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By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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This Old Wine

Lebanon's Weirdly Great Red Blend

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

2003 Chateau Musar: This famous Lebanese wine is made by a charismatic storyteller named Serge Hochar, who kept Musar in production even as bombs struck nearby Beirut during the country’s 15-year civil war (as chronicled in GQ by Elizabeth Gilbert in 2004). Musar’s provenance is not it’s only unusual characteristic. It typically displays noticeable levels of Brettanomyces (a yeast that creates a distinct horsey smell) and volatile acidity (which creates a brightly unhinged salty-sour note). These things are usually considered outright faults, but in the case of Musar they add up to an unusually wild-tasting but excellent wine.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Hochar says his wines shouldn’t be consumed before they’re 15 years old, but 2003’s fantastic weirdness is perfectly enjoyable at age 10. With notes of tomato, thyme and balsamic vinegar (from the VA) mixing with dried cherry and cinnamon, it’s a terrific example of a great red that has strong savory flavors in addition to fruit. This bottling is browner in color and brighter in flavor than the more darkly fruity 2004.

Drink It With: Daniel Boulud’s basil-crusted leg of lamb. Two of the grapes used in Musar, Carignane and Cinsaut, are typical components of southern Rhône blends, which are always a great choice with lamb.

Best Price Online: $44 at Woodland Hills Wine Company. (Find more stores.)

Related: More Affordable Aged Bottles
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Dispatch From an F&W Editor On the Road: Beirut

This Old Wine

Pecan Pie in a Glass

Broadbent 10 Years Old Malmsey Madeira

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

Broadbent 10 Years Old Malmsey Madeira: Here’s one great thing about Madeira: Once opened it will last unrefrigerated for months, if not longer, because it’s maderized. That means that during aging producers deliberately apply heat and oxygen to the wine to replicate the effects of an extended voyage at sea. Such conditions are far worse than anything the sweet dessert wine will encounter in your home. So drink a glass now while you bake pies to freeze, then serve the rest at the conclusion of Thanksgiving dinner. (And if there’s any left, you could probably get away with pouring it next year, too.)

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: The 10-year designation indicates the age of the youngest wine that’s part of this bottle’s blend, and there are plenty of indications that this is indeed an old, oxidized wine: It’s brown, the fruit flavors veer toward dried and it’s incredibly nutty—pecanesque, specifically. There is a lot of brown-sugar sweetness, but it’s offset by just enough orange-zest acidity.

Drink It With: Pecan pie, not just for the matching flavors, but because this is one of the few dessert wine sweet enough to deal with a gooey corn-syrup filling. (It will be great with apple or pumpkin pie, too.)

Best Price Online: $35 at Wine House. (Find more stores.) 

Related: More Affordable Aged Bottles
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This Old Wine

A Zippy, Delicious French White

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

2002 Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Origine: Like another old Muscadet on the market (Domaine Michel Brégeon’s 2004), this Loire Valley white spent many years in concrete tanks on its lees (inert yeast cells) before being bottled. The result is a complex aged wine at a price comparable to Muscadets that are just a few years old. Though it’s available from just a few sources, it’s such a terrific bargain that it’s worth ordering online.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Tart and crisp Muscadet will sometimes get darker and rounder as it ages, but this bottling is still amazingly zippy. There’s not much fruit, save for some lime zest, but there is a useful expression of what wine writers call minerality: wet rocks, oyster shells and a definite salty quality. It’s a tasty and very dry wine that’s tremendously interesting for its price.

Drink It With: Oysters Rocafella, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi’s fantastic dinner party appetizer.

Best Price Online: $17 at Crush Wine & Spirits. (Find more stores.)

Related: More Affordable Aged Wines
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This Old Wine

Essential Drinking for the Beaujolais-Obsessed

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

1998 Domaine J. Chamonard Morgon Le Clos de Lys: Beaujolais has come a long way since the days of Nouveau mania. The region now boasts an impressive lineup of skilled small-scale producers making fantastic wines with grapes from the 10 cru vineyard areas. The best wines from the Morgon area have often been known to age well, and this year the husband-and-wife team behind Domaine J. Chamonard released a small cache from the 1998 vintage that had been sitting in their cellars since bottling. While this wine isn't cheap (part of the region's appeal is that the best bottles rarely top $30), its quality and rareness justify the expense for any dedicated Beaujolais lover.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Precise, red-fruit flavors are a hallmark of Beaujolais. Even at age 15, this one has plenty, though what might have once been sharp raspberry has mellowed to soft, sweet red cherry and strawberry. There's also a healthy amount of a pleasantly gamey, earthy note that comes from long aging. The fruit and funk work beautifully together on a light, silky-textured frame.

Drink It With: Something simple, like Judy Rodgers's classic herbed roast chicken with bread salad. Younger, brighter Beaujolais can work well with stronger flavors, but they could overshadow this subtler, more complex old wine.

Best Price Online: $49 at Chambers St. Wines. Find more stores.

Related: Beaujolais Guide
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Top-Vintage Bordeaux for Under $20

This Old Wine

Top-Vintage Bordeaux for Under $20

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

2000 Château Lanessan Haut-Médoc: It's currently the prime drinking window for an ocean of good 2000 Bordeaux, but much of it doesn't offer great value. The year was hailed by critics as a near-perfect vintage, so many bottles are priced accordingly. But there are exceptions, like this one from an underrated property near the famed St-Julien sub-region.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Here are a few scents you're supposed to detect in good aged Bordeaux: Leather (check), spice (here too), tobacco (in this case, a very sweet unlit-cigar note). Fruit fades over time, but there's still plenty of the expected cassis, plus dark berries. The palate is very pure, which is wine-speak meaning it's not hindered by any faint unpleasant undertones. It's just extremely enjoyable, textbook Bordeaux.

Drink It With: A rich lamb dish would be excellent, but the important thing is that it's paired with fat and protein, both of which make tannic wines taste better. The tannins in this firm, Cabernet-based bottling are at just the right level to be tempered by a nice piece of red meat.

Best Price Online: Total Wine & More in Norwalk, CT has it for a very low $19, and it's still a great buy at around $30 elsewhere.

Related: Benchmark Wine Producers in Bordeaux
Spain's #1 Source for Old Wine
A Killer Port from a Top Producer

This Old Wine

A Killer Port from a Top Producer

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

1999 Niepoort Colheita Port: Though Dirk Niepoort is well known as the man who put Portugal's Douro Valley on the map for dry table wines, his family's traditional ports are fantastic as well. This one is a colheita, meaning it's made like a tawny port but comes entirely from a single year's harvest (rather than being made from a blend of vintages).

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Colheitas spend at least seven years in porous oak barrels before being bottled, which means they oxidize and develop flavors like dried fig and toffee. Both of those flavors are here, along with bright red fruit and black walnut, and they all mesh together to form an incredibly delicious, salty-sweet dessert wine. While some ports can be cloying, this one has plenty of acid to balance the sugar.

Pair it With: Fall dinner party desserts, like a giant fig pancake. (And if you're already planning for Thanksgiving, it's hard to imagine a better wine to pair with a toasted pecan tart.)

Best Price Online: $39 at We Speak Wine. (Find more stores.)

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This Old Wine

Spain's #1 Source for Old Wine

R. López de Heredia 2003 Viña Gravonia Blanco Rioja Crianza ($20) and 1998 Viña Tondonia Blanco Rioja Reserva ($38)

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

R. López de Heredia 2003 Viña Gravonia Blanco Rioja Crianza ($20) and 1998 Viña Tondonia Blanco Rioja Reserva ($38): López de Heredia is no secret. It's long been a favorite of sommeliers and wine geeks, and with good reason. In the largely modernized Rioja region, this 136-year-old winery makes exceptionally good wines in a very traditional style and ages them longer than others do. López de Heredia's entire output—hundreds of thousands of bottles in most years—is sent to stores with significant age. (The 2003, from the Gravonia vineyard, is the producer's youngest white currently available.) As a source for reliable old wine that isn't so rare, López de Heredia should be on any wine drinker's radar.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Because of slow exposure to small amounts of oxygen over years of aging in large oak barrels, López de Heredia's whites tend to have sherry-like qualities. Both the 2003 and 1998 bottlings are complex whites that smell a bit like almonds and dried fruit and taste slightly savory and olive-y. But they're otherwise very different. The Gravonia has a fresh, pineappley quality. The mellower Tondonia has scents of straw and honey, and its palate is loaded with flavors of hazelnuts and minerals.

Drink it With: These wines are at their best alongside salty Spanish snacks like Marcona almonds and Manchego cheese. The Tondonia would be an especially profound partner for Ibérico ham.

Where to Buy: Gravonia: Stirling Fine Wines. (Find more stores.)
Tondonia: Wine Library. (Find more stores.)

Related: Spanish Wine Country Travel Guide
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A Lush, Lemony White That Spent 7 Years Underground

This Old Wine

A Lush, Lemony White That Spent 7 Years Underground

2004 Domaine Michel Brégeon Muscadet Reserve.

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

2004 Domaine Michel Brégeon Muscadet Reserve ($25): It's common for producers of Muscadet to age wines along with their lees (the yeast cells that are leftover after fermentation). What's not common is to keep the wine and lees together for 89 months in underground glass-lined tanks before bottling, as winemaker André-Michel Brégeon has done. The result is much more complex than a typical light, bright Muscadet. After giving it a sniff, F&W tasters said they might have mistaken it for a Sancerre, a white Burgundy or an aged Riesling.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: When it's young, minerally Muscadet is the classic pairing for raw shellfish because it recalls a briny spritz of lemon. This one is more like a bite of lemon curd: It's deliciously creamy and lush, with mellowed citrus along with ripe apple flavors. Aging on lees tends to keep wines tasting fresh while adding body, and that's just what happened here.

Drink it With: Grilled oysters, such as ones topped with chorizo or spicy tarragon butter. Muscadet is a good match for spicy foods because of its moderate alcohol (higher levels tend to clash with heat).

Where to Buy: Saratoga Wine Exchange. (Find more stores.)


Related: Ray Isle on Muscadet's Awesome Pairing Power
An Earthy, 10-Year Old Red for Under $30
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This Old Wine

An Earthy 10-Year-Old Red for Under $30

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

2003 Calabretta Etna Rosso ($26): Many of the wines grown on Sicily's Mount Etna are crazily underpriced, but Calabretta's Etna Rosso is an especially good value because it arrives in stores having spent six to seven years in huge oak barrels and several more in bottle. Though it's made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio grapes, this wine bears resemblance to much more expensive Nebbiolo-based wines from Italy's Piedmont region. It's totally delicious, and it smells like black cherries, violets and peppery spices.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: This powerful, bright-tasting wine is becoming earthier and more herbal, making its fruit flavors taste deeper and more complex. The color is also changing: As they age, reds become less vivid, turning to what wine people call garnet (often indicating that an age-worthy wine is in its sweet-spot for drinking) and then darker and darker toward brown (at which point they're not very tasty). This one is still quite bright, but it's definitely becoming a pretty garnet.

Drink it With: Anything that would normally call for Barolo or Barbaresco. Chef Matthew Accarrino's cannelloni with walnuts and fried sage would be spectacular.

Where to Buy: Astor Wines. (Find more stores.)

Related: F&W Visits Mount Etna
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