94

2020 Black Book Painter of Light Clayhill Vineyard Chardonnay, Essex

( £20, 12%, Black Book Winery )

Painter of Light is a superb expression of one of Essex’s finest vineyards, made by the talented Sergio Verrillo. With aromas of struck match and popcorn, it’s fresh and elegant, with racy acidity and a cheesy, salty, nutty palate with subtle stone fruit undertones. Weighty without being fat, it’s what great pre-climate change Chablis used to taste like. One of England’s finest whites.

BuyDrinking window: 2022-27Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, France, White, Chardonnay
90

2021 Tesco Finest Western Australia Chardonnay, Western Australia

( £8, 13%, Tesco )

I’m old enough to remember the days when most Australian Chardonnays were ripe, buttery and oaky. But the last decade or so has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the style of the country’s most famous white grape. This very lightly wooded, great value example from Howard Park shows you what I mean. Textured yet refreshing, with struck match and vanilla spice aromas, waxed lemon and grapefruit flavours and a taut, appealingly refreshing finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2022-26Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, Australia, White, Chardonnay
91

2020 Creation Chardonnay, Walker Bay

( £12.99, 13.5%, Majestic )

Winemaker Jean-Claude Martin calls this his “village wine”, produced from 11 different blocks at Creation, tucked away at the top end of the painterly Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Deftly wooded in 10% new barrels, it has an engaging combination of citrus, pear, nutmeg and beeswax flavours lifted by acidity. A very impressive Cape white from a Chardonnay master.

BuyDrinking window: 2022-26Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, South Africa, White, Chardonnay
91

2020 The Society's Chilean Limarí Chardonnay, Limarí Valley

( £7.95, 13.5%, The Wine Society )

Chile is not as well known for Chardonnay as it is for Sauvignon Blanc, but it should be, given the quality of what’s being produced in places like Casablanca, Malleco and Limarí. This unoaked version from the country’s biggest winery, Concha y Toro, is ludicrously good value, with taut, tangy, chalky freshness, notes of lemongrass and melon and a creamy mid palate from time on its fermentation lees. Watch out, Chablis.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-24Similar Wines: £5-£10, 90-94, Chile, White, Chardonnay
92

2019 Domaine Jean-Michel Charton Rully Thivaux, Rully, Burgundy

( £18, 13%, The Co-op )

Is this the best-value white Burgundy in the high street? It’s certainly in with a very strong shout. Sourced from the village of Rully, which lies just to the south of the more prestigious communes of the Côte de Beaune, it would slot very easily into a tasting of more expensive wines from Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet. Subtly wooded, with lemon zest, crème fraîche and vanilla spice flavours, impressive acidity for a 2019 and a long, refined finish.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-26Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, France, White, Chardonnay
95

2018 De Martino Tres Volcanes Chardonnay, Malleco

( £21.99, 13.5%, Great Wine Co, Waitrose Cellar )

Chilean Chardonay is on a roll right now, especially when it’s from vineyards in the cooler areas of the country close to the Pacific or way down south, which is the case here. The brilliant Marcelo Retamal buys the grapes for this world-class white from Francisco Baettig’s increasingly famous vineyard in Malleco. There was a little rain during the growing season, so the wine has a little bit of  “noble rot” (botrytis) character, which adds a drizzle of honeyed complexity to its chiselled, racy, well-balanced palate, exhibiting flavours of cashew nut, citrus and wet stones. The oak is very understated, which is the case with all the De Martino wines.

BuyDrinking window: 2021-26Similar Wines: £20-25, 95-100, Chile, White, Chardonnay
94

2017 DeMorgenzon Maestro White, Stellenbosch

( £17.99, 14.3%, Waitrose )

South Africa’s white blends are some of its most distinctive wines, even if they remain comparatively difficult to sell, given most consumers’ preference for varietal Chardonnays, Chenins and Sauvignon Blancs. More’s the pity! This is a superb five-way blend from one of the best white wine producers in Stellenbosch, dominated by almost equal parts Roussanne, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc, with lesser amounts of Viognier and Chardonnay  Mixing oak and concrete egg-fermented portions, it’s creamy, herbal and citrus-driven, with subtle wood, honeysuckle and baking spice aromas and flavours of peach, pear and quince.

BuyDrinking window: 2020-24Similar Wines: £15-20, 90-94, South Africa, White, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier
93

2019 Kumeu River Village Hand Harvested Chardonnay, Kumeu

( £10.50, The Wine Society )

If Michael Brajkovich MW were a Burgundian rather than a New Zealander, he would be among the most celebrated white winemakers in the Côte de Beaune, right up there with the likes of Dominique Lafon, Pierre-Vves Colin Morey and Jean-Marc Roulot. The good news for us is that we can buy his amazing Chardonnays at ludicrously cheap prices. This is only his entry-point wine, but is typically well balanced, refreshing and focused, with just a hint of oak spice, leesy complexity, some struck match undertones and a chiselled, refreshing finish. A Kiwi wine that’s better than many Puligny-Montrachets.

BuySimilar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, New Zealand, White, Chardonnay

Treasure Island

by Rod Smith MW
As the tragedy of Australia’s 2019/20 bushfires continues to unfold, the most significant impact on the wine industry has been tragedy in the Adelaide Hills. So far, Tasmania has largely...

White wine rising

by Christy Canterbury MW
Though the “ABC”, or “Anything But Chardonnay” campaign continues to rail against it, Chardonnay remains the favourite white grape of USA wine drinkers. It is also the planet’s most planted,...

Farewell to a great Burgundian

by Tim Atkin
Some wine personalities take their final bow in front of cathedrals full of mourners; others disappear without fanfare or warm words. William Fèvre, one of the great figures of Burgundy,...