I had an article published recently for TASTE Magazine called Top Tier Cabs Under $25. Apparently that price point is a sweet spot because I got requests to continue the theme! Today, we’re taking a look at chardonnays under $25 with pinot noir to follow in the coming weeks.
Chardonnay is a wine that often draws a line in the sand, wine drinkers either love it or hate it. I admit it’s not my top preference for social drinking. But, I’ve got mad respect for its versatility and find myself seeking it out more as my curiosity for its spectrum of styles gets the better of me.
It’s arguably the most widely grown white grape and accessible white wine across the globe. But chardonnay is actually a neutral tasting grape. The flavours we find familiar come from terroir and the influence of oak.
The grape originates from Bordeaux. There, the wine has a medium-body with flavours of apple and pear. Whereas further north in Chablis, it’s crisper, leaner and more mineral. In warmer climates like Australia or California, chardonnay has a fuller-body with likely oak aging. It’ll also showcase riper flavours of tropical banana and mango.
For this article, I’m exploring chardonnays under $25 that are widely available in both BC and Alberta. Here are 5 bottles for you to try that showcase typical characteristics and flavours from their corners of the earth.
DEMORGENZON DMZ CHARDONNAY
Stellenbosch, South Africa
The vineyard’s proximity to the ocean allows for some fab cooling effects. This helps balance the acidity and minerality and brings out the fresh citrus and yellow apple character.
Aged (on its lees) in a combination of stainless steel and French oak barrels for 8 months. This strategy is to thank for the vanilla and almond aromas with layers of peach, apricot and grapefruit – which brings forward a citrus element and a lightness.
Okanagan Valley VQA, BC
With so many amazing BC producers to choose from, I chose Sandhill for their focus on single vineyards. The grapes for their chardonnay come from Hidden Terrace vineyards which are just north of Oliver. Sitting 330 feet above the Okanagan River, the provides a slightly cooler plateau for the grapes to grow.
Fermentation was split 50/50 between barrel fermentation (and on lees for 5 months in 1 year old French oak) and stainless steel where the full expression of the fruit was able to fully reveal itself without malolactic fermentation.
Bright, crisp fruits are leading the charge on this medium-bodied wine. Ripe apple, pear and lemon are balanced with a some subtle tropical notes and a lingering vanilla spice.
WENTE MORNING FOG CHARDONNAY
Livermore Valley AVA, California
What I love about Wente is the history is has in the area. Wente was one of two wineries to plant grapes in 1880, just inland from San Francisco. Today, about 80% of all California chardonnay can be traced back to the Livermore Valley.
This bottle has a smidgeon (2%) of gewurtzraminer and has fantastic acidity thanks to the morning fog that rolls in from the Bay Area. That fog moderates the heat and produces beautiful and brightly balanced wines.
Fermented and aged in half oak barrel and half stainless steel, this chardonnay leads with flavours of green apple and white peach with a follow up of oak, spice and vanilla to round out the mouthfeel and balance the finish.
BOLLINI BARRICADO 40 CHARDONNAY
Trentino DOC, Italy
You may be noticing a theme: cooling effects, day/night temperature variation. Any relief from the heat is a welcome and urged component when producing chardonnay. Bollini is no exception in northern Italy’s Trentino region.
Self-touted as a more ‘European style’, the Barricado 40 is firmer with more intense varietal character.
James Suckling says it best with his 90 point rating: “A fun chardonnay with plenty of cooked-apple and lemon character and just a hint of cream. Medium body. Tangy and fruity. Delicious.”
LOUIS LATOUR ARDÈCHE CHARDONNAY
Ardèche IGP, France
This is a stellar value from the country that made chardonnay so iconic. From famed Burgundian producer, Louis Latour, the Ardèche is the only wine on our list of chardonnays under $25 that doesn’t have even a kiss of oak.
Expect a slightly lighter weight and brightness with crisp white pear and citrus flavours leading the charge. The initial burst of acidity mellows out on the palate and finishes gently and beautifully.