Most wine today is made to be consumed within hours of purchase. Some may improve a little but very few improve, even after months or sometimes years of resting comfortably in actual wine cellar conditions. These aged bottles are some of our most revered, emerging when celebrations are in order.
So, to help us give thanks this past Thanksgiving, we scoured the cellar for something suitable for the occasion. Our selection was served with a delectable spatchcocked organic turkey and a prime roast of beef. My pick, a magnum of 1990 Chateau Pichon Lalande, which had been growing whiskers for many years. But now, at age 28, it had the attributes of a fully mature experience.
The wine had an abundance of spicy fruit on the nose initially, smoothing out after a few moments. It was a beautifully balanced, nicely mature wine — the very definition of elegance with a finish both polished and long. It had lots of life left, but why wait? This is what aging in a cellar can do, as long as what is being cellared has the potential to start with. So now to find the wines suitable for aging.
Some of the great wines of Bordeaux meet the criteria but the prices do not. Instead, look for wines made from grapes with known potential for improving in the bottle. For example, in the south of Italy, great wines are made from the Aglianico grape. Some of the best carry the label “Taurasi” and are truly cellar-worthy. The venerable house of Mastroberardino produces outstanding Taurasi wines as does the ultra-modern Feudi di San Gregorio. But some lesser-known winemakers are also creating masterpieces, and generally at lesser prices.
Here are two we’ve found:
ANTICA HIRPINIA TAURASI 2010, a deeply coloured wine with black cherry and other dark fruit flavours, along with leather and tobacco, yet smooth-as-silk tannins. This is a real food wine at about $30.
VILLA RAIANO TAURASI 2012, showing blackberry and cherry flavours, along with licorice and tobacco to round it out. This is a firm wine, but already drinkable with many years to go before it reaches its peak. A bottle to put down for about $40.
Curious buyer can track down other bottles, including some made from white grapes, that should improve gracefully to delight future palates. More about these wines in future posts.