I’m often asked, “Why should I cellar wine?” Now, we’re not talking about a well-stocked shelf of bottles to pull from or a Eurocave filled with your favorite juice. We’re talking about a wine cellar filled with vintages that are left to sit for years or decades in perfect, cool, moist, dark, vibration-free harmony. The answer is simple to me; for provenance and value.
You see, there are plenty of older bottles of wine around the world. Some sat in someone’s well-maintained cellar, but most did not. There are simply very few ways to ascertain that a bottle was treated perfectly throughout its life. How do you know it was bought at the cellar door and not a closeout at the corner liquor store after five years of sitting on a retail shelf with a hot bulb shining down on it each day? Some retailers and auction houses go through extremes to declare the healthy provenance of their older bottles, some do not. It’s a minefield, really, and that’s without considering the possibility of forgery, like when you taste that bottle of traditionally-styled Barolo, and it reeks of new oak. “Hmm, how’d that get in there?”
After considering all of this, having your own wine cellar starts to make a lot of sense. You bought the wine on release. You put the bottles in the cellar. You painfully restrained yourself from opening them early. Now that’s provenance, and you get to sit back with a perfectly mature bottle of wine that you bought and cared for.
Good thing too, because you can’t find this bottle anywhere else at retail and if you could it would cost a pretty penny. Then you think about how you only paid $20 for this piece of mature vinous perfection. Oh yeah, that’s the other reason why you should cellar wine; value.
The fact is that wine is a great investment, both for monetary value and consumption. If you love mature wine, then you know what I mean. Today, I pay prices for older bottles that are five to twenty times what the bottle cost on release. Some of that is inflation, but most of it is appreciation. There’s only so much of it to go around. The stock of every bottle is constantly being depleted through consumption. Then there are the ones that are stored improperly by consumers and the occasional careless distributor or retailer. Once that bottle becomes rare and the current pundit sings its praise, the price goes up. Imagine how happy you’d be if you bought the 1978 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino upon release, instead of having to pay upwards of $2K for it. Imagine if you were drinking it right now, in perfect condition because you stored it yourself, and it only cost you $35. Imagine that.
A recent tasting I attended was a perfect example of these two points. A generous wine lover, who’s been putting bottles in his cellar for decades, opened a lineup of older Bordeaux. Bottles that were bought on release at a fraction of what they cost now, stored perfectly until that day. They were glorious. If I could magically put a glass in the hand of each reader, you’d all know the answer to the question, “Why should I cellar wine?”
On to the notes:
The bottles of Chateau Meyney were originally purchased at an average of $10 a bottle, while wine-searcher shows the same bottle available now for an average of $71 a piece.
1988 Chateau Meyney – At first, the nose gave off a whiff of old library books, which blew off quickly to reveal a bouquet of black raspberry, mushroom, menthol, herbs and a hint of chalk dust. On the palate, it displayed a medium body with juicy acidity that ushered in ripe red fruit and peppery notes. The finish dropped off a bit with faded red fruit, yet this was still an enjoyable aged bottle. (89 points)
1989 Chateau Meyney – The nose drew me in as it was so savory, yet sour/sweet at the same time. First, I encountered a bit of meaty broth, which quickly gave way to dark fruits, spice and a bit of browned bread. It reminded me of a freshly baked blackberry tart with floral notes rounding it out. On the palate, it was a very pretty wine, medium bodied and juicy with sour cherry, and an herbal, almost medicinal note. The finish showed fresh berries and revealed lively tannin. The ’88 Meyney is still very much alive and going places. (92 points)
1990 Chateau Meyney – The nose showed a bit of stewed tomato that, with air, turned to lively raspberry, potpourri and barrel notes. On the palate, red fruit, a little past prime, was followed up with floral stems and a saline minerality. The finish was very enjoyable with long and staying wild berries. (90 points)
The 1989 Clos D'Estournel was purchased at an average of $29 a bottle, while Wine-searcher shows the same bottle available now for an average of $235 a piece!!!
1989 Cos D’Estournel – The nose was savory and meaty with dark red fruits, sweet cinnamon spice and hint of liquor. On the palate, it was big and rich with ripe, juicy fruit and herbal tea. The finish was mouth-coating, but turned juicy with a slight medicinal note. This was a very sexy wine that was more fun to drink than to think about. (90 points)
The 1986 Cos D'Estournel and Lynch Bages were purchased at an average of $20 a bottle, while Wine-searcher shows the same bottles available now for an average of $225 a piece!!!
1986 Cos D’Estournel – The nose showed blackberry jam, sweet spices, coffee notes and freshly turned earth. On the palate, I found aged red fruits and herbs, which faded into the long juicy finish. A very fine example of aged Bordeaux made in a classic style. (92 points)
1986 Lynch Bages – The nose showed floral notes with mushrooms, old library books, a hint of wood, cherry liquor and mint. On the palate, it had a medium body with sour red fruits that turned juicy and sweet on the back end The finish was lively, yet still showed a musty hint. Unfortunately, this bottle was slightly corked. (No Score)