Which White Wines Are Worthy of Ageing

Most red wines are created for maturation. But did you know that certain types of white wine like Chenin Blanc really shine after years of careful ageing?

Which White Wines Are Worthy of Ageing

To open and enjoy right away, or to age and savour later? While it’s generally accepted that rosé wines are best enjoyed young and fresh, wine lovers are increasingly discovering types of white wine that are ideal for ageing.

 

How Does Wine Mature?

As wine matures, it transforms through an intricate process of physical and chemical changes. Key factors include oxygen exposure, temperature, humidity, and light exposure, while the grape cultivar and style of wine also affect its ageing potential.

As they have a higher tannin content, red wines are more often matured than whites. While most white wines are consumed within hours of purchase, certain types of white wine (think Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier and white dessert wines) have excellent maturation potential.

Read our handy guide for tips on wine storage and maturing wine at home.

Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay are both white wine varietals that age really well.

 

The Three Types of Wine Aromas

 

Primary Aromas

These are fruity and floral scents (also known as bouquets) that come from the grape varieties themselves.

 

Secondary Aromas

These scents stem from the winemaking process and can include aromas developed or accentuated through various fermentation methods or techniques. For example, whole bunch fermentation (which exposes the wine to stalks along with the grape seeds and skins), malolactic fermentation, barrel fermentation or aspects like time spent on the lees.

 

Tertiary Aromas

These are scents and flavours that develop as a wine matures.

 

As wine ages, primary and secondary aromas change, soften and integrate into new, more complex aromas known as tertiary aromas. An aged red wine might have hints of forest floor, while matured whites can develop notes of honey, nut or mushroom.

 

More About Wine Aromas

In a new wine, primary flavours are usually at the fore (think stone fruit and citrus in Chenin Blanc, apricot in Viognier, and citrus and orchard fruit in Chardonnay). Secondary aromas may also be present, such as creaminess resulting from malolactic fermentation.

As white wines age, acidity dissipates and primary fruit flavours and floral bouquets transform. Green, grassy palates become smoother and richer, while bright hues deepen to gold and amber.

Want to expand your wine-tasting skills? Read our blog Top Tips to Develop Your Wine Palate and Tasting Skills here.

 

Chardonnay is a type of white wine that can be matured for many years, even decades

 

Types of White Wine Worthy of Maturation

Let’s look at three types of white wine that warrant years of careful maturation.

 

Chardonnay

This cultivar has a relatively high acidity, which helps preserve the wine’s flavours and aromas. Chardonnay’s fruitiness can develop into more complex flavours as it ages, and maturation in oak barrels may impart flavours of vanilla, spice, and toast. Malolactic fermentation converts sharp malic acid into milder lactic acid, which lends the wine a creamier texture and rich flavours.

Read our blog to learn about the differences between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc has both a high natural acidity and sugar content, which help to preserve the wine. As it ages, this varietal can develop secondary aromas that include notes of honey and dried fruit. Chenin Blanc can also develop mineral notes, adding depth and complexity to the wine.

The Alvi’s Drift Chenin Blanc portfolio includes our internationally acclaimed Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc, award-winning 221 Chenin Blanc and our popular Signature Chenin Blanc.

 

Viognier

While not typically known for its ageing potential, as a result of its richness and flavour intensity, with age this ancient variety can develop into a more complex and fascinating wine.

 

“In the 2022 Viognier Challenge, we were up against barrel-matured Viogniers that retail for more than double the price of ours. We entered a wine bottled fresh and far less costly and it was crowned the best Viognier in South Africa.” – Alvi van der Merwe

 

Although not as noted for its acidity as Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay, Viognier still has sufficient acidity to preserve the wine as it ages. With its peach, honey and apricot flavours and spice and floral aromas, Viogniers often become more nuanced with age.

Our Signature Viognier wine boasts intense forthcoming aromas of ripe yellow peach, stewed apple and hints of jasmine and spice. Learn more about this unique wine here.

 

White Dessert Wines

Due to their high acidity and sugar content, dessert wines age gracefully, developing complex flavours and aromas as they mature. Our multi-award-winning Alvi’s Drift Muscat Nectarinia (made from Muscat de Frontignan, or, as we are now required to call it – Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains) with its profusion of ripe pineapple, grape, and marmalade as well as notes of caramel and exotic spice is a beautiful example of such a wine.

 

Exploring White Wine Maturation

 

“Our Chenin Blanc wines age beautifully because there’s a bit more alcohol at 13.5%, and so much primary fruit. Just decant and allow the wine to aerate a bit before drinking. Don’t be scared of enjoying any of our 2021 Chenin Blancs in 2023. In fact, I would advise people to try it!” - Alvi van der Merwe

 

A fun way to compare white wine vintages is hosting an annual vertical wine tasting at home.

Buy six bottles of the same age-worthy white wine, such as Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc. Enjoy three bottles, and store three bottles away. Repeat this process with the same wine the following year, comparing the vintages. Make this an annual event – your broadening wine palate will thank you!

Want to host your own casual wine tasting at home? Read our blog to learn all you need to know.

 

Shop Our Award-Winning South African Wines

Browse our online shop to find all your favourite Alvi’s Drift wines. Orders over R1 800 will be delivered to your door at no charge.

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