alcohol is lower than most wines from this grape, and that really heightens the quality and balance.
Ramey Chardonnay 2017 ($39)
This rich and balanced Chardonnay has excellent acidity, which balances its more intense characteristics. The structure of this wine is beautiful and gives respect to this style of grape.
Far Niente Winery Estate Chardonnay 2018 ($62)
A great American Chardonnay with depth and balance, this wine smells like a lemon sprinkled with sea salt. The classic creamy note hangs in the body like a chandelier — prominent but not imposing, and evenly toasted. The acidity is just right, letting in a little bit of weight, but not too much. This wine, with some local cheeses and a sunny afternoon, would be divine.
Charles Woodson ‘Intercept’ Chardonnay 2018 ($20)
This wine is very oaky, sweet, and has all the old school Cali vibes you dig in this retro style, but it won’t weigh you down or smack you in the face. It is a great sunset wine to sip with friends at the end of the day — maybe with some nibbles like a cheese plate.
Hound’s Tree Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($28)
This is a nice, grippy, tart Chardonnay. It has vibrant acidity, with a soft, earthy, river rock mouthfeel. It’s a Long Island wine, so I would be all about slurping oysters while sipping this bottle. Even messing around with some ceviche would be awesome.
Louis Pommery Carneros Chardonnay 2019 ($33)
This wine smells herby with a waft of sweetness. The palate is very balanced, with a good grip and rich fruit. It is a nice Cali Chard that will impress guests.
Neyers Vineyards Chardonnay 2018 ($28)
A big, grippy, deep Chardonnay that is balanced by very good natural acidity. If it was any heavier, it would be too much. This is a great wine for a food and has potential to star at a dinner party.
Sonoma-Cutrer 40th Anniversary Winemaker’s Release Chardonnay 2019 ($70)
This wine takes the old-school vibe of Cali Chard and balances it. The palate is soft, with calm, natural acidity and a depth that you’re used to without all the intense alcohol and oak.
La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2018 ($19)
This wine has great balance for the price. Soft and smooth with a creamy mouthfeel, this Chardonnay smells like butter and sliced pears.
Balletto Teresa’s Unoaked Chardonnay 2020 ($25)
Rich and round with good, active, natural acidity, this wine smells a little spicy, along with having some juicy vibes. This is a great crowd-pleasing wine that will fit nicely into any wine club or wine and cheese event.
Ravines Wine Cellars Chardonnay 2017 ($19)
This is a nice, affordable, New York Chardonnay. The grape seems to do well in the Finger Lakes with a skilled hand. This wine has great acidity that is just right and keeps it broad on the palate. It’s not cloying, but it’s welcoming. I would love to have this chilled on a porch, with good friends and local cheese and meats.
Fort Ross Vineyard Sea Slopes Chardonnay 2019 ($26)
Smells of pears, salt, and a hint of vanilla are on the nose. The acidity is calm, giving the wine some weight on the palate. The wine retains some zip and is still refreshing.