Here are the 10 best Chardonnays of 2020

Money no object? Then here are the 10 best Chardonnays taken from 2020’s Global Chardonnay Masters, taking in outstanding white wines from South Africa to Saint-Emilion.

The Chardonnay Masters revealed

Having sampled over 200 wines in December for last year’s Global Chardonnay Masters, we bring you the highest-scoring wines from the very top end of the price scale – the ultimate bottles for when there is no budget.

These are brilliant, if pricy, whites, that draw attention to the world’s top producers of Chardonnay, taking in some established sources of excellence, but also some unexpected areas of greatness.

So, read on, for the 10 ultimate Chardonnays, whatever the cost.

10. Terrazas de los Andes, Grand Chardonnay

• Producer: Terrazas De Los Andes

• Region: Uco Valley

• Country: Argentina

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 14%

• Vintage: 2019

• Closure: Screwcap

• Approx. retail price: £50

• Medal: Gold

Among the surprises from 2020’s blind tasting was this Chardonnay hailing from Argentina’s Uco Valley – a place best known as the home of top reds made from Malbec. But with this Chardonnay, crafted by Moët Hennessy-owned producer Terrazas De Los Andes, we had plenty of intense classic Chardonnay flavours, from grapefruit, cream and toast, showing that high-altitude Argentine sites can be used create great whites along with intense reds.

9. Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard

• Producer: Tapanappa Wines

• Region: Adelaide Hills

• Country: Australia

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 13.9%

• Vintage: 2019

• Closure: Screwcap

• Approx. retail price: £50

• Medal: Gold

Created in 2002 by Australia’s foremost Chardonnay-maker, Brian Croser (who founded Petaluma in 1976), Tapanappa, particularly its Tiers Vineyard expression, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most complete Chardonnays, helping to cement the position of its source region, Adelaide Hills, as one of the globe’s great places for this white grape.

Although I do miss the slightly richer style of Croser’s earlier vintages of this reliably-excellent Chardonnay, this bright, youthful, grapefruit scented white from the 2019 vintage will please those who love cooler-climate styles, and will, I’m sure, with its fresh acidity, have a long life ahead of it. But that’s not to suggest this is a wine without depth. Indeed, it has a slightly-oily core of peach, along with lingering oak and lees-derived flavours of nuts and toast, and then an uplifting zesty lemon-lime finish.

8. Ted Edward Andrew Chardonnay

• Producer: Bird In Hand

• Region: South Australia

• Country: Australia

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 13%

• Vintage: 2018   

• Closure: Screwcap

• Approx. retail price: £85

• Medal: Gold

Another brilliant example of the quality potential of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay comes from Bird in Hand, which is a reliably excellent source of wines from this grape at all levels. Winemaking director Kym Milne MW manages to create Chardonnays of great intensity and freshness without sacrificing texture, as shown in this top expression called Ted Tribute Chardonnay (named after Edward Andrew, son of Andrew Nugent, who founded Bird in Hand). Expect aromas of freshly-struck match, toast and grapefruit zest, and then flavours of cream, lemon and pear in this gently-oily but bright white.

7. Elena

• Producer: Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs

• Region: Saint-Emilion

• Country: France

• Grape variety:

• ABV:

• Vintage: 2019

• Closure: Cork

• Approx. retail price: £50+

• Medal: Gold

One would expect France to feature in a round-up of the world’s greatest Chardonnays, but with a white Burgundy – the native home of the grape – not a Bordeaux blanc. But it was a Chardonnay from the latter area that wowed in 2020, using grapes planted Château La Grâce Dieu Des Prieurs in Saint-Émilion. Such an unusual move was done in 2013, when the property was bought by Andrey Filatov – who is a Russia-based wine and art lover, champion chess player, billionaire entrepreneur, and Chardonnay drinker. The wine is a fascinating mix of toast, caramel, peach and apricot, with an appealing salty and slightly peaty edge.

6. Yattarna Chardonnay

• Producer: Penfolds

• Region: South Eastern Australia

• Country: Australia

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 13%

• Vintage: 2018

• Closure: Screwcap

• Approx. retail price: £150

• Medal: Gold

For those who know well the range-topping red wine from Penfolds called Grange, Yattarna is the producer’s white wine equivalent. And, like Grange, Yattarna is also an outstanding wine, whether rated alongside its peers in Australia or worldwide. Using grapes from a range of cooler regions, primarily Tasmania and Adelaide Hills, it has plenty of crisp, citrus-like appeal, and is definitely a style of Chardonnay for those who like it fresh, rather then rich and round. Within this mould, Yattarna is a first-rate example, with layers of apple and grapefruit, as well as toast and a touch of freshly-struck match, a result of extended lees contact in new French oak.

5. The Mira Chardonnay

• Producer: Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards

• Region: Stellenbosch

• Country: South Africa

• Grape variety:

• ABV: 13.5%

• Vintage: 2018

• Closure: Cork

• Approx. retail price: £30

• Medal: Gold

Judging by the consistent excellent performance of the Chardonnays from Uva Mira in the Global Masters, this is one of world’s top producers of wines from this grape. Both The Mira and Single Tree expressions picked up Gold medal scores in 2020’s competition, and whichever you opt for, you can expect to be delighted by the intensity and balance of its Chardonnays. My slight preference is for The Mira, which sources grapes from across the Uva Mira estate in Stellenbosch, simply because it has a touch more depth than the Single Tree, which is from one vineyard. Considering the former, you can expect flavours of buttercream, cashew nut and peach, along with a crisp character, like freshly-sliced apple, bringing a lift to this textured white wine.

4. La Masia Chardonnay

• Producer: Marimar Estate

• Region: Green Valley

• Country: USA

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 13.5%

• Vintage: 2017

• Closure: Cork

• Approx. retail price: £30

• Medal: Master

Taking grapes grown in Sonoma County’s Green Valley AVA is this exceptional Chardonnay from Marimar Estate, which is owned by Spain-based wine group Torres. Gaining one of the few Master medals in 2020 – awarded only for the ultimate wines – it has a delicious range of barrel-fermented Chardonnay flavours from pineapple, melon and tangerine, to butterscotch, cream and nuts, and while it’s quite rich in texture, it does exhibit the cleansing acidity that makes top Sonoma County Chardonnays so lovely to drink.

3. The Barn Chardonnay

• Producer: Kenwood Vineyards

• Region: Sonoma County

• Country: USA

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 13.8%

• Vintage: 2018

• Closure: Cork

• Approx. retail price: £50

• Medal: Master

Proof that Sonoma County is one of the world’s great sources of Chardonnay comes with yet another outstanding white wine from this area of California. Hailing from Kenwood Vineyards, this flagship Chardonnay called ‘The Barn’ uses grapes from the producer’s best sites in the Sonoma Coast AVA to craft a wine with layers of flavour from peach to citrus, along with characters of cashew and spongecake from the new French oak used to mature the wine. Although it’s a creamy style of Chardonnay, it does have a precise nature too, making it both ripe and refreshing.

2. Stonestreet Estate Chardonnay

• Producer: Stonestreet Winery

• Region: Alexander Valley

• Country: USA

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 14.5%

• Vintage: 2016

• Closure: Cork

• Approx. retail price: £70

• Medal: Master

Here is a magnificent wine from the Jackson family, the people behind America’s best-selling Chardonnay, Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve. Using grapes from the group’s Stonestreet Winery in the stunning Alexander Valley, an AVA within Sonoma County, it is a delicious example of a classic, richly-textured Chardonnay, with flavours from buttercream, toasted marshmallow, along with ripe peach and pear fruit. It also has a touch of fresh apple on the finish, and this appealing mix of characters linger for a long time after you’ve sipped it – a hallmark of any great wine.

1. Capensis

• Producer: Capensis

• Region: Western Cape

• Country: South Africa

• Grape variety: Chardonnay

• ABV: 13.5%

• Vintage: 2016

• Closure: Cork

• Approx. retail price: £90

• Medal: Master

My highest scorer in this year’s Global Chardonnay Masters hailed from South Africa. Capensis is a relatively new top-end white from the Western Cape, made by California’s Chardonnay experts, Jackson Family Wines, in partnership with Antony Beck of Graham Beck Wines. It’s outstanding, mixing creamy, toasty oak, and peach and apple fruit with the perfect Chardonnay texture: it’s soft and rich as it hits the tongue, zesty and bright as it slips down the throat, with a lovely lingering note of freshly roasted nuts. It’s not cheap, at close to £100, but when viewed relative to the price of grand cru white Burgundy, which Capensis would rival for quality, it’s doesn’t seem so expensive either.

About the competition

The wines featured above were the top-scoring entries from The Global Chardonnay Masters 2020, which was held in December at 28-50 Wine Bar and Kitchen in Covent Garden, London. It was judged by David Round MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW and Patrick Schmitt MW.

If you think you deserve a place in this list, then please visit The Global Masters website for more information, call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

Read more

The best wines from the Chardonnay Masters 2020

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