Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith explains why cool climate Chardonnay from the Granite Belt transforms with time into an exceptional aged white wine, which can be paired with a wide variety of predominantly earthy dishes.
Have you ever wondered whether any white wine will improve over time? Join Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith in this detailed exploration into specifically why cool climate Chardonnay transforms with time into an exceptional aged white that can be paired with a wide variety of dishes. Learn about the key factors that contribute to successful wine ageing, along with the influence of the vineyard, strategic winemaking decisions, bottle closures and cellaring conditions on a wine’s ageing potential. And most importantly, debunk the common misconception that white wines lack ageing capabilities. The oldest wine that Domaine Bouchard et Fils hold deep in the Beaune cellar is a Chardonnay from the 1840s, not red.
What does a wine need in order to age?
When it comes to successfully ageing wine, let’s start with the three key components — tannins, acidity and residual sugar. Tannins (the phenolic compounds found in grape skins, seeds and stems) function as natural antioxidants. They slow down oxidation, protecting a wine’s aromatic and flavour profile over time. Acidity, takes on the role of a freshening agent, maintaining the structural integrity that underpins a wine’s ageing potential. Residual sugar can also act as a preservative, which is why dessert wines are exceptionally famous for their ageability. In the case of dry Chardonnay here there is no sugar but often alcohol sweetness.
The vineyard also plays an important role. Wines made from vineyards located in cool climate regions and from grapes strategically harvested early, will naturally have higher acidity which will contribute to the longevity of the wine. Peter does not practise malolactic fermentation, which serves to deacidify freshly-fermented grape juice. He prefers natural preservation.
In the winery, several winemaking techniques can further shape a wine’s ultimate ageing potential. The use of oak for fermentation or ageing can increase and integrate tannins, while fermenting on lees adds complexity and texture to the final wine, fostering complexity.
Bottle closures, whether cork or screw cap, play a part in the ageing journey. Cork’s permeability to controlled oxygen accelerates development and bottle variability, whereas screw caps, airtight in nature, impede it. Current technical closures may deliberately admit prescribed micro amounts of oxygen but not in the case of Peter’s winemaking.
And finally, ideal cellaring conditions are crucial to successfully ageing a wine. Wines need cool temperatures, darkness, stability and humidity control in order to transform to their full potential over time in the bottle.
Want to know more about ideal cellaring conditions? Check out our blog on ‘Why Age Wines And How To Do It Right’.
Can you age white wine?
Contrary to a common misconception, the ageing potential of wine extends beyond the realms of reds, and white wines can mature into elegant, aged wines. Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Sémillon stand out as age-worthy varieties.
Take Chardonnay, for instance, particularly those from the Adelaide Hills, like Penfolds Bin A. Chardonnay’s high tannins (distinct from red wine tannins) and pronounced acidity set the stage for a remarkable ageing journey. This producer’s Chardonnays are just so good, and many are sold with up to 8-10 years of bottle age.
Similarly, Riesling, famed for its strong acid spine, particularly in regions like Clare Valley, undergoes a unique transformation, developing kerosene and petrol notes as it matures.
Meanwhile, Hunter Valley Semillon, renowned for its honeyed flavours and ridiculously low alcohol (9.5-11%) exemplifies the ageing potential of this white grape.
In the dessert wine realm, Sauternes from Bordeaux — crafted from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot — stands out. Its high sugar content and balancing acidity allow it to gracefully age for 40-plus years.
What makes Granite Belt Chardonnay so suited for ageing?
When grown in the Granite Belt (Queensland), Chardonnay demonstrates the unique balance between grape and terroir. The cool climate, elevated terrain — ranking among Australia’s top three highest regions — and the distinctive granite soils create an ideal environment. Here, the fruit avoids overripening, preserving a crisp acidity that has become the Granite Belt’s signature. This acidity combined with Chardonnay’s high natural tannins makes Granite Belt Chardonnay ideally suited for ageing.
Find out more about our Terroirs of the Granite Belt aged reserve Chardonnay and Shiraz.
An Aged Reserve Chardonnay, like the Terroirs of the Granite Belt, is a rare find. Most wines are either consumed soon after their release or just don’t have the key components required to age gracefully.
This Chardonnay — meticulously crafted by Peter Scudamore-Smith MW; from two distinct vineyards, north and south of Stanthorpe — has transformed with time.
The successful ageing stems from the natural acidity and tannins combined with the deliberate use of natural yeast and 8 months of barrel ageing with no lees stirring. The result is a light to medium bodied Chardonnay that is elegant and pairs exceptionally well with a range of dishes.
What does the Terroirs of the Granite Belt Aged Reserve Chardonnay taste like?
On the nose, this cool climate Chardonnay now shows its true mature character, with no remaining aromas of oak. The developed tertiary aromas and flavours of wheat, bread crust and mushroom are now in focus. The primary fruit aromas are there but instead of zesty lemons and limes, they have evolved into citrus marmalade. There is a lingering bright lemon acidity on the palate with a long dry finish. The wine is understated, never too exuberant, and in sync with its granite terroir — exactly what you’d expect from cool climate Chardonnay with substantial bottle age.
Read the detailed tasting profile for our 2010 Terroirs of the Granite Belt Aged Reserve Chardonnay.
What food pairs with aged Chardonnay?
The bright acidity and elegant flavours found in aged Chardonnay of marmalade, crème brulee and fresh bread are a perfect pairing for a wide range of dishes, such as:
- Creamy dishes (e.g. Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce)
- Ham or bacon dishes (e.g. traditional Spaghetti Carbonara)
- Mushroom dishes (e.g. Garlic Mushrooms)
- Cheese by itself (e.g. soft ripened styles).
Aged Chardonnay can also be a unique alternative to traditional red wine pairings such as Beef Burgundy due to its texture, complexity and crisp acidity. And indeed, also with dry aged beef cuts, as the long time maturing of sealed primal cuts reduces the taste and flavour of the red meat to a subtle nuttiness and sweet juicy notes which are dominated by red wines (if paired). Always pair these with a substantially-flavoured white.
Now that we have debunked the myth that white wines lack the ability to age, you are likely keen to explore some examples of aged white wines. In terms of Chardonnay, a great place to start is examples from the Adelaide Hills, such as Penfolds Bin A or from Margaret River, for example the famous Leeuwin Estate; and examples from the Granite Belt, such as Terroirs of the Granite Belt.
You can find out more about how Granite Belt Chardonnay ages from Peter Scudamore-Smith MW by watching this video: Ageing Granite Belt Chardonnay Profile