Wine Talk

Snooth User: GhostLemur

Long cellar life wines.

Posted by GhostLemur, Nov 22, 2009.

I'm curious as to what everyone here buys to store at the back of their cellar (ie long life wines)?

I'm just starting to getting into wine seriously and so most of what is in my cellar is short term stuff.

My first longer term purchase has so far been 1 dozen of 2007 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu. I had the fortune to try this at a tasting with their wine maker Adrian Baker. Liked it alot but what really sold me with the 10 year cellar est.

With a young family this isn't a hobby where I can drop $US100 a bottle. I'm not in this for investment, but love the idea of buying new wine (or recent) and having the privilege of trialling it in years to come. Something about pulling out a dusty bottle of wine for friends.

Am I the only one who also loves the ritual side of things too, ie the pulling of the cork, decantering, pouring the glass, swirling, sniffing, sipping and never spitting?


Reply by penguinoid, Nov 22, 2009.

I lack the space to store wine long term at the moment, but here's a two suggestions I'd certainly think about:

Loire valley white wines can certainly be worth cellaring. These are still generally quite reasonably priced, though can be hard to get hold of depending on where you live.

A good, old-fashioned Savennières (sweet or dry) is at its prime after about 15 years of bottle aging, and can be really beautiful. Nicolas Joly's Coulée de Serrant seems to be regarded as one of the best, but sadly I've not had a chance to try it yet.

The 1995 Domaine aux Moines Savennière-Roche-aux-Moines was one of the most interesting wines I've tried, and was enough to get me to buy another two bottles.

Even within more expensive wine regions such as Bordeaux, there are still some undervalued subregions and producers that are worth a look.
are probably worth a look, though how well available these will be outside of Europe is another question.

Moving away from France, I've heard Australian Hunter Valley Sémillon can age nicely, and is at its best with about ten years of bottle age. Tyrell's Vat 1 Sémillon is probably worth a look

Reply by TheChicagoWino, Nov 22, 2009.

Chateau Louis Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 or a Chateau Sansonnet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2004. If you can get a bottle, save it until 2017-2019. Also generally speaking most Cabs from 2005 will keep until 2017ish...Spend about $20 or so on one of those California Cabs and years down the line you WILL be happy!

Reply by qipengart, Nov 22, 2009.

hmm... planning to get some Stags Leap Wine Cellar's SLV to store long term soon!

Reply by kylewolf, Nov 22, 2009.

From what I have tasted and read, the 2001 and 2004 Tempranillo Riojas are excellent vintages, and these wines in general are known for their ability to age very well. (I have some mid 90's bottles and am told they could last for a good number of years to come.)

Reply by Laurapal, Nov 23, 2009.

Don't forget Brunello as a candidate. The vintage on sale now in 2009 is 2004, the first five star vintage since 1997 (the so-called vintage of the century). A 2004 vintage, or Riserva (available next year) should easily get you through to 2015-18. Look out for the 2006 Brunellos in 2011. This is another great year.

Reply by GhostLemur, Nov 23, 2009.

Wow some great ideas. Will look into if any of them are available here in NZ.

Kyle - Yes love the Tempranillo I've had so far although it's been limited to a local example (Trinity Hills Gimblett Gravels). Had both the 2005 and 2007, by far one of my favourite wines. Trying some of the Riojas is on my list.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Nov 23, 2009.

Really most noble grapes can sit for a good decade. Nebbiolo based Italian reds, Amarone mad with valpolicella, and any sturdy Bordeaux like St. Estephe, St. Julien, Margaux, Paulliac, etc. Good American cabs or bordeaux blends can stand up to time too. Reds are a far safer bet than whites because those vary so much and it's always iffy unless you really know the type, region and producer. Sweet or fortified whites are the exception. Just my two cents!

Reply by cigarman168, Nov 23, 2009.

@Laurapal, so any good recommendations for Brunello?

Reply by penguinoid, Nov 24, 2009.

Staying in NZ, then, maybe a good NZ pinot noir might be worth putting aside for at least five years? I recently had a bottle of 2007 Two Paddocks 'Picnic' Pinot Noir. Based on how much better the wine was after having been left open overnight, my guess is that it would also age pretty well. Reading the producers website, they suggest keeping the 2008 vintage til 2016, for both their Picnic Pinot Noir and their (premium) Two Paddocks Pinot Noir:

Of course, you may know other producers whose Pinot Noir you prefer, but it's certainly another one to think about.

Oh, and VegasOenophile mentioned sweet and fortified -- maybe some Sauturnes and some vintage port too? I've seen a Sauternes in the shops recently called "Le Tertre du Lys d'Or" for about $50 a half bottle, and one of the stores claims it is the second wine of Château d'Yquem. Maybe, but if so it'd certainly be worth getting a few bottles. I'll have to get at least one to try, when my bank balance is feeling a little bit healthier. Beware, though, that under AOC regulations Sauternes wines are allowed to use cryoextraction in place of botrytis infected fruit, and some cheaper Sauternes do this. This doesn't give as good a wine as that produced from botrytis infected fruit, but it is of course much cheaper to do.

Reply by Charles Emilio, Nov 24, 2009.

A couple of good affordable Australian ones that will cost you around the $50 or less mark in the USA and still be going beautifully in 20 years are:

Pendolfs Bin 389 (Coonawarra)
Seppelt Great Western Shiraz (Grampians)

Reply by GregT, Nov 24, 2009.

Ghost - the best bet is to look at wines that already have a track record. I've got some Craggy Range myself, but I'm not absolutely certain that it will improve. I'm hoping, but don't know the wine well enough. The point of aging a wine is to improve it remember, not to keep it as it was the day you bought it. So Kyle has it exactly rigtht, the wines that have the longest track record for aging, and that IMHO actually age best, are some of the Rioja wines. Find a good vintage like 2004 or 2005 or even 2007 when they come out, and you may be able to keep some of them for many years. It's harder to know which ones these days, but post your thoughts and we'll help you figure it out.

Australia is hit or miss, but the Penfolds 389 is a great suggestion that I would have forgotten about. Also their St. Henri is a winner that ages wonderfully.

As far as "noble" grapes holding on, that's a bit trickier. Some zinfandels for example, age really well. Then again. some don't age more than three years and you're POd that you hadn't finished them sooner. But a lot of it has to do with the winemaking and with the grapes the winemaker got from his vineyard or vineyards. For example, I've had some cheap cabs that I wouldn't bet on for six months, much less a number of years. However, as pointed out, some of them can age for decades. Some of that may have to do with the barrel or tank aging that they receive before bottling, but that's an entirely different thread issue. Amarone is another one you could look at, although they tend to become pricey really fast. Incidentally, they're not made from Valpolicella, which is a region. The grapes are corvina, rondella, molinara. The 2004 Brunello is supposed to be everyone's favorite vintage, but personally I'd wait for the 2006s to come out.

Oddly enough, the wine I would not recommend stashing away would be fortified wines, especially Port. It's not that they won't age. Quite the opposite. But their pricing is really screwy. You can pick up aged Ports for around the same price you pay for a young one. They are some of the best deals out there. So if you can do that, why tie up your capital? Buy things that are harder to find. People don't really drink a lot of Port these days, so it's a buyers market to a large extent.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 24, 2009.

Depends on what you mean by 'long life'. That's a term I personally use for those that improve over a 20-30 or even 50 year timeframe. Five to 15 years are more short-to midterm.

Long term? I currently have Bordeauxs (red and sweet white) and Burgundies from the '50s and California cabs and zins (and even the odd Chalone pinot) from the '70s that are in superb form. Also ports and Jura vin jaune from that era. I wasn't collecting Australians then and the Brunellos were all from Italy that I had from that period, and they, unfortunately, are all drunk up. I know Penfolds Grange and 389s last well from the '80s (the Grange was a bit cheaper then ;-) ), but don't know about others from that period because my knowledge of Oz was scanty back then. Certainly a whole range of California cabernets and zins (and even a few merlots), Burgundies, Champagnes, Rhones, Barolos, Super Tuscans and late-harvest German rieslings from the '80s are doing very well right now. First half of the '90s, some dry Bordeaux whites and Burgundy whites can be good, though though they are exceptional ones, but many more Californias, Washingtons and Oregons (pinots, cabs, zins, sparklings and the rare still chards), all sorts of French and Italian and Spanish bottlings (Rioja was all I knew then) are great now. Haven't had any success at all with New Zealand wines from that period, and still wasn't giving enough attention to Oz at that point. Didn't even have South America on my wine map then, and for various reasons wasn't picking up South African products at the time. The last 5-15 years and the number of great, maturely healthy (while in many cases still adolescent) wines just mushrooms.

These are all from my personal experience, and I could list actual wines but it would be too lengthy a post. I do know if you look for the best wines from the type and region and periods I've mentioned, and know they've been stored well, you'll be very pleasantly surprised by what a mature wine can be.

GregT, I'm going to part ways with you on your comments about fortified wines. Yes, you are absolutely spot-on about the relative value of ports these days, and even if there seem to be a lot of ports out there from the '70s and earlier, the fact is there actually isn't the selection you might want. Kinda like hunting for California reds from the early '90s in the marketplace now in terms of range of choice. So I say that if you're interested you should explore a range of ports now, learn what you like, and lay down what you can (and nothing wrong with also laying down those from the '70s and '80s you can buy now, because they'll continue to improve with age). 20 or more years from now you'll be happy that you did. Especially so for Madeiras since the selection for them is seemingly more limited to start with, and certain collectors have been talking the market up considerably over the past few years. I haven't hunted enough for aged sweet sherries, but the fact that you almost never see them in the marketplace means that you should buy new releases you know you like if you want to drink them in the future. I can't talk intelligently about Marsalas, Vin Santos, Banyuls, etc., because of lack of sufficient personal knowledge, but that's something I plan to remedy in the future.

Though not fortified, late-harvest German and Alsatian and Austrian wines are just plain cheaper now than they will be in the future, so go for them now. Ditto Sauternes, if you like them. You'd know more about Tokaji, Greg, so I'll leave that analysis up to you.

Reply by GhostLemur, Nov 24, 2009.

Wow so much great advice. Loving it. Just wish I had a bigger cellar now (and more $$$).

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 28, 2009.

You got a very nice introduction to cellaring with the added bonus of insight into a personal wine-world. But take a bit of care while foraying the world of wine. Most modern wines - even finely crafted examples - are intended for consumption within 2 to 3 years of bottling. This includes most red wine from California and Washington State. You need to carefully investigate what the wine maker intends regarding cellaring and what you like to experience on the palate.

In France recently I was able to partake of the 2008 and (admittedly inferior) 2007 vintage from some lesser Bordeaux properties notwithstanding the non-Gallic penchant for keeping such wines for a decade or more. If you like hard tannins, you will cellar for a brief time only and be in good company; the French drink even fine, age-worthy wines much earlier than we do, generally speaking.

Also, with the growth in South American (export) production over the past 35 years we have many age-worthy wines from south of the equator. But strangely (and here I agree with Hugh Johnson) even the best wines (e.g. Concha y Toro Don Melchor or something better) do not seem to improve much beyond 5-6 years from vintage date. That does not imply they won't keep - just that improvement does not seem to come easily (if at all) after that.

So, you need to seek out wines that are clearly designed for laying down for significant periods of time and which may not be at all palatable early on.

Good hunting!

Reply by GregT, Nov 30, 2009.

OK dmucker I don't disagree about the fortified wines except that he was asking about wines to put down and if he could get older wines at the same price, I thought it was better to buy something that would be harder to find later. Your suggestion re: German/Austrian wines for example. But it's true that he may not get exactly what he wants in the future and more importantly, if he stores it himself, assuming that he has adequate conditions, he'll be assured it was stored well. As far as Tokaji - some of the wines I bought five years ago are now double what they were, so who knows. That's a whole different thread too - there are opposing economic forces working on those wines.

Your list is pretty good and I think it would be a great idea for a thread to list a number of age worthy wines for under $60 US. Or maybe an article if someone is inclined to write one. And I'm with you on age - 20 years is minimum for "aged". FIve years almost doesn't count, and up to say, 15 or 20, it's mid-term. And then of course, the wine needs to improve, not just hold on. It's kind of pointless to open a wine in 10 years and exclaim that it's exactly the way it was 10 years ago. Unless the wine has become much more expensive, why risk holding it?

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