Does a wine need to carry a high price tag to put down in your cellar and age? No way!! A wine’s ability to age has nothing to do with the cost of the wine. While many wines that are purchased for cellaring cost upwards of $50 per bottle, there are still plenty of wines out there for less than $20 that will improve with age.
France is one of the best countries to find high quality inexpensive wines for short-term aging, meaning up to 5 years. Nearly every major wine region in France will offer some of these great values. I have a few tips for selecting these inexpensive gems that will reward you if you have a bit of patience.
First, you have to know your vintages. The great vintages of a particular wine region will always end up yielding higher quality wines in the lower price categories. How do you know what the best vintages are? Well, you can do a google search just like you do for everything else you’re curious about. Or you can hop on to twitter and ask me @VinoMike, or any of the other wine professionals that are buzzing all over the social media scene! The wine I’m drinking now is from the great Bordeaux vintage of 2005. This is a legendary year for the Bordeaux region and the top producers made some of the best wine in the world, with many being capable of cellaring for upwards of 30 years! However, Bordeaux is a large region, and many of the countryside producers outside of the prestigious areas also ended up with perfect grapes for their humble wines.
Second, I recommend that you taste the wine before you buy any to cellar. This is what seals the deal for me. I first tasted the Chateau La Croix de Roche Bordeaux Superieur Rouge 2005 over 4 years ago. At the time it had big, chewy tannins, fresh bright acidity, spices from oak aging, and rich, ripe, concentrated fruit, all in harmonious balance with a lengthy finish. The big tannins and bright acidity, along with the oak aging, really help preserve a wine as it ages. The tannins take time to soften, and the oak spices integrate with the fruit adding new layers of flavors and complexity. This is the process of allowing a wine to “mature.” The bonus with this wine is that it came with a modest price tag of $10.
Today, over 4 years later, I’m enjoying it with a casual dinner on the couch in front of the TV, and it’s absolutely wonderful. The powerful aromas of rich fruit and oak spice have been replaced with a nose of earthy gravel, pencil lead, garden herbs and tobacco leaf with dried cherries and raspberries. The mouthfeel still has some grip to it but the tannins are much softer and silky. A real pleasure to drink and not bad at all for $120 a case!
If you want to start gaining some experience with cellaring wines, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg. As always, you should visit your local wine merchant for tips and advice, not the big supermarket and drug store chains. Cheers, and happy cellaring!