It’s not difficult to see why Chardonnay romances wine enthusiasts and sommeliers alike. It can produce a wide spectrum of styles from nearly every grape-growing corner on earth. From the high-altitude vineyards of Argentina to the rainy terroir of Champagne, Chardonnay is resilient and reliable.
Combined with its growing ease and high yields, the popularity of Chardonnay means that a lot of winemakers strive to include at least one expression of the variety in their portfolios. In some instances, like with white Burgundy or grand cru Chablis, exceptional expressions from reputable chateaux demand high prices. But there’s enough success to go around with high-quality versions made in lesser-known or up-and-coming areas — many of which are affordable.
We asked eight sommeliers to share their go-to bargain Chardonnays for consumers searching for a deal yet are unwilling to bend on quality. Here are their expert recommendations.
The Best Bargain Chardonnays, According to Sommeliers
- Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay
- Hosmer Chardonnay
- Nielson Santa Barbara Chardonnay
- Domaine Gerard-Tremblay Chablis
- Jadot Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay
- Argentinian Chardonnay
- Aslina Chardonnay
“My go-to bargain Chardonnay right now is the 2019 Argyle Willamette Valley. This expression sees some oak but is very restrained and with a medium body. The nose has lemon, melon, flint, and brioche notes, while the palate showcases more citrus and stone fruit. It does show some density on the mid-palate but cleans up on the finish with surprisingly great acidity. Oregon needs to get a little more credit for their Chardonnays! We currently feature this wine on our menu paired with Louisiana crawfish and Creole cream cheese-stuffed pasta shells with tomato beurre blanc.” —Ray Gumpert, sommelier, The Furloughed Four, New Orleans
“We all know the Finger Lakes is more known for its Riesling, but magic can happen with a good winemaker and the perfect site selection. Winemaker Julia Hoyle and the FLX legends, the Hosmer family, did just that. Hosmer Chardonnay from Cayuga Lake is for those looking for crisp acidity. It has floral-driven orange blossom notes, acacia, and hints of under-ripe peach on the palate, with a medium yet expressive finish. Only 20 percent spends time in oak, which contributes to its texture without taking away from its freshness and its perfect balance.” —Cha McCoy, beverage-to-human experience producer, Cha Squared Hospitality
“For anyone looking for a classic Central Coast Chardonnay at a great value, I always recommend Nielson Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2019. Lovely expressions of tropical fruit that everyone loves about Chardonnay, and the combination of French oak and concrete egg aging gives a beautiful texture to this steal of a wine. There is a reason Nielson wines have such staying power, and this wine is a great entry point for Santa Barbara Chardonnay.” —Ian Lokey, wine and beverage director, Sushi Note, Los Angeles
“Pouilly-Fuissé: not a wine the average consumer would be familiar with, yet a crowd-pleaser. I find this wine to be an all-time great value Chardonnay for your money. Friendly enough to please the palate of the New World lover and the avid Chablis drinker. It’s got depth, versatility, layered, and a soft minerality and lengthy finish; not to mention, it’s excellent for food pairing. Some of my go-to producers are: Domaine Pascal & Mireille Renaud, Louis Jadot, and Albert Bichot.” —Oscar Chinchilla, wine and beverage director. Montage, Big Sky, Mont.
“Chardonnay is the ultimate winemaker’s grape. It has a unique expression from everywhere it’s grown in the world. One of my favorite regions for Chardonnay is Chablis. Chablis lies on a foundation of chalk and limestone, and it’s closer to Champagne than it is to the rest of Burgundy, giving it an incredibly cold, brisk climate. The Chardonnays made there are steely fresh, with citrus zest and oyster notes. They’re the perfect wines for seafood and hot summer weather. This Chablis from Gerard Tremblay is a classic example of easygoing Chablis that I find myself coming back to again and again.” —Devon D’Arcangelo, wine director, Grandmaster Recorders, Hollywood, Calif.
“My go-to budget Chardonnay is Jadot Macon-Villages. It’s everything great about Chardonnay, with bright yellow apple, pear, and oily lemon notes on the palate with a streak of minerality on the finish. It’s a knockout food wine, great with soft cheese, seafood (especially oysters), and roast chicken. The fact that it’s readily available pretty much everywhere makes it one of the best and most reliable values in the wine world.” —Rick Arline, beverage director, Girl and the Goat, Chicago
“I have been looking in Argentina lately for bargain Chardonnay. The one that impressed me is from the coastal area near Buenos Aires, a new region for Argentina. They are usually judicious in their use of oak — but don’t come for me if you encounter a butterscotch bomb, as this once-popular style of making Chardonnay is fading but still around here and there. These leaner, fresher styles of Chardonnay truly are perfect for shellfish. With setting day just around the corner here in PEI, you best believe my first feed of lobster for the season will feature a crisp, well-balanced Chardonnay!” —Lesley Quinn, owner and operator, Stellar Somm Wine Experts, Prince Edward Island, Canada
“2020 Aslina Chardonnay is pure joy and so charming: complex and creamy, full-bodied and fresh, [and] nicely made by South Africa’s first black female winemaker Ntsiki Biyela in the Cape Winelands, giving tribute to her grandmother. Sourced from the rolling landscapes of Zululand, a soft touch of woodsy textures provides this Chardonnay with a fine-drawn precision, excellent acidity, and beautiful tropical fruit and peach character combined with citrusy characters.” —Bruno Almeida, sommelier and wine educator, New York City