6 Alternative Grapes for Chardonnay Enthusiasts
Our love for Chardonnay runs deep. The grape’s versatile nature and serious malleability lead to a variety of wine styles and flavor profiles that always keep us wanting more. However, as much as we love this delicious grape, there’s a whole world of white wine just waiting to be discovered. We’ve rounded up six alternative grape varieties that Chardonnay enthusiasts are certain to love. Get your glasses ready to explore something new!
For fans of fuller-bodied expressions of Chardonnay, we recommend diving into the world of Viognier. Although slightly lower in acid, these fruit-forward wines are loaded with unctuous notes of fleshy stone fruit, honey, and sweet spice. Grab one to drink now (Monier-Pérreol IGP Collines Rhodaniennes) and another to lay down in the cellar (anything from André Perret) to see these wines’ amazing ageworthy potential for yourself.
Chablis more your style? Then Chenin Blanc will satisfy your craving. These acid-driven wines are juicy, mineral-laden, and seriously reflective of the place from which they come. Chenin Blanc is known for its flavors of green apples, crushed rocks, and citrus zest -- similar to the notes found in our favorite bottles from northern Burgundy. For lean and racy expressions, check out the wines of Brendan Stater-West. For weightier examples, look to Château Yvonne or Thibaud Boudignon.
Never heard of Garganega? Get ready to fall in love. Although Chardonnay thrives in most growing regions around the world, there are truthfully very few Italian expressions worth drinking. Thankfully, Italy is home to a plethora of exciting varieties that are native to its soils. Garganega hails from the country’s northeasterly Veneto region and is the backbone to the region’s famed Soave wines. Known for their palate-coating flavors of melon, citrus zest, and honeysuckle, these bottles are certain to please an array of palate preferences.
As prices for Chardonnay-based White Burgundy continue to rise, seeking out value-driven alternatives is key. We recommend looking to Burgundy’s lesser-known white grape, Aligoté, for a delicious solution. Think of this grape as Chardonnay’s leaner and tangier cousin. Aligoté-based wines are known for their flavors of pear skin, apple, white flowers, and smoke. If you love unoaked expressions of Chardonnay, you’re going to adore these wines. Best of all, Aligoté also provides affordable access to some of Burgundy’s biggest names, including Dominique Lafon and Aubert de Villaine.
For those who enjoy more ‘middle of the road’ styles of Chardonnay, we recommend exploring the world of Godello. These well-balanced wines are usually vinified with careful oak integration, and their high amounts of natural acid keep the juice in check. Godello-based wines are palate-coating, balanced, and loaded with flavors of salty yellow plums, quince, and crushed stones. Serve with lobster rolls, raw bar favorites, or traditional Spanish tapas for an out-of-this-world experience.
Like Chardonnay, Sémillon can be a bit all over the flavor spectrum. When vinified on its own, these wines tend to be lower in acid, rich on the palate, and loaded with flavors of yellow fruit and sweet spice. When blended with Sauvignon Blanc (a la Bordeaux Blanc style), the wines tend to be crisper and more refreshing. For fans of Chablis and unoaked Chards, we recommend seeking out the latter (New World Chardonnay fans, you’ll likely love monovarietal bottlings).
For a sweet taste of liquid gold, check out the Sémillon-based dessert wines of Sauternes and Barsac. These wines are perfect for sipping after dinner and are certain to blow your mind.