Top Rated Chardonnay from the New World

Top Rated Chardonnay from the New World

by Westgarth Wines October 29, 2021

Chardonnay in the Old World can be tricky as it's labeled by region, such as Chablis, or Puligny-Montrachet. Finding a top rated Chardonnay in the New World is easy though as you don’t need to be in the know to recognize what’s in your bottle. It's likely to be labelled simply as “Chardonnay”. Chardonnay in the New World has had quite the evolution in the last few decades. New trends have produced less oaky, fresher wines with fruit flavors that range from crisp apple to passion fruit and pineapple, depending on climate.

California is almost always the first place you think of when it comes to top rated Chardonnay from the New World. It excels from the south in Santa Barbara, all the way up to Mendocino County. Anderson Valley, a subregion of Mendocino is particularly well known for its elegant renditions of the wine. The cooler coastal climate allows slow ripening that retains acid levels, rendering crisp yet rich wines. The region also makes spectacular sparkling wines. Chardonnay's more neutral flavor profile means that it can take on the luscious toasty character you find with a bottle of bubbles.

No one can look past Napa’s history with Chardonnay. It was first documented as coming in in the 1880s. Nor can one forget how Chardonnay put Napa on the map. The Judgment of Paris was a blind tasting in 1976 that pitted Californian wines against some of France’s finest. Château Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay took top honors and ever since then Chardonnay has been going strong in California.

Granted, there was a bit of wrench in the gears for what was considered thfen the top rated Chardonnays from the New World. A mania for malolactic fermentation’s buttery flavors and over-reliance on toasty oak got a bit out of hand in the 80s which prompted a backlash in the form of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement. Now however, there has been a return to a more restrained style for many winemakers.

Restraint is also found in Oregon's Chardonnays. Initially the grape had a rough go of it in the state’s cool climate. But switching over to the Dijon clone improved quality enormously. Today, the Willamette Valley, which has made a name for itself for Burgundian Pinot Noirs, is also making sought-after expressions of the grape. Open a bottle of Lingua Franca's Sisters Chardonnay to discover just how good it can get. Washington state too has proved successful in creating fresh renditions of the wine.

Chardonnay first came to prominence in Australia in 1971 with Tyrell’s Vat 47, which they dubbed “Pinot Chardonnay”. As in California, what Chardonnay tastes like in Australia has shifted away from being heavy hitting and oaky. These days, elegant examples come from all over the country, from West Australia’s Margaret River, to Victoria’s Yarra Valley, to the island of Tasmania where Chardonnay is important both for still wine and sparkling.

We're spoilt for choice for top rated Chardonnay from the New World. Try opening a bottle of one from Napa next to one from Burgundy and compare and contrast for yourself.

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