Why Age Wines? The answer is simple: Great wines develop over time, trading youthful vivacity and fresh, primary fruit flavors for aromatic depth and a layered, subtle complexity. Plus, some top wines, such as Barolos or classified-growth Bordeaux, can be so aggressively tannic when they're young that they require aging.
Storing Wine Ideally, wine should be kept in a cool, dark place that has a constant temperature of around 55, such as a basement. The most reliable way to control the temperature of wine is to rent commercial wine-storage space or buy a wine refrigerator for your home; companies including Sub-Zero and EuroCave offer such models.
Best Wines to Cellar Some experts believe that only one percent of all wines have the capacity to improve for more than a decade. In order to age successfully at all, a wine must have a fine balance among fruit, acidity and tannins. The following 15 are great cellar choices.
15 Top Bottles for the Cellar
1999 Taurino Notarpanaro Rosso del Salento ($17) This wildly fruity Italian wine, made mostly from Puglia's muscular Negroamaro grape, becomes refined as it ages. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to eight years.
2003 Foppiano Vineyards Bacigalupi Vineyard Petite Sirah ($18) Sonoma Valley Petite Sirah specialist Foppiano Vineyards produces one of the great bargains in ageable reds. Its spicy 2003 Bacigalupi Vineyard is loaded with blueberry fruit. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 10 years.
2002 Château des Tours Vacqueyras ($33) This violet-scented, silky Grenache-based wine, made by Emmanuel Reynaud of legendary Château Rayas, transcends the difficult 2002 Rhône harvest. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 12 years.
2003 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Spätlese Riesling ($32) Zilliken is a great name in German Riesling, and this '03 shows why, joining vibrant lime-peach flavors to thrilling acidity. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 15 years.
1999 Giuseppe Rainoldi Fruttaio Ca'Rizzieri Sfursat di Valtellina ($75) Flamboyantly aromatic, with notes of coffee and roasted nuts, this Nebbiolo from Lombardian producer Rainoldi is made from grapes that are air-dried, then pressed and fermented. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 15 years.
2001 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert ($30) This inky, peppery Syrah from one of the Rhône's greatest producers has been a value since its first vintage, in 1953. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 15 years.
2001 Yalumba the Octavius Old Vine Shiraz ($100) Yalumba, Australia's oldest family-owned winery, makes this blackberry-rich, seductive Shiraz from the intense fruit of ancient Barossa vines. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 17 years.
2001 Fisher Vineyards Wedding Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) In the terrific 2001 vintage, winemaker Whitney Fisher made a powerful, red currantdriven Cabernet from the fruit of this terraced Sonoma vineyard. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 17 years.
2001 Château Palmer ($130) The red-fruited '01 Palmer, from one of Margaux's most famous châteaus, is deceptively open at first, then its wire-taut tannins clamp down. CELLAR for five years, then drink for the next 12.
2001 Poderi Colla Barolo Bussia Dardi Le Rose ($60) The 2001 vintage produced amazing Barolos, like this imposingly tannic wine from Poderi Colla, a family that's been making top wines in the Langhe hills since 1703. CELLAR for five years, then drink for the next 15.
1996 Dom Pérignon ($150) As top Champagnes like this firm, layered one, age, their acidity mellows and they gain complex aromas of nuts, brioche, even roasted coffee beans. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 20 years.
2003 Quinta de Roriz Vintage Port ($60) This famous quinta's spicy, wild-berry-flavored '03 vintage gets some of its exotic character from the unusual Sousão grape. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 30 years.
1996 Contino Gran Reserva ($65)
One of the first single-vineyard Riojas, this velvety, cherry-vanilla-scented wine is very long-lived; vintages from the '60s are still drinking gorgeously. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 20 years.
1995 Royal Tokaji Aszú Mézes Mály ($115/500ml)
This gold-colored sweet wine, full of honey-apricot flavor, is a six-puttonyos Tokay, the highest quality level. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 30 years.
1997 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Hunter Valley Sémillon ($40)
Great Australian Hunter Valley Sémillons like this 1997, the current vintage, are lemony and tart when young, but over time gain a distinctive, waxy, nutty depth. DRINK NOW, OR CELLAR for up to 15 years.