Top Chardonnay Under $15

Get the best possible bang for your buck with these value Chardonnays


Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white wine, yet finding good value Chardonnay is often a real challenge. For whatever reason, perhaps its popularity, Chardonnay tends to be more expensive than other comparable wines and inexpensive Chardonnay has a tendency to be dreadful stuff. Perhaps I overstate my case there a bit, but the truth is that there is nothing I dread more, or have dreaded more throughout my professional career in wine, than the days I have to taste inexpensive Chardonnay.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are delightful examples out there that are well priced and the quality of all these wines is moving in the right direction. Where cheap Chardonnay used to smell and taste of tin cans and tuna fish, today you might find green olive juice instead! Hey, at least it’s a fruit instead of Chicken of the Sea.

So, every so often I brace for the worst and start popping bottles. Basically, your choices for inexpensive Chardonnay are limited to sweet, soft wines that are easy to drink but taste an awful lot like some fruit juice concoction. The new genre of unoaked Chardonnay saves vintners money as opposed to using expensive barrels instead. It also saves their wines from the barrel “alternatives” (which are what make many of the other wines taste like concoctions). Finally there are some simple, fresh and attractive wines out there, the trick is finding them!

Photo courtesy of prayitno via Flickr/ccThat’s where I come in. You may not have a palate that aligns well with mine, but at least you’ll be able to find the style of wine you’re interested in, whether it’s something fresh and delightful, or richer and sweeter. This doesn’t necessarily appeal to my palate, but I can see the appeal of the style. With that, I leave you with my top picks for Chardonnay under $15.

2011 Georges Duboeuf Macon-Villages Domaine Les Chenevieres France 12.5% $15

This is rather tight on the nose with green apple peels, a touch of fennel, hints of orange rind and a lovely chalky, floral note. On entry, this shows some of that orange peel flavor along with a nice, chalky edge. This then narrows down and shows impressive focus on the palate, delivering pure apple flavors with a subtle return of light orange Creamsicle notes. There’s a nice texture to this, laid back but not relaxed with plenty of just ripe fruit. There is real follow through on the moderately long finish, which shows of a touch of minerality under nice, persistent apple peel notes. Elegantly balanced. 88pts

2010 Carmel Road Liberated Chardonnay Monterey California 13.5% $14

Rather floral on the nose and quite perfumed. Gentle leesy edges add nuance to the core of peach and almond toned fruit that has a distinctive cherry note to it. Unusual but attractive on the nose. Medium plus-bodied in the mouth with an early rush of lemon candy that settles into a baked apple and lemon groove on the mid-palate. This has a gently creamy edge and some suggestions of sweet nuttiness in the mouth, all supported by bright lemon curd flavors. This is pretty bright and mouth-filling. A good value in a style I can go for. 87pts

2011 Apaltagua Unoaked Chardonnay Reserva Casablanca Valley Chile 13.5% $12

Bright and intense on the nose with layers of pineapple, passionfruit and guava notes. This is vibrantly acidic, too acidic for many palates, though it has its place like with ceviche. The fruit is quite ripe with a slightly sweet cashew edge to the pineapple and Meyer lemon fruit on the palate. The finish is a touch short but it does leave the palate clean and fresh, with lingering hints of lime peel and a hint of melon fruit. This is zesty with a nice hint of minerality on the finish, but it’s not your typical Chardonnay. Might appeal more to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. 87pts

2010 Valley of the Moon Chardonnay California 13.5% $15

Marshmallow, lemon oil and grilled pineapple come together on the nose here with a nicely spiced top note. Smells like ginger crisps. This is soft but not heavy on the palate, with a noticeably sweet edge. It’s subtle, adding a little marshmallow fluff to the rather fresh and nicely balanced fruits on the mid-palate. The oak plays a fairly supporting role beyond that, adding a nice, spiced note on the palate. On the finish, the sugar and spice does become a bit more dominant, though some acidity also shows up to help cleanse the palate. This is nicely done in the genre, sweet but not cloying, creamy but not shapeless, and with enough acidity to keep things interesting. 87pts

2011 Louis Jadot Macon Villages France 12.5% $13

Lovely and fresh on the nose with pure aromas of apple blossoms, apples and hints of greengage plums. Light-bodied and very finely balanced with assertive if integrated acidity adding cut to the light and simple apple fruit. This has a nice inner mouth perfume and lively transparency of flavors with suggestions of green herbs and perhaps a whisper of tarragon on the palate. Very clean and a touch mineral on the light and aromatic finish. Nothing is going to bowl you over here, but this is easy, fresh and pure. 86pts

2010 Alamos Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina 13.5% $12

A lot of oak on the nose here with smoke, butterscotch, vanilla and toasted oak notes over spicy apple and green plum fruit. Smooth and soft on entry, this is creamy and low acid with a lot of sweet oak and vanilla accenting the fruit, which shows some dry orchard fruit notes and remains fairly restrained. The finish shows some heat and more creamy oak. This is easy drinking and full-blown New World Chardonnay. Not my style but fairly well made. 85pts

2010 Parducci Small Lot Blend Chardonnay Mendocino Co. California 13.5% $11

Light on the nose with a gentle, layered nose of wood spice, leesy floral tones and some bright pear and yellow cherry fruit. Light-bodied, fresh and vibrant with lovely balance between the fruit and the judicious use of oak. This has suggestions of acidity in the mouth but is still in an obviously soft style that showcases the lightly sweet orchard fruit topped with hints of lemon pith. The finish is a touch short but still fairly fresh with sneaky length. Neither intense nor complex but easy to enjoy. 85pts

2010 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay California 13.5% $13

A bit low key on the nose with soft apple pie and grilled pineapple fruit under a topping of burnt marshmallow and vanilla cookies. Medium to full in the mouth with some hints of lemony acidity helping to balance out the obvious sweetness here. This is creamy and indistinct in the mouth with a nice balance of grilled pineapple and vanilla flavors on the mid-palate. Gains sweet graham cracker notes on the finish, which shows a bit of heat under the lemon candy sweetness. 82pts

2010 Echelon Collection Chardonnay Napa Valley California 13.5% $9

Unusual nose here with notes of salty green olives over sweet wood spice tones with an inkling of fruit lurking at the base. A bit sweet though this has enough acidity under the sweetness to be almost balanced. On the palate, this also shows a certain green olive element over lemon meringue fruit. The finish is rather short with a decided sweetness to it, then something a bit harsh and chemical on the finale. 75pts


Top 5 Chardonnay Under $15

France Beaujolais Brouilly Château de Nervers Duboeuf (2011)
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Carmel Road Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco (2011)
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Apaltagua Reserva Chardonnay Unoaked Chardonnay Chile (2011)
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Valley of the Moon Unoaked Chardonnay (2010)
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Louis Jadot Chardonnay Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru (2011)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Have you done 5 Chardonneys that are "oakley"?

    Jul 24, 2012 at 1:39 PM

  • Yes, I like traditional oaky, buttery chards...can you rate some of these please?

    Jul 24, 2012 at 2:27 PM

  • Besides, La Crema, Rodney Strong and Chateau St. Jean come to mind if you like buttery Chards...

    Jul 24, 2012 at 3:31 PM

  • Snooth User: giavida
    688492 21

    I agree with the above two people....some reviews for oaky Chards please!

    Jul 24, 2012 at 3:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Alfamail
    871758 1

    You HAVE to add Cupcake, just an outstanding value, and consistently delish! Add Artessa to the Buttery list too!

    Jul 24, 2012 at 4:27 PM

  • Snooth User: jbirdawg
    710359 18

    Frei Brothers Russian River has been one of my wife's favorites under $15 for quite some time. She drinks more Chard than me. I like it as well. Rodney Strong Chalk Hill has it's good years too. Chateau St. Jean is another one that gets repeated purchases. La Crema is good but isn't it over $15?

    Jul 24, 2012 at 5:12 PM

  • Snooth User: Sandy S
    36420 14

    Bogle, Turning Leaf were my first oakey Chards. I've since discovered Bogle, Dancing Bull, Estancia, Ménage à Trois & Cedar Brook. All around the $10 range.

    Jul 24, 2012 at 5:25 PM

  • Yes Le Crema is $22....We feel one of the best oaked chardonnays is Kendall Jackson Reserve at $13. Toasted Head is also an excellent Chardonnay.

    Jul 24, 2012 at 6:17 PM

  • Snooth User: dietsf
    821670 27

    I enjoy many of the wines mentioned also,but must add Chateau Ste. Michelle from the Columbia Valley. Apple and citrus with a smooth finish, lovely.

    Jul 24, 2012 at 7:26 PM

  • Snooth User: kebohs
    347125 19

    chalone Vineyards makes a crisp Chardonay that I just love for the summer. It us from Monterey,ca. I also love le Bourcier Macon Chardonay from France.
    Both are under very reasonably priced.

    Jul 24, 2012 at 7:40 PM

  • Wow, a bunch of people like us who enjoy good wine that doesnt cost $40. I'm reading this more often. Thanks for the tips. I have a new shopping list!

    Jul 24, 2012 at 10:02 PM

  • Snooth User: Bonge
    602350 18

    Chardonnay is aged in oak. If you do not like the oak, drink a Chenin Blanc.

    Jul 24, 2012 at 11:42 PM

  • Try these buttery Chard's. Jax Y3, Novelty Hill, Talbott Logan Chardonnay. All should be right at the 20 price point.

    Jul 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM

  • Snooth User: botlvr
    290762 6

    Oaky buttery Chard Rombauer in NAPA Valley. The best. Our last trip to Napa I asked for Oaky Buttery and every winery said so to Rombauer. I agree with Bonge.

    Love this site

    Jul 25, 2012 at 8:28 PM

  • Snooth User: C Rita 44
    808345 9

    I recently tried a sweet chardonnay that was pretty good by Gallo belive it or not.

    Jul 26, 2012 at 11:41 AM

  • I really like this type of wine, espesially with creamy cakes.

    Aug 01, 2012 at 9:57 AM

  • Snooth User: hhdw196
    1141540 18

    One of the best buttery Chards out there is Camelot. Under $10

    Sep 22, 2012 at 5:21 PM

  • Snooth User: coltspam
    1327708 34

    very well

    Aug 02, 2013 at 11:55 PM

  • nice

    Aug 30, 2013 at 2:47 AM

  • good

    Aug 31, 2013 at 4:52 AM

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