This is my list of best Chardonnays, as in those that are most impressive to me. There may be some wines that I’ve scored more highly than these, but that simply makes it a great wine, not necessarily one I love. There is a difference. I’m sure you’ll agree with my principles and disagree with my choices which, my friends, is awesome!
I would love to know YOUR favorite Chardonnay producers. Let’s see where there is overlap, where the great wines that we all like come from, and what the defining traits of our favorite Chardonnays are. Let me know your thoughts by leaving them in the comments here! I can’t wait to hear from you all!
Photo courtesy katielmasters via Flickr/CC
Domaine Leflaive is one of the big Burgundian négociants and as such they maintain access to some of the greatest vineyards of the region. They also tend to offer a rather complete selection of wines from lowly satellite villages wines right up through the Grand crus.
David Ramey has been a top California winemaker for decades. You’ve probably drunk some of his wines without even realizing it, whether they came from Simi, Chalk Hill, or Dominus. Of course with David’s eponymous Ramey label, you’ll know what you’re getting. That is rich, elegant and classic California Chardonnay that shows a fine combination of power and restraint.
I first tasted Neudorf’s Chardonnay several years ago at a large tasting, but have recently re-tasted the wines. Along with Kumeu River, Neudorf has emerged as one of the finest producers of Chardonnay in New Zealand. They are leading the way towards quality and typicity as New Zealand transitions from a successful wine producing country to a wine producing country with distinctive regional expressions. The Neudorf wines are very finely textured, possess exceptional balance and length, and have real tension in the mouth. I am looking forward to watching them develop.
Domaine Louis Carillon
Some times winemakers are overlooked simply because they build their wines differently than others do. Their wines, built around texture rather than immediate aromatic appeal, tend to get lost in a crowd. Of course, that delicacy is an asset to many. The wines of Louis Carillon are one of these wines. They get lost in a crowd, they need some bottle age, but when they hit, it's a remarkable event. They have textural depth that is like layers of the finest silk all wrapped up in rich yet remarkably pure fruit flavors. A real benchmark for me.
A Chardonnay specialist. It’s not often that you see that, but New Zealand’s Kumeu River really does specialize in Chardonnay, putting out several bottlings. These are wonderfully transparent wines with real finesse. I love them for their precision and depth of flavors even though they tend to have a rather airy texture. And if you want to talk terroir, two of their top Chardonnays come from vineyards separated by a few tens of yards. The Hunting Hill is lean, focused and tense, while the Mate’s is one of the most balanced, richly flavored yet elegant Chardonnays you can find!