Cheers! Wine Consultants

Be choosy when choosing a wine to age

By Dan & Krista Stockman


Last week, we told you about how most wines are already aged for you, so you should drink them within six months of purchase.

But what about those special bottles from special years you want to save for a special occasion that’s years – or even decades – away?

It is, after all, an amazing experience to open, say, a bottle from your birth year. Or on your 10th anniversary to open a bottle from the year you were married. Even if the wine is past its prime it can still make the moment that much more special – because each vintage is a unique expression of that year’s weather combined with the soil and the winemaker’s craft. There will never be another year exactly the same.

But as we said last week, you can’t just grab a bottle of your favorite Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay at the grocery store and throw it in the basement and expect it to be good in 20 years.

If you want to age a wine, you need to specifically choose a wine that will age.

[Of course, in wine there are always exceptions: For example, we saved bottles of Tosti Asti Spumante from the toast at our wedding reception to drink on our 1st and 5th anniversaries. We knew it wasn’t meant to age, and it didn’t. But even that ambered, nearly flat sparkler was still very special and brought back wonderful memories.]

So how do you choose a wine that will age? First, you should know which wines are known for their aging ability and choose from within those categories. French Bordeaux will age beautifully, as will French Bourgogne (both red and white), vintage French Champagne and the French dessert wine, Sauternes. Italian Barolos have been known to age effortlessly for many decades, as will vintage Port.

That, of course, is not at all an exclusive list: Many Napa wines are meant to age, as are many Spanish reds, and the list goes on and on. The point is some of them (not all) are meant to age. So if you’re in the market for a bottle to lie down for a decade or two, keep your eye open when you’re at wineries or wine stores where the staff is very knowledgeable.

Of course the easiest way to look for these wines is online. Stores like Premier Cru in San Francisco sell Bordeaux futures every year, where you can order the wine while it’s still in the barrel in France. The reviews of each one include experts’ opinions on how long they will age, which lets you browse by year and select from the wines that meet your criteria. If you already have a specific wine in mind, you can search Cellar Tracker, which not only gives you aging estimates, but reviews from users so you can see how it’s drinking now – handy for knowing when to open a wine at its peak.

So what does this look like in action? Well, let us tell you: A few weeks ago, Dan saw a 2010 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, an Italian Super Tuscan, at Costco. He knew this would be a fabulous wine and would age well. It also happens that Krista’s sister was married in 2010. So Dan called our brother-in-law and said, “I know this is way more than you would normally spend on wine, but it won’t get any cheaper and you’ll be able to age this wine up to 30 years.”

Jason agreed that it would be a good buy. What better way to celebrate say your 25th anniversary than with a fabulous wine from the year you were married? And, because we’ll surely want to celebrate, too, we picked up a bottle for ourselves. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Over the years, we have picked up lots of wines from 2000, the year we were married. Some have aged better than others. And, it’s getting harder and harder to find wines from at a price we can afford. We’ve also collected wines from 2004 and 2006, the years our children were born. With those, we tend to buy two of each, just in case they don’t want to share with us when they reach legal drinking age.

The important thing with buying wines to age is a) know what you’re doing, which is pretty easy these days with the Internet and b) be willing to open it at some point. It will do no good to buy a wine to age and then never drink it. Know when it will be at its prime and then enjoy it! That’s why you bought it in the first place, right? Open the bottle, remember the good times and dream about the future. That’s what it’s all about.

Next time, we’ll get into the details of how – and why – Dan chose the Sassicaia.