Chardonnay is a bit of a divisive white wine among wine drinkers. People tend to either love it or be team “ABC” which stands for “Anything But Chardonnay”.
However, as with any kind of wine, if you enjoy wine in general but strongly dislike a certain type, chances are you haven’t found the right brand of this wine.
There are plenty of “Gateway” Chardonnay brands out there that produce beautifully easy-to-drink wines that even the most passionate Chardonnay avoider can enjoy.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the best Chardonnay wines that can fit any budget and round out your celebration perfectly.
There are wines in this list that range from less than $20 to over $80. We have also included some frequently asked questions to help inform you more about Chardonnay wine.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
If you are on a tight budget, Kendall-Jackson VInter’s Reserve Chardonnay is always a winner. These bottles of delicious Chardonnay wine retail for less than $20.
Despite being a budget option, this is a bottle of wine that you can often find on wine lists at restaurants. This suggests that the price tag belies the true quality of the wine.
This Chardonnay has a creamy texture and is bursting with notes of tropical fruits. There are hints of toasted oak and butter to create a well-rounded wine.
This wine is the perfect showcase of the fact that even cheaper wines can have all the body and flavor that you want from a bottle of white wine.
Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay
One of the best cheap Chardonnays on the market is Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay.
When you are shopping for wine on a budget, the most important thing to look out for is a well-known and trusted brand name to ensure you are getting a quality product.
Chateau Ste Michelle is a Washington-based winery that produces beautifully crafted Chardonnay wines.
The flavors of this wine are sharp and spicy on the tongue. The undertones of juicy, ripe fruit help to produce an overall crisp taste.
Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay
Another trustworthy brand in the United States is Wente. This wine brand is responsible for the majority of Chardonnay vineyards in the States.
With one sip of this Chardonnay, it is easy to see why they practically have a monopoly on the U.S. Chardonnay market.
The Morning Fog Chardonnay from Wente boasts stunning aromas of green apple and citrus that are complemented by toasted oak and vanilla.
The natural acidity of this wine helps to create a well-rounded and creamy Chardonnay with a budget price tag.
Duckhorn Chardonnay Napa Valley
If you have a slightly higher budget, the Duckhorn Chardonnay produced in Napa Valley is perfect.
This wine still comes with a price tag below $30, but it is an incredibly expressive and fruity wine with a full body.
When served at the right temperature, this wine has layered aromas of creme brulee, peach, and citrus zest. This combination creates a wine that stimulates your senses as you sip.
The crisp finish of the wine helps to balance the flavors and provide richness.
Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay
If you enter a liquor store and ask for Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay, you are likely to be met with an acknowledgment of “GunBun”, the name that has been lovingly bestowed upon this wine.
Gundlach Bundschu wine is produced by Sonoma wineries which helps to give it a unique flavor.
The Chardonnay grapes that are grown on the Sonoma Coast have the perfect growing conditions to produce strong and flavorful aromas.
This Chardonnay boasts floral aromas with subtle notes of pineapple, lemon curd, and honeydew melon. This wine is fresh and inviting yet remains rooted in old Burgundian-style Chardonnay.
Trefethen Estate Chardonnay
If you want a Chardonnay that is steeped in history and has an interesting origin, Trefethen Estate Chardonnay is the wine for you.
This wine is made in Napa Valley at a family-owned winery that is actually a national historic landmark. It is also the only wooden, gravity-flow winery that is operational in Napa Valley.
The Chardonnay from Trefethen Estate is vibrant and fresh. The wine boasts aromas of white peach, green apple, and puff pastry.
This Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, however, the notes of oak aren’t overpowering which leaves you with a well-balanced wine that is perfect for any occasion.
La Crema Chardonnay Russian River Valley
Another stunning Chardonnay wine from the Sonoma region is the La Crema Chardonnay Russian River Valley. As the name suggests, this wine is made in the Russian River Valley area of Sonoma.
The grapes from this region have beautiful flavors and aromas that give the Chardonnay a deliciously fresh and crisp taste.
The overtones of this Chardonnay include notes of pineapple and white peach to give the wine a deliciously fruity flavor. The palate of this wine is elegant and subtle.
The powerful fruit notes are balanced with precision and ripeness to provide you with the perfect, well-rounded beverage.
Eden Rift Estate Chardonnay
Another wonderful Chardonnay that comes in below $50 is the Eden Rift Estate Chardonnay.
This wine comes from a winery located in the Cienega Valley area of California along the Central Coast. This is a well-balanced Chardonnay that is suitable for almost any occasion.
When swilling this classic Chardonnay, you will be met with notes of ripe apples, fresh earth, and dried leaves.
This is one of the most earthy Chardonnays that you can buy and the aromas and flavors are subtle and complex.
The Eden Rift Estate is one of the oldest wineries in the world so they know a thing or two about how to make an exquisite wine.
Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
At the top end of budget wines, there is the Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.
The Sonoma Coast is renowned for its ability to produce some of the most complex, delicious, and highly sought-after Chardonnay wines in the world.
Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a medium-bodied wine that perfectly showcases the quality of wines from this area.
From the cold, rugged conditions of the Sonoma Coast comes a beautifully vibrant and pure Chardonnay wine that complements any occasion perfectly.
The flavor notes of this wine include white flowers, green apples, hints of honeysuckle, and sliced lemons.
If you have a larger budget and can stretch to price tags that extend beyond $50, Gary Farrell is one of the best Chardonnays you can buy.
The thing that makes Gary Farrell wine such a special and delicious wine to use for your dinner party or celebration is the fact that the company specializes in single-vineyard productions of Chardonnay.
The flavor of this Chardonnay wine is super complex and filled with subtle notes and aromas.
A glass of this wine is going to offer you stunning aromas of lemongrass, honeysuckle, stone fruit, Meyer lemon, and graphite.
The first sip of this wine offers a tangy taste which gives way to a zesty and oily mid-palate.
Bacigalupi Renouveau Paris Tasting Chardonnay
For a more expensive Chardonnay wine, you can’t go wrong with the iconic Bacifalupo Renouveau Paris Tasting Chardonnay.
The grapes that are used for this beautiful Chardonnay are grown in the Napa and Sonoma regions.
The specific grapes used for this wine have beaten those used in French wines in Paris Tasting Judgement.
This specific variety of Bacigalupi Renouveau Chardonnay has been made to commemorate the wine that won the Paris Tasting Judgement.
This is an extremely high-quality wine that is the perfect addition to your dinner party celebrations if you have a little bit more of a budget to play with.
Ram’s Gate Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay
A slightly more affordable high-quality Chardonnay comes from the Ram’s Gate Hyde Vineyard.
This Chardonnay is so beautifully crafted that it is often the wine that people who usually don’t like Chardonnay credit with introducing them to some of the best Chardonnay in the world.
The thing that makes this such a wonderfully accessible and drinkable Chardonnay is the wonderful flavors and aromas that the wine boasts.
The flavors that make this wine stand out from the rest are the notes of toffee and popcorn.
These overtones are followed by aromas of honeysuckle, ripe apricot, and orange blossom. The palate of this wine remains pure due to the fermentation process that is used.
For a bold and buttery Chardonnay, you can’t go wrong with Rombauer Chardonnay.
This is one of the most buttery Chardonnays that you can get for one of the most reasonable price tags on this list.
You might sometimes see or hear this particular Chardonnay being referred to as “cougar juice”.
Because this Chardonnay is so buttery, it is a very rich wine that has layers upon layers of flavors and aromas that come through with each sip.
Some of the most prominent layers of this wine include notes of tropical fruits, pears, and peaches. The original fruity flavor opens up into creamier notes of pear and apple that coat the palate really well.
The buttery, citrus, and oaky undertones help to balance this wine out perfectly.
If you are a fan of buttery Chardonnays, there is nothing better than Butter Chardonnay.
The clue is in the name that this is one of the most buttery Chardonnays on the market. This makes this brand perfect for a luxurious beverage to accentuate your dinner party.
To complement the buttery flavor of this Chardonnay there are notes of apple pie and a creaminess that adds an amazing richness to the drink.
This wine is carefully aged in French oak barrels which provides a stunning oakiness that adds to the perfect complexity of this Chardonnay.
This is the perfect Chardonnay wine for anyone who wants something a little luxurious with an incredibly small price tag.
Chardonnay is such a wonderfully versatile wine. Although you might think that you don’t enjoy drinking Chardonnay.
However, there are so many different types of Chardonnay wine available on the market at all price points that there is likely to be something within your budget that makes the perfect addition to your dinner parties.
Frequently Asked Questions
A general rule of thumb that we tend to adopt when we are shopping for something is that cheaper means lower quality. However, this isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to wine.
The majority of the wines that we have talked about in this article come with a price tag of below $50. These wines are of the same quality as those that are priced above this price point.
With that being said, it would be disingenuous to state that there is no difference between a $12 bottle of wine and an $85 bottle of wine. However, it is truthful to say that a $12 bottle of wine isn’t inherently bad.
The main differences between these wines are going to be the complexity of the wines and the layers of flavors and aromas.
This is something that is most likely only going to make a significant difference if you or your guests are wine aficionados and know how to detect the delicate aromas in the wine.
On the other end of the scale, you have to make sure that you are paying for quality wine rather than simply a brand name.
In the same way that cheap wine isn’t necessarily going to be low quality, expensive wine isn’t necessarily going to be high quality.
Because of this, it can be helpful to check out some online reviews of certain wines to make sure you’re getting what you want.
The majority of Chardonnay wine is dry. With that being said, there are going to be certain types of wine that are drier than others.
When you purchase Chardonnay or any type of wine from a liquor store, there will be labels and signs that let you know where each wine falls on the scale from sweet to dry.
The majority of Chardonnay will fall between dry and medium. However, it is possible to occasionally find a sweet or dessert wine that is made from Chardonnay grapes.
These are very rare and will usually be clearly labeled as a dessert wine to avoid confusion.
The thing that determines whether the Chardonnay wine will be dry, medium, or even sweet is the fermentation process and the growing conditions of the grapes.
The growing conditions of the grapes determine how much sugar is naturally present in the fruit before it is turned into wine.
The fermentation process is also responsible for determining the sweetness or dryness of the wine.
The longer the fermentation process lasts, the less sugar there is in the resulting wine which makes it dryer. It is also important to note that the dryer the wine, the higher the alcohol content will be.
Another common question that people have about Chardonnay is whether it can be used in cooking. There are many recipes that call for a splash of wine.
However, most of the time, these recipes only specify using either red or white wine depending on the specific recipe. Sometimes, a recipe might go as far as to specify whether you should use dry wine or not.
With that being said, you might want to know if it is worth keeping the leftovers of the Chardonnay wine for recipes that call for white wine.
The answer to this is, yes! Using Chardonnay in cooking is a brilliant idea and the perfect way to use up those annoying dregs that you have left over at the end of a dinner party or celebration.
If you are shopping for a wine specifically to use in cooking, it is a good idea to try and search for a Chardonnay that has had lower contact with oak.
This is because aromas of oak can be overpowering when cooking and can inadvertently introduce a smoky aroma to your food which doesn’t necessarily fit the recipe.
Chardonnay in particular can add a richness or creaminess to your food which isn’t necessarily introduced when you cook with other white wines.
This is particularly useful if you are making a pasta sauce or a butter and wine sauce.