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Hate Buttery Chardonnay? Try These and Get Back to Us

Hate Buttery Chardonnay? Try These and Get Back to Us

Few topics are as divisive in the wine world as buttery Chardonnay. The wine’s creamy quality is the product of malolactic conversion, a technique involving the introduction of bacteria, which lowers acidity. The resulting wine delivers a softer, creamier mouthfeel and, of course, a distinctively buttery flavor.

Some folks absolutely hate it. In our April 2023 print issue, Marshall Tilden III, the head of the Wine Enthusiast Academy, Wine Enthusiast’s WSET education program, came out swinging against buttery Chard, albeit judiciously. “[Unlike] other, and more simple white varietals, the complexities of Chardonnay stand strong on their own without needing to soften, or transform, the flavor profile,” he said at the time. Although malolactic conversion “can round out the acidity, softening the wine on the palate, I much prefer a Chard with searing acidity that has me craving a second sip.”

You May Also Like: The Essential Guide to Chardonnay

On the other side of the spectrum, however, the style isn’t hurting for fans. “Sometimes, there’s no substitute for the decadence of a barrel-aged Chardonnay,” says Writer-at-Large Tom Capo, who reviews Sonoma County wines. “There’s a certain voluptuousness to well-made buttery Chardonnay that just hits different—especially during crab season. The velvety mouthfeel and rounded flavors of this style of Chardonnay accentuate the texture of succulent crab meat.”

Writer-at-Large Michael Alberty, who reviews wines from Washington State, Oregon and Canada, similarly adores buttery Chards, but with a caveat. “I look for Chardonnays that provide a bit of butter without making me feel like I’ve licked the bottom of a Land O’Lakes tub,” he says. “I’m in heaven if I find a Chardonnay that combines butter with elevated acidity.” Superlative examples are a match for fare like crab cakes and blackened catfish.

This is all to say: Even those with a preference for buttery styles have their limits. It’s key to find one with a balanced flavor profile, which describes all the buttery Chardonnays on this list. Hailing from Sonoma County to Napa to Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton AVA and beyond, these bottlings hit the sweet spot between butter bomb and nose-searing acidity.

Hendry 2021 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

Creamy but complex, this elegant wine made from mature vines glides across the palate, sharing subtle oak smoke, toasted almond, butter and Bosc pear flavors in fascinating layers. Silky in texture, nicely dry and long on the finish, the wine is something for a special occasion with a great meal. Editor’s Choice. 96 Points   — J.G.


Lombardi 2020 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

Creaminess in the texture and deftly layered flavors give this extraordinary wine an almost irresistible attraction. So light but so rich at the same time, the wine offers vanilla, butter, poached pears and hints of caramel and toast, while the finish is delicious and lingering. Great for a special occasion. 95 Points   — J.G.

$ Varies

Knights Bridge 2021 KB Chardonnay (Sonoma County)

This smooth and silky wine emphasizes delicious apple and pear flavors, keeping the buttery, oaky notes in the background for a complex and harmonious effect. Granny Smith apples and Bosc pears meet mild vanilla, toast and almond flavors that linger through the finish. Editor’s Choice. 94 Points   — J.G.


Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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