Now, imagine pulling out a bottle of spectacular wine from the year of your wedding to cap the celebration. The occasion will be great no matter what. But for someone who loves wine, that special bottle can become a special punctuation mark.
Wine lovers have been saving special wines for as long as there have been vintages on wine bottles. And you can, too.
You could go to a fine restaurant and purchase a bottle there for the equivalent of your mortgage payment for the month.
Or, you could do some planning and buy in anticipation of your special event. Here are the basics:
1. Select and buy a wine that's meant to age
2. Store it properly
3. Fast forward a few years, open the bottle, and enjoy!
One example: I've saved numerous bottles from my daughter’s birth year. She was born in 2000. Fortunately, this was a very hot year in Europe that produced many great age-worthy wines. Bordeaux, Rioja and the Piedmont areas all had great years. I focused my attention on those regions.
I also bought futures of a few Bordeaux wines. The price per bottle averaged roughly $45 when I purchased the futures. Roughly four years later, I took possession of the wine. Before I even saw the bottles, I sold half of my purchases for $100 a bottle. At the end of the day, the basis of my daughter’s stash was essentially free (less the opportunity cost of locking up my money for 4+ years.) For years after that time, I picked up bottles of age-worthy 2000 vintage online and in retail stores. I still look but the availability has decreased and the price has increased tremendously.
I store everything I bought from wine futures in the locker of the store that sold me those wines. The rest of my wine sits in a special wine refrigerator that has a $6 humidity monitor inside as well as regularly replaced containers of water to keep the humidity between 50% and 80%. The wines in my refrigerator will be consumed first. Here's how you can do it yourself.
1. Select a wine meant to age for years to come.
Many people believe any wine will improve with age. This is simply false. In fact, most of the wine we buy should be consumed within five years of purchase, and many wines are best consumed within 18 months of bottling.
There are, however, many wines that are designed for aging. Some areas known for fine aged wines are the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France, Napa Valley, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, and Priorat and Rioja in Spain.
This is not a complete list, but it's a good place to start. Most wines from these regions won't suit your needs, but the higher end wines from good vintages will work well.
Very few wines can age 20+ years. Even the most amazing growing areas will have off years. Weather will make or break any grape crop.
Fortunately, if one area is not ideal in the year you are buying, there will likely be another area with great conditions for saving.
Some resources to help you fine the right area for your purchase are Robert Parker Vintage Guide, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Vintage Charts, and Wine Spectator (membership required).
Not only will these charts help you select a region with the best “juice,” but they will also help you make the decision of when to open that bottle. While age-worthy wines are not cheap, you don’t have to go the very high end to find something suitable.
2. Buy the wine.
Really great wine isn’t released for years after its harvested. For instance, the most recent vintage of Brunello (a fantastic, age-worthy wine from Tuscany, Italy) currently for sale is from 2010. So you have some time after the event to get everything researched and sorted.
Some wines will be very difficult to buy: Despite the price, demand is high. Typically, fine wines get more expensive the further they get from their release release, because you are paying for the wine AND the storage of that wine.
There are three primary ways to find and buy these wines:
- Wine futures. You can save money by buying wine before it is released. These futures can be secured from the winemaker or through third parties. You lay out your money in advance, but get the wine at a pretty steep discount over the release price (assuming the wine ages well and demand for the wine remains). If demand decreases, the discount will be less.
- Buy at auction. Many wine auctions are now held online, and they can be a great way to find wines with very limited releases. There are some deals here, but you will need to do your research.
- Go directly to the winery. Many wineries will reserve a percentage of their bottling for future sales, and with a little digging you could find something special that you won’t see at auction or in retail stores.
Wine is heartier than some would have you believe. For most wine, you don’t need to have a fancy wine refrigerator or cellar.
However, the wines we are talking about will require more care. Over the years, light, heat, and low humidity can strip the wine of its flavor and life. Given the investment you are making, it makes sense to commit some energy to the protection of the wine.
Buying a wine refrigerator will help protect the wine from light and heat, but do make sure you manage the humidity in the cooling environment. Some pricier models have humidity regulation as a feature in their storage units. If you don’t have that, make sure there is always a small container of water in the refrigerator, which will restore humidity to the device.
If you plan to keep the wine for more than 15 years, a better solution is an off-site wine locker. Many higher-end wine stores provide this service, and there are many dedicated services popping up around the country. For a monthly fee, you can have a humidity- and temperature-controlled space that would beat virtually any home cellar or refrigerator, and they will deliver your stored wine to you within a few hours. If you order wine from a store that caters to collectors, it will often allow you to keep your wine there for a smaller fee than you pay if you rented your own space independent of the purchase.
This isn’t for everyone, but if its sounds like fun, give it a try. If you recently got married, had a child, started a company, or simply want to mark a vacation where you visited a wonderful winery, think about buying — and saving — a special bottle.