March 31, 2021 | by Maggie Kruse

A well-crafted wine continues to develop over time. Its personality evolves in a way that leads to increased aromatic complexity and texture. The success of aging Chardonnay relies primarily on its acidity and the evidence of tannin in the winemaking process.

When aging the Queen of white wine, acidity acts as a natural preservative and refers to the inherent citric acid level evident in the grapes at the time of harvest. Jordan’s winemaking team works diligently to pick Chardonnay grapes from our Sonoma County vineyards at just the right time in order to achieve an acid balance that will create a wine built to endure. Tannins are those naturally occurring preservative compounds found in the wood of oak trees and the stems, skins and seeds of wine grapes. Unlike red winemaking, white wines are not typically fermented with their stems, skins and seeds so the evidence of tannin is usually less prevalent. Burgundian-style Chardonnays, such as Jordan, as well as more full-bodied white wines, enjoy tannins from the use of fine French oak barrels in the winemaking process, creating structure and longevity, which allows it to better age.

Does Chardonnay Age Well?

The answer to this question depends greatly on the style and quality of the wine. Top Chardonnays from California and France aged in fine oak can be cellared for several years, though most American white wines are consumed within 1-2 years of their release. If you plan on aging Chardonnay, be sure to take into consideration that different styles of white wines enjoy different aging potential, and while most white wines do not age as gracefully as their fuller-bodied red counterparts, some white wines do greatly benefit from bottle age. For example, a bottle of Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay is delicious in its youth at 1-3 years, as well as at full maturity of 5-7 years old, while unoaked whites, such as Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, are meant to be consumed shortly after release and do not typically benefit from cellaring.

Find the Right Environment for Cellaring Chardonnay

To start your wine cellar, designate a cool, not-too-damp, not-too-dry area in your home that is out of direct sunlight and stocked with simple wine shelves. When considering where to store your Chardonnay, avoid locations in the kitchen, laundry room or boiler room, where hot temperatures and excessive vibration could negatively affect both white and red wines. Most importantly, find a place where the overall temperature is least likely to fluctuate—the key to successfully preserving white wine is an environment wherein the wine can rest quietly and undisturbed at an even, cool temperature. The best locations are usually under a bed, on the floor in a coat closet or in a temperature-controlled basement. The ideal environment for storing both white and red wines has a consistent humidity and maintains a temperature of 45-65 degrees (55 degrees is optimal). While Chardonnay wine is often served chilled, note that the temperature for storing white wine does not need to be as cool as the typical serving temperature. Purchasing a wine cooler with temperature and humidity controls helps to achieve the best wine storage conditions.

Position for Aging Chardonnay

The way in which wine bottles are stored is vital to their longevity. Aging Chardonnay bottles on their sides will ensure the wine rests against its cork. This practice creates a liquid barrier between the wine and the cork and helps to prevent the cork from drying out. Cellaring white wine in a location with a consistent humidity of 50-80 percent will also help to keep the corks inside resting bottles from becoming too dry.

Size Matters with Wine Bottles

The size of a wine bottle affects the Chardonnay aging process and thus the cellaring potential. Magnums and other large-format bottles enjoy an increased volume of wine resting in its glass vessel. This offers more stability from outside forces, such as heat and light, causing the evolution of flavors that take place during aging to be slowed down.

Pouring Jordan Chardonnay at a beautifully set table

When to Drink Chardonnay

At Jordan, we believe that the right moment for when to drink Chardonnay, or any bottle of wine, is guided by two factors: Individual preference and the range of expressions that fine white wines take on throughout the aging process. Most California Chardonnays are ready to be enjoyed upon release or within 1-3 years of the vintage date. White wines of balance like Jordan, with lower alcohol and brighter acidity, can be cellared and appreciated for 5-7 years after harvest.

Each vintage of Jordan Chardonnay is crafted in an elegant style—delightfully drinkable in its youth and delicious over time. The bright acidity and balance, hallmarks of our winemaker’s style, allow the wines to evolve beautifully with age.

Depending on your personal preferences, you may want to experiment with aging Jordan Chardonnay for about three years under optimal cellaring conditions. Up to five years after release, our Chardonnay shows hints of crisp green fruit and racy citrus. About seven years after the vintage, ripe Fuji apple, melon, quince and light stone fruit flavors are evident. Caramel, butterscotch and eventually sherry-like characters emerge up to 10 years after release. For an inside look at some of our older vintages of Chardonnay, watch our Jordan Uncorked video series.