The ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club still has its members, but the ranks are on the wane—and with good reason. The versatile chardonnay grape is planted in almost every wine region and can result in an outstanding wine. The trick is to not over-manipulate the grape and let the terroir come through. The panel's top picks follow that axiom to the letter:
2012 Chehalem Inox Chardonnay, $21
The back label on this Oregon wine states, "No oak was harmed in the making of this wine." Many people love big, oaky chardonnays, but they can be a bit overwhelming when pairing with food. Sans oak, this wine's fruit aromas and flavors shine through. Spicy peach, pear, lime and apple come through on the nose, with bright, lively citrus in the mouth. Pair it with everything from oysters and olives to pasta and pork chops.
2013 Henri Perrusset Macon-Villages, $21
When it comes to chardonnay, French Burgundy sets the standard. This wine from the Maconnais region of southern Burgundy opens with supple tropical and stone fruit aromas. It's a beautifully balanced wine that, like the Chehalem, sees no oak. Ripe, creamy apricot flavors segue into a crisp, citrusy finish. This wine was the panel's overwhelming favorite.
2013 Oyster Bay Chardonnay, $13.99
New Zealand may be better known for its racy sauvignon blancs, but this Marlborough entry proves the country has a way with chardonnay. The wine opens with peach and tropical fruit aromas, just a touch of oak and bits of butter and bacon. Soft oak also colors the palate, melding nicely with the crisp citrus flavors. An exceptional value from Down Under.