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Chardonnay, the classic wine that transforms with time

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.

Terroirs of the Granite Belt


2010 Settlers Rise chardonnay on a crimson backgroundWhat makes the Terroirs of the Granite Belt Aged Reserve Chardonnay special?

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.

Ageing Chardonnay Infographic



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

Why age wines – and how to do it right

Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith explains why and when you should age wines, along with tips on how to age wine successfully.

In the world of wine, it has been said that ‘great wine needs time’. Many age-worthy wines are released and consumed too young and well before they have reached optimal maturity. It’s a delicate balance between patience and anticipation. In this blog, we’ll explore why, when, and how to age wine like a connoisseur. Whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast or someone just starting to appreciate the nuances of wine, we will guide you through the basics, helping you to unlock the unique flavours that come with a bit of patience.

Why should you age wine?

Enjoy wines at their peak

Age-worthy wines will evolve and mature, reaching their peak drinking window after some time in the bottle. Unlike consuming them immediately after bottling, ageing allows the wines to develop in complexity and result in a more integrated and refined wine in the glass, showcasing the winemaker’s vision.

Tame tannins and acidity

Wines high in tannin or acidity at bottling can benefit from ageing. The ageing process softens acidity and allows tannins to integrate, resulting in a smoother and more well-balanced wine.

Enhance by barrel or bottle ageing

It’s not just about how long you age wine but also where it is aged. Winemakers may choose to age wine in oak barrels to impart flavours like nuts and coffee, from micro-oxidation as well as from the oak. New oak will result in stronger oak flavours compared to old oak which will have a more neutral impact on the wine. Ageing wine in bottles allows the tertiary flavours to shine. Many winemakers will choose a combination of barrel and then bottle ageing to craft the final wine flavour profile.

Develop tertiary flavours

The ageing process enables a range of unique tertiary flavours to develop in the wine – the longer the wine ages, the more the flavours will evolve. White wines can mature into flavours like marmalade, ginger and honey, while red wines can develop into flavours like figs, tar, leather and earth.

When should you age wine? 

Choose quality over quantity

When ageing wine, it isn’t necessarily about the number of years; it’s important to remember that ‘more doesn’t always equal better’. Only age a wine if the wine itself will be enhanced by age and the end result in the glass will be a better experience for the person enjoying it. If tertiary flavours won’t enhance the wine, then it’s better to release and drink the wine after it is bottled. The same is true when deciding how long to age a wine, which we will explore in the next section.

Choose the right variety 

Different grape varieties have different ageing potential based on their acidity, tannins, and flavour intensity. Light, fruit-forward wines like Rosé, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc don’t tend to age well, while high-acid or tannic wines like Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon can evolve and get better with time. 

This handy infographic shows how the flavours of these common age-worthy varieties evolve during the ageing process.

Read more about the flavour evolution of the Terroirs of the Granite Belt 2010 Aged Reserve Chardonnay and the 2008 Aged Reserve Shiraz.

Terroirs of the Granite Belt


Aged Wine Infographic showing how the flavours of these common age-worthy varieties evolve during the ageing process


How long should you age wine?

White wine vs. red wine

When thinking about how long to cellar your wine, remember that white wines typically don’t age as long as red wines. This is because they’re (generally) not fermented on their grape skins so they have less tannin in the wine, which reduces the overall ageing potential, there are some white varieties which are exceptions.

A matter of personal preference

It’s also important to consider your personal preferences in terms of flavour characteristics. If you enjoy the flavours common in aged wines, then you can comfortably cellar your wine towards the higher end of the ageing window, however, if you only want subtle aged flavour characteristics, then open and enjoy your wine when it’s in the younger end.

Timing is everything

If you are ageing wines, make sure you remember to open them within their optimal drinking window. There is nothing more disappointing than patiently waiting for years (sometimes many years!) to open a special bottle of wine, only to find it has spoiled or is well past its best. You can use a spreadsheet or other cellar management tool to track which wines to drink and when.

Some general guidelines 

If you aren’t sure how long to age a wine, we’ve put together some general guidelines based on common red and white varieties. Remember though that ageing potential will vary based on each individual wine, the winemaking methods, the region  and vintage variation.

Ageing guidelines infographic for red whine and white wine varietals

How should you age wine?

Ideal cellaring conditions 

Successful ageing requires a carefully controlled environment. For the best results, the cellar should be:

  • Kept at a consistent temperature (11 to 14°C). Choose a cooler temperature if you’re wanting to age it for longer.
  • Mainly dark with limited if any light source
  • Away from any vibrations or movement
  • Humidity controlled. Maintain over 70% humidity for cork or long term ageing screw caps. Standard screw caps don’t require humidity control. 

The importance of ideal cellaring conditions 

These conditions may seem a bit over the top but each of them serve an important purpose and reduce the potential of spoiling your special wines.

  • Keeping the wines cool will avoid heat damage to the wine from fluctuating temperatures or hot temperatures which can ‘cook’ the wine and dull the flavours. Common pitfalls are storing wines near washing machines, cars and stovetops which are all heat sources and cause regular fluctuations in the temperature around them. How many times have you seen wine stored in the laundry, garage or kitchen … these are not suitable locations.
  • Keeping the wines in a dark location will avoid light strike which is when UV or blue light transforms the amino acids in wine into compounds that smell like damp cardboard or old cabbage.
  • Keeping the wines away from sources of vibration reduces the damage that vibration causes when it leads to a decrease in tartaric and succinic acids, causing a reduction in esters, which dulls flavours.
  • Keeping the wines in a humidity controlled environment avoids drying out the cork which can compromise the wine and lead to early oxidation of the wine. Ageing wines under screw cap will help avoid this potential issue.


The art of ageing wine creates an elevated drinking experience, allowing the wine to develop and evolve over time. The choice to age a wine depends on the wine’s characteristics, and proper storage is crucial. Settlers Rise embraces this process, offering carefully cellared aged reserve wines released at their optimal drinking window. We have aged the wine for you, so you don’t have to. 

The price of patience 

Aged wines can often come with a higher price tag due to the additional time, cellaring and storage costs, not to mention delayed revenue for the winery. At Settlers Rise we invest in the meticulous care required for ageing, resulting in exceptional and sought-after vintages of reserve wines cellared for 10 to 15 years before release.

Find out more about our Terroirs of the Granite Belt aged reserve Chardonnay and Shiraz.

Terroirs of the Granite Belt

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