Last week, I nodded toward Valentine’s Day and wrote about relationships: toward wine drinking, loving and time itself. It was mostly theory. This week I offer practice: a list of reasonably priced wines that are enjoyable now but will amply reward a little more time with the corks in place, on their sides, in as dark and cool a location as you can find.
I mean it about enjoyable now, and hope that soon you’ll pick up a bottle or two to try. The project – let’s call it “Now and Forever” – will only reach its true potential, though, if you follow up by buying another couple of bottles of the same wine and not drinking them yet.
This will cost $30 to $40, with no immediate reward. A lot of folks can’t swing that, and that’s of course totally fine; I apologize, but this particular project is not for you.
For those of you who can swing the investment, perhaps downgrading your cable television plan in order to do so, here’s the idea: Take a leisurely week or few to taste some wines from the list below and find one or more that you like. Buy two bottles of one of these, and store them for at least a full year before opening another. Wait two years after that before you open the third.
If after Year One you have found value in the experience, see if the wine in that vintage is still available, and buy a few more to store even longer.
Don’t take notes, hoping to compare your assessments over time, unless you take notes on successive dates with your romantic partner. This is about love, not science, so don’t ruin it by getting all wine-critic-y. Just keep up your commitment, and see what happens.
Storing wine is an exercise in self-discipline and delayed gratification, which I know is antithetical to the spirit of Valentine’s Day (!). But the purpose in all this is to find even deeper value in something you have already come to cherish. Keep that as your aim and it won’t seem so hard.
In compiling the list, I have considered the upcoming holiday. These wines have something to do with romantic interludes, expressing a richness, volume and lusciousness, and in some cases a fineness and darling quality, that many of us crave when it’s cold outside and we’re opening a bottle in order to generate lasting warmth with just one other treasured human companion in our sights.
This is a starter list, and hopelessly brief. Since in one sense the story of wines over time is the original Story of Wine, I hope to return to the subject many times in the near future. For now, try these. Then let’s keep in touch, and see how everyone’s doing in 2015 …
Start with white wines, whose capacity for developing over time surprises many. Especially at prices under $25, though, it is more often whites that provide the best access to the secondary and tertiary characteristics, in both flavors and textures, that time in bottle delivers.
Domaine Castera Jurancon Sec 2010 ($16, Wicked). The Jurancon in southwest France produces immensely structured wines from manseng grapes. This 100 percent gros manseng is intensely mineral and dry, though when young it has flavors of ripe apple and honeycomb. Over time its muscular profile will sustain the development of nutty and cooked-cream aromas, and lay down a voluptuous cloak on the palate.
Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2012 ($15, Easterly). Weighty, serious wine, along the textural lines of barrel-aged Burgundy. This already comes at you with brown butter, toasted bread, hazelnuts – typical taste analogues for heavily new-oaked wine, though only a portion of this is fermented in used French barrels. But the flint and orange-rind notes give way to a denser, dried-floral presentation over time.
Couly-Dutheil ‘Les Chanteaux’ 2012 Chinon Blanc ($27, Mariner). OK, it’s pushing the price barrier set above. But holy, holy, holy moly. This is an extraordinary wine, a rare white from the Chinon appellation of the Loire. Right now it’s all about pure energy, a stallion of starfruit, lemongrass, five-spice. The oldest I’ve tasted is the 2010 last year, when it started to show more beeswax, sanded-down cedar and musk. But it still had tremendous drive and the promise of even more glassy opulence in years to come. A total, all-encompassing thrill.
Now, on to reds. The trick, as usual, is looking to lesser-known areas, where certain vintners are striving toward greatness but are less able to command high prices.
Viña Amalia Malbec Reserve 2010 ($19, SoPo). Lower-tier malbecs are made to be drunk young and fresh, all berries and new-oak-softened tannins. But this single-vineyard wine from the great high-altitude Valle de Uco, is sturdy and adult. I love the first-out-of-the-gate red lollipop notes, but there’s something in those background flavors of dying irises, pine and compost that tell me this will be fascinating in two to five years.
Le Piane Colline Novaresi Rosso ‘Maggiorina’ 2011 ($22, Devenish). Barolo and Barbaresco, the famous appellations that make most stunning use of nebbiolo, are usually drunk too young, unless your grandfather bequeathed you a bottle. Nebbiolo is just the prettiest thing when it has calmed down. ‘Maggiorina’ is a blend of nebbiolo, croatina and two other indigenous grapes, made in a very pure, natural manner. And it is calm already, exuding so much finesse. Roses and strawberries dominate the aromas; dried cherries present on the tongue. But there’s something in the mineral accents that suggests the wine will turn into something even more impossibly lovely in time.
Hochar Pere et Fils 2007 ($27, Easterly). Another wallet-stretcher, yes. But it’s an inimitable entry into the world of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar, whose natural wines are renowned for their distinctiveness and longevity. You can buy vintages of Chateau Musar back to the 1950s, directly from the winery, for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Or you can buy this, the second-tier line. Amazing flavors of figs, incense, cinnamon; earthy and rustic one minute, shimmering and elegant the next.
I’ve written previously about this wine that I taste life and death simultaneously in it. That remains true, and as useful a directive for following single wines over time as I can imagine.