Ask A Sommelier: How Does Margaret River Chardonnay Age?
By Estate Sommelier Evan Gill
At Vasse Felix you may think we talk ad nauseam about the incredible drinking window our Cabernet Sauvignon offers. But did you know that we also espouse the ageability of our Chardonnays? Estate Sommelier Evan Gill explains.
Crafted with the utmost care - hand harvested, whole-bunch pressed, transferred to barrique as full solids juice for wild fermentation, and matured on lees in barrel for several months - these complex and powerful, yet balanced and seamless Chardonnays possess all the attributes required for cellaring.
Over time, these Chardonnays develop a vibrant golden hue and a long, persistent and softer mouthfeel as crisp, mineral acidity softens and their notable length (palate persistence) extends. Powerful and fresh primary fruit notes slowly merge, evolve and fade towards baked or dried notes whilst the secondary (from the wild ferment, maturation in fine French oak, battonage and full or partial malolactic fermentation) and mild tertiary notes (from oxygen ingress over time) become more prominent.
In general, the Heytesbury Chardonnay with less than seven years in bottle will offer primary aromas as the dominating flavour profile, though in a wine as complex as this, secondary characters such as vanilla, breadcrumb, dough, pie crust and even lamb fat are often evident at this young age. After more than seven years in bottle, the primary and secondary notes are joined by more tertiary characters, often in the form of hazelnut, cashew, almond meal and even nougat.
The same general ageing characteristics can be expected of the Vasse Felix Chardonnay, though within a time frame of (give or take) four years in bottle. With its slightly plumper and richer profile and portion of Bernard clonal selections, this wine tends to develop slightly quicker than the tauter and more powerful Heytesbury. In both examples, whilst the pristine, primary grapefruit, apple and stonefruit notes of youth fade slowly into the background both wines remain supremely well balanced as they age.
Balance is key for any Chardonnay you are considering for the cellar. In my experience, any imbalance will only be highlighted more with time spent in bottle, no matter how good the storage conditions.
This brings me to my final point; wine maturation is an organic process which is very dependent on the conditions of cellaring. However, given the incredible consistency of Margaret River’s vintages, the expertise of our winemaking team and the fact our wines are sealed with screwcap, our Chardonnays offer unparalleled consistency of ageing. The only question then becomes; how patient are you?