Wine Talk

Snooth User: davendiana

Birth year bottles....which region and varietals are good agers?

Posted by davendiana, Aug 8, 2010.

Hi, I am looking to buy birth year bottles for my girls (born in '95 and '97).  Which region and varietal can hold up for 21 years before popping the cork?  I'm guessing French wines will be the most common response, but my knowledge to this region is pretty limited (primarily drink CA, WA, and Italian wines).  Also not looking to break the bank (roughly $50/btl price range).  Thanks for the help!

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Reply by CageyT, Aug 8, 2010.

I think it probably has more to do with the wine maker and varietal then the region. (although the traditions of certain regions make for longer-lived wines, ie Bordeaux, etc)... also these basics:  

The longest-lived wines are kept in subterranean caves that have fairly high humidity and a constant temperature of roughly 50 degrees

A wine must have the right characteristics to enable it to improve with bottle age. The three most important characteristics, in no particular order, are tannin, sugar and acid. Both red and white wines can have one or more of these characteristics, but red wines generally improve more from aging.

You may have noticed that a lot of sauvignon blanc bottles are made of clear glass. This is because few, if any, sauvignon blancs are made to be aged.


There's a great thread over at Chowhound on cellaring wines...http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/492962

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 8, 2010.

Somewhat wrong, more wrong, and very wrong, CageyT.

Plenty of storage that can go on in climate-controlled warehouses, wine fridges, basements, built-ins under the stairs, etc. where long-term storage can work. A cave like you mention is ideal, but most of the world gets by without them (although I wouldn't complain about having one in my backyard).

Talk to consumers of Chateau d'Yquem and some others from Sauternes and see if they think bottles from 50 years ago or more don't work. Even more so for Tokaji from Hungary. Madeira can be considered a special case because of the fortification. There you have your 'sugar', but also acid (esp. with Tokaji). I've even had 50-year-old Champagne that rocks, largely because of the carbonation. Tannins and acid are important for reds, but just as important are the grapes themselves and how the winemaker works with them.

Clear-bottle sauvignon blancs are made by idiots. Just as Corona is not a beer to be taken seriously, even though it's party-fun 'chelada'-style with a lime down its throat. Try some good SBs out of the Loire, or better yet the Graves region of Bordeaux. Tell me that a Domaine de Chevalier or similar bottle can't age 20 years or more and be great, and I'll call you wrong. Oh yeah, and note their bottles' color....

BTW, if you do a search of the Snooth forums using the query box upper right under the 'back to categories' button, you'll find several lengthy, detailed threads on 'wine storage', 'wine cellars' and the like.

I'm not trying to be a jerk about this, but just thought your theses needed some antitheses. Nothing wrong with some lively discussion, here, and I for one welcome the opportunity.

 

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Reply by davendiana, Aug 8, 2010.

Thank you for the responses.  I have a Le Cache wine cabinet, so I'm not too concerned with storage on my end.  However if for example a california cab reaches its peak lets say at 10 years (just an example, have no idea what the right number is), then how well its stored I guess would be irrelevant if I am shooting for 21 years?  Or are you saying that if the wine is stored under ideal conditions, then most reds, regardless of region, can last the 21 years?

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 8, 2010.

All that being said, davendiana, reds should make up more of your birthyear stockpile, though you should consider also including some madeiras and ports and sauternes and tokajis. As long as you pay attention to proper storage, you'll be very happy to have multiple options for birthdays, family dinners, weddings and the like in a couple of decades.

Plan on wanting/needing more than you expect right now. I have two daughters well into their 20s, neither yet married, and I'm running well short of birthyear bottles for them. And since one was born in '82 and the other in '86, it's hard to source them now to replace depletions, especially for the '82 which was a huge year with prices to match. I definitely wish now I'd bought more back then.

In California '95 was an OK to good vintage, and '97 was a little better. In Bordeaux '95 was a good vintage and '97 was only OK. Obviously the better the vintage, the longer-lived the wines will be. So go Bordeaux for the '95 and California for the '97? That's one idea, anyway, but supply/demand realities may dictate otherwise.

In Burgundy '95 was a decent year and '97 was better. In the Rhone, '95 was a very good year, and '97 was OK. In Italy, '95 was a so-so year both for the Piedmont (Barolo, Barbaresco) and Tuscany (Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico Riserva, Super Tuscans). As for Spain, '95 was a good year for Rioja, but '97 not-so-good. So perhaps Burgundy pinot noir, Piedmont or Tuscany for the '97s, Rhone or Rioja for the '95s?

All of these areas, as long as you go with the right producers, have proven to have wines that will last two or three decades and more.

You're kinda at the midway point in sourcing wine for those years now. Difficult to find them compared to those from the 2000s, but a lot easier (and cheaper) than for me with the '80s. So best get cracking now, as I'm sure you realize as judged by your posting this thread.

As a case-study to help you in your search, here're a couple of threads from what's currently available at K&L Wines, an excellent online resource (with several local shops excellently staffed, too, if you're ever in the area) out of California. Also, don't pay all that much attention to the drinking windows that appear in their descriptions. Many of them are way conservative, and guesswork to boot since they were most-often posted shortly after the wine was released to market, several years ago now.

1997 wines on the market now

1995 wines on the market now

This is just one source, and there are many others out there, though some are definitely better than others. As you try to chase down your daughters' bottles, don't hesitate to post here any questions you may have about specific producers and options.

Of the bottles listed by K&L as currently available for '97, I find most interesting (and in no particular order) the Langoa-Barton, Philipponnat 'Cuvee Millesimee' brut champagne, Leoville-Barton, Pavie-Decesse, Suduiraut sauternes, Dow's Colheita port (but better yet, even if it's a little more than your budget, the Graham's Vintage Port--this will be shockingly good 15 years down the line), Pape-Clement, Ojai Bien Nacido syrah, Biale 'old vines' petite sirah, and the wildcard would be the Mayacamas Napa Valley chardonnay--it might just be very fine even 15 years from now.

Among their '95s, what caught my eye were the Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee (a bit over budget), 'Martinelli Vineyard' Martinelli pinot noir (again over budget), Branaire-Ducru (ditto), Quinta de Vesuvio port (ditto), Sociando-Mallet (ditto), and the Les Ormes de Pez. As you can see from the pricing for what K&L offers of this vintage, you'll be harder pressed to find bottles within your budget than for '97. But, again, there are plenty of other sources that can be searched....

 

 

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 8, 2010.

Sorry, in re-reading I see that I forgot to mention that '97 was an excellent year for both Piedmont and Tuscany, much better than '95.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 8, 2010.

95 was generally very poor for most of Australia

97 was only average although some makers did very well, but doubt if many will last until 2018.

Probably best to focus on other regions but if you want to risk an Aussie best would be a Clare Valley Riesling and Grossett Polish Hill is the most likely to get to 21 years and be an excellent old riesling or a Hunter Valley Semillon and Tyrells Vat 1 should get 21 years and be a very good old semillon

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Reply by davendiana, Aug 8, 2010.

Excellent!  Exactly the feedback I was hoping for.  I'm excited to research bottles based on your coaching above, and will drop you a note when I believe i may have narrowed my choices.  I may start with Rhone for the 95, and Piedmont or Tuscany for 97.  Thanks again!!

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 8, 2010.

Davendiana, each of our second posts crossed paths timewise, so I'll answer yours now. Unfortunately there are too many Napa cabs these days that are tired after a decade, but those aren't the kind I'm talking about. I'm currently drinking some from the early '80s that are in excellent condition. You need to be looking at those wines that have the potential to perform similarly.

Your surmise that 'if it drops dead after 10 years anyway why worry about storage' is a no-go. And no, not all wines age well for 20-30 years, but those that do need good storage all the while to get there. Many wines that might last that long will be tired (or worse) after a decade because of poor storage. You don't want to open a special, expensive, long-stored bottle and find that it's only good for use in the salad dressing, and a weak one at that.

We'll be looking forward to learning how your search progresses....

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Reply by CageyT, Aug 9, 2010.

dmcker-- despite your "wrong wrong wrong" opening parry (which does come off a bit unfriendly, at a minimum, despite your closing caveat), I see little antithesis in your many words.  Bottom line #1 is-  a cave is the model for storing wines- replicate it however you want.  History is history.   #2 The characteristics I described to increase the likelihood of wine aging well are well established.  Sure, you can find exceptions to any rule.  That doesn't change the general observation.  Same is true of #3- clear glass makes sense for wines that aren't intended to age, because, obviously, they don't need the tint to protect from light, which makes them more economical.

A careful reading of the question which began this thread yields a contrast between region and varietals. ("Which region and varietal can hold up for 21 years before popping the cork?")  My very simple point was that A) the success of birthday wine cellaring will have a LOT to do with your cellar. B) The distinct characteristics of a wine that will cellar well will likely (not always) have more to do with nuanced factors such as a particular vintage or winemaking approach (which reflects weather patterns and other factors) than generalized ideas about varietals and regions, a point you have made for me repeatedly above.  The reader will note in the above responses that the most useful information, and that which the poster of the original thread will find most helpful, are VINTAGE suggestions associated with specific regions, and even vintners.  The larger point being, overly-generalized notions about certain varieties or regions will lead to missed opportunities among the many exceptions to these generalizations.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 9, 2010.

Although Barolos might not have had a great year in your particular birth years, it's worth remembering that many of them aren't ready to drink until they are 20 or so years old.  So, rather than a previously good wine on the decline, it might be worth seeking out a wine that's hitting its stride.  Age-worthy Bordeaux and Napa might be more expensive.  Just a thought.

And if your children don't like the wine, tell them to have their kids in better vintages!

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 9, 2010.

Nothing at all wrong with a '97 Barolo, or Brunello for that matter. Should have more luck with California, pricewise, than at this late start for Bordeaux of those years (esp. '95).

And Cagey, was trying to focus more on practical specifics than on overphilosophizing. But it is all meant in good spirits.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 9, 2010.

Here's an ageable Napa cab (La Jota) from '95 within your budget. Although their Estate bottling would be better, here's a Smith-Madrone (old-skool style made to age, flies under the market-buzz radar) that could well last that long. At the price it's worth a flier on a bottle or two. Here's a lot of Stag's Leap '97 you could bid on.

You should also check BPWine's stock, as well as Benchmark's.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 9, 2010.

One category I forgot to mention further above is sweet whites from the Loire, particularly Vouvray. These are great wines, and will definitely last well into your daughters' middle age. Keep an eye out for them, too.

Again, I've found from my own experience it's very useful to have a variety of wines and styles on hand for those special events, not just one kind or region of red....

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Reply by StevenBabb, Aug 10, 2010.

hey dm.... what are your thoughts/experiences with maybe a '95 silver oak or '95/'97 far niente ageing to the 21 year mark? they may be a bit out of budget, but i was curious about your opinion...

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 10, 2010.

Not those vintages, but I've had Silver Oak from all through the '80s that still drink fine at the end of this past decade. Not so much Far Niente, but then again I haven't drunk as much of it....

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Reply by CageyT, Aug 10, 2010.

dm, these are all great suggestions, and I am cribbing from your knowledge.  Thanks.

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Aug 10, 2010.

Silver Oak should be renamed Gaudy, Tacky, Ridiculously Vanilla-y, OverOaked Mess.  I don't know who marketed for those guys back in the day, but man, that's got to be the most overrated, overhyped, overpriced winery in all of America, after Opus.

Also, the CA cab of the 80s was a totally different beast than those of late.

Rant over.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 10, 2010.

Parker rates 95/97 Silver Oak 95/100 and 94/100 respectively

Clearly GDD you are not a Parker fan [I aren't either when it comes to his assessment of Aussie Shiraz!]

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 11, 2010.

At one point I had multiple cases of Silver Oak's various Napa bottlings from several '80s and a couple of early '90s vintages in my cellar. The last bottle was consumed last year, and I've made no effort to replace them with anything else from that winery.

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Aug 11, 2010.

SH, I don't need other people to tell me what's good.  I rate wines for myself.

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