A Guide to Buying Well-Aged Wine
Only a few wines benefit from aging, but some of them are relatively affordable and sold ready to drink. Peter Hellman offers a guide to what to buy, and where.
Most wine is meant to be consumed soon after it’s purchased. However, there are some wines, usually (but not always) reds, that need to spend a few years in a cellar to show their best. Early on, they can be bundles of tough tannins and disjointed flavors. But with time, these same wines can develop alluring aromas, textures and flavors that work together beautifully.
Few of us have the foresight—or for that matter, storage space—to buy age-worthy wines upon release. Thankfully, there’s a cadre of retailers who store such wines for years and sell them when they reach their peak. These stores generally buy large quantities or seek out and restock worthwhile bottles. As of this writing, for example, California-based K&L Wine Merchants (which has a full-time staffer devoted to finding older wine) has about 100 bottles of the 1998 Château Margaux, which has just reached optimal drinkability.
The wines discussed here are ready-to-drink vintages of five age-worthy wines—Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, California Cabernet Sauvignon and German Riesling—plus five great shops that sell a wide selection of these bottles. Surprisingly, these older wines do not cost more than current vintages that still require cellaring, and many of them (particularly the imports purchased with comparatively strong dollars) are often less expensive.