Wine Talk

Snooth User: saywhatmyman

Cellering wine

Posted by saywhatmyman, Feb 19, 2011.

We I am reading wine reviews about wines that require cellering I am not sure which date

you consider when the writer says this wine could use 2-5 years in the cellar. Is it from the date of the vintage or is it from the date of the review? I always thought it was the date of the vintage but others have said it is the date of the review. So I am confused and would like to find an answer to this question.

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Replies

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Reply by GregT, Feb 19, 2011.

You assume wine writers know what they're talking about. Disabuse yourself of that notion and you'll have less stress in  your life.

Normally if a reviewer is writing about a wine, you would think that the person is talking about the date of the tasting.  It would make no sense for him to say, on tasting a wine 5 years after bottling, that it needed 2 years in the cellar.  The only way to make the comment relevant to the vintage would be to say that it needed two years but unfortunately it had three extra and now the wine is dead.  Most likely he is saying that it needs a few more years from the time of the tasting.

Maybe the writer is tasting barrel samples, but that's generally not the case and the logic still holds.

And remember that the vintage may be several years before the wine is bottled and released.

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Reply by VitaVinifera, Feb 19, 2011.

This question was asked recently on Wine Spectator.

http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/44502

I would agree that if saying it needs a few more years, they mean from time of tasting. 

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Reply by saywhatmyman, Feb 20, 2011.

Greg T's answer makes sense and I tend to agree the taster is giving an  opinion that suggests the wine will show more potential in the future from the date of review. So I think I will consider that answer. I liked the wine spectator explanation also.

Common sense says buy 2 or more bottles of the wine and taste it to decide for yourself when you might want to drink the next one.

 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 20, 2011.

SWMM: There, you have a nickname.  Solid advice to buy a couple or three and try one in the early part of the drinking window.  Especially because no one can know exactly how it's going to age, and your cellar conditions could be hastening the aging.  Other discussions have talked about the whole notion of the consumer cellaring the wine, and I like the approach some Brunello and Barolo producers use, which is not to release the wine until it's ready to drink.  (For a Barolo, that could be 20 years.) Why should you carry the cost and risk of a wine that needs babying/aging?  Truth is, no one knows if it is going to be better, or significantly better, down the road, so the wineries often want their money out, and you in the risk seat.  Some wineries tried a library program, but found that consumers didn't want to pay for it.  But consumers do, by having to build cellars, or buy fridges, and pay the energy costs. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 20, 2011.

Continued:  Think of it this way:  You have a Vinotheque wine reservoir, 224 bottles Bordo size.  That's going to be less for Burgs, Rhones, etc, so make it 200.  It costs $2700 without tax, shipping, anything.  So call that $3000.  That's $15 a stored bottle.  Now, you are going to rotate bottles in and out, you figure an average of 10 years.  Say the thing lasts you 20 years, two full rotations.  Still, that's $7.50 a bottle before you pay the potentially huge amount it adds to your electricity bill.  (Remember, it will need to cool all the time if it is in your living space. If you want to put it in your basement, now you have to think about whether it gets too cold there.) Keep in mind, too, that you have the "interest expense" of the bottles you store.  Say you are aging bottles with an average value of $50.  10 years (on average) of even 3% interest compounded adds $17 dollars to the price you paid.

And the cellaring might do very little to improve the wine, the cellar could die while you are on vacation and get really hot, the wine could have a bad cork and spoil... So your $50 bottle now costs $75 without adding energy costs, and what did Burgess charge in their library program?  $3 per bottle per year.  In other words, $30 and they paid the energy bill and assumed the risk.  And not enough people signed up, so I bought the bottles for LESS than retail (because most people won't buy old wine in the US!).  So how rational is it to cellar wine, especially on someone else's recommendation?  Frankly, a wine that is going to improve for 2-5 years ought to stay in the winery in the first place.  It's not a lot to ask.

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Reply by GregT, Feb 20, 2011.

Or you could just buy Rioja Gran Reserva.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 20, 2011.

GregT--any Gran Reserva you want to recommend?

Of course, I am not against cellaring completely, because it's actually interesting to try wine over a period of time.  And I hope I have identified some wines in tasting rooms that are going to benefit, or I wasted time and money myself.  Drinking a '90 Mondavi Reserve Cab in 2007 or so was one of the best wine experiences of my life, although I bought it from a collector and didn't cellar it myself.  We drank it next to a very good Spottswoode that was much younger, and the difference aging made was obvious. 

I believe that the benefits of aging were discovered pretty much  accidentally, and that those bottles were in passive caves/storage places in wineries that were created to avoid the things that will ruin wine in hours or days, like excessive light and heat, not to improve them over decades.  I live in a place with pretty moderate temps .Today is the coldest day we'll see all year, with a low of 38 F, and it will get somewhere close to 95 a couple times in the summer, is my guess.  My basement stays in a tighter range, probably still not ideal for storage, although there's little danger that it will get absurdly cold.  Heat worries me a little more.  I've thought about adding an active system, but when I do the numbers, I just have a hard time justifying it.  So far, nothing ruined, but the long agers might still be a while, so we'll see. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 20, 2011.

I'm also not buying wines that even average $45.  My "best" bottles in the basement are California Cabs from the $80+ range that I bought at distress sales for under $20, some CdPs that aren't elite cuvees or at least didn't carry elite cuvee prices.  (The value of a good wine store:  I bought Vieux Lazaret CdP Cuvee Exceptionelle at a great price before it got reviewed . Only "elite cuvee" I own, and it's not very elite at that.) I have been scooping up Brunellos and Cote Rotie at discount when possible, so it really makes me wonder about the added cost of cellaring, since you can find '04 Brunellos (and older!) with perfect provenance at their original price and ready to drink now. 

I think a lot of folks with serious cellars are hurting right now, and I have been looking at offers from BPWine with a certain amount of greed.

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 20, 2011.

Would think that Brunellos and Cote Roties (and some CA cabs), depending on who makes them, would be better for aging than most C9dPs, with a few possible exceptions.

Figure a way to go passive. Any friends or family with options? Dig your own cellar under the crawl space in your home (if it's anything like most 'traditional' East Bay architecture)?

Active is really not a great option for so many reasons. OK for apartment living and drinking within a year or two, but if you really want to age wine in terms of decades, start thinking creatively, and like a mole. Or get to know someone in a restaurant or with a wineshop real well, who's willing to share....

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 20, 2011.

I have agreed elsewhere, the CdP is not meant to age for more than 5-6 years.  I am doing passive pretty effectively in the crawl space, and I am trusting it, so far.  There are the occasional upswings in temp, but I cross my fingers.  Next house, I want a deeper space for more stable temp.  I'm told that nine feet deep in the center of the structure is usually close to perfect.  Right now I'm at most 4 feet below grade, and can't store wine there because it occasionally gets wet.  Gotta say, I like having it on site.  But I will never cellar hundreds of bottles for 20 years--too worried I won't finish it before shuffling off this mortal coil. Great thing about the current economy is snagging from the cellars of folks who can't or don't want to keep it anymore. 

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 20, 2011.

Foxall has a good point, and for many of us who only started collecting recently [even defining that as 10-15 years ago] the only way we can get to sample any aged wine is to buy from auctions distressed sales etc, unless we get invited to tastings of these wines.

As we all know there are risks whichever way you look at it unless you know intimately about the history of a wine it is going to be risky to purchase [not to mention TCA - could not resist the cheap shot]

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 20, 2011.

Yeah, Stephen, we can stipulate TCA when you're talking (knowing you're thinking it), without you needing to say it again... ;-)

I disagree with your points about reliability of storage. I've found mine to be better even then the best auction-sourcing. Just start laying away (and you can lay down 10-15 year old bottles as easily as 3 year old) and you'll be surprised how quickly you get another five or 10 years down the line, with the wine you like maturing in a manner whereby they just seem to pop into hand at the right moment.

Again, though, mine is passive, underground. Took a while to sort it out, but it's stood the test of time since the mid-'80s.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 20, 2011.

D - I think we are on same page, my point was that most of us take a risk when sourcing older wine, sure if you have good storage and know the way you have kept your wine you are OK.  My storage has been in place since 2000 at home which was when I started to collect and keep my own wines and I have good success with my cellaring to date, but most of my wines are at oldest 10 years from my acquisition date so I can only assess my own experience based on those wines I have drank from my cellar to date.

The main point of my comment was that for many of us we do not have the benefit of having kept wine for a long period like you have so we need to rely on auctions and distress sales to pick up old wines - thereby taking on risk based on previous owners storage conditions.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 21, 2011.

D-I'm on board about passive cellaring, but wish I had just a little more temp control in my set up.  GregT has pointed out that the ancient bords probably weren't held under ideal circumstances at all times, although digging into the side of a hill is about as good as you will get.  Passive avoids the vibration danger, although I really do wonder if that's a big danger--haven't seen any particular studies.  Seems intuitive not to put the wine on top of the compressor, but we're not talking paint shakers here. 

My big question for folks who store, even passively, is whether the carrying cost is worth it for all but a few wines.  I do cellar, but not a lot because it's gotta be expensive to be worth the extra bother, and that means tying up a lot of my money.  It has been a good time lately to buy from the cellars of people who are shedding bottles for whatever reason.  Whether they are in distress or just looking to switch things around, the markets are good for the buyer.

When I move into a new house, I will strongly consider the presence of underground space... which is not very common in this area, as you know.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 21, 2011.

Foxall

An alternative to underground is to do an above ground wine room.  Friend of mine did it and they created a fully insulated, 4mX3m room with temperature control.  They are very pleased with the outcome and they have it racked for about 1,500.  They can keep the room at around 16-18C without too much power drain.  Anyway worth a thought for your future plans

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Reply by JonDerry, Feb 21, 2011.

What kind of Cali Cabs @ $80+ are we talking about Fox?

I live in a pretty regulated climate in West L.A. near the ocean, but i've still been pretty reluctant to store bottles passively.  Being in an apartment/ condo situation doesn't help either, but i've enjoyed using wine fridges also.  Have a Vinotemp dual control 48, and then (2) 16 capacity Cusinart's you could find at Crate & Barrel for about $160.00 or so.  Haven't had issues yet, but it's only been a couple of years. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Feb 21, 2011.

By the way, as has been mentioned - love buying direct from the winery and putting it right into my cellar/s, always a great feeling.

That or, buying the imports as they come in to my favorite wine shops.

Cheers...

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 22, 2011.

JonDery: Villa Hermosa just went out of the wine business after two years of top reviews.  I bought a bit of that for $15.  Altus, the second label of Merus, also went on market at $10, marked down from $65-80 elsewhere.  bpwines had it for $40 and people thought that was a steal, but NG told me where I could get it for the tenner.  I wound up buying 6 cases and reselling most, but that dropped the price another buck.  So far, no one has been disappointed.  (Merus was $150, and I haven't seen it on sale.  Foley bought the property and I think he is consolidating the brands.)

Talty is selling on inVino/winery insider at discount, which is a first.  I don't think things are going to change, so maybe I will have to build something bigger. But I am not aging that 30 years, either.

My point at the beginning was that we spend a lot of money to cellar wine if you measure opportunity cost and our electricity and capital outlays.  It would make much more sense to buy it old from the wineries in the first place and let them bear the risk, but they can't seem to find the market for it.  I think part of it is that people WANT to store wine, to visit it in the basement and to know they have it and anticipate drinking it.  I don't think it's a rational economic decision for the consumer, and I think the wineries take advantage of that to shift the risk for wine that's released before it's ready to drink onto the consumer. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Feb 22, 2011.

Yeah, I generally agree on your main point Fox.  Most consumers are in to wine for the enjoyment to the point they'll forego some opportunity cost or better judgement to enhance their collection or what have you.  Naturally, wineries will prey on this to some degree or simply get away with what they can get away with.  Also agree that it's refreshing to see Italian wineries keep the wines stored for longer than they probably need to from a market perspective...

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 23, 2011.

It's simple. A lot of wine really is better after laying down a while (though probably a lesser proportion of a larger whole than in the past). Wineries won't keep it, auctions or other second markets are hit and miss. The only way to have the wines I want in the condition I want is to buy them earlier and lay them down myself.

Visiting the cellar isn't as big a thing as it once was. Drinking well aged wines is, however, a delectable pleasure, and gives a feeling, aside from the joys of the nose and palate, not so much of accomplishment as of doing things right...

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