Monday, March 23, 2009

Does It Make Sense to Cellar Wine Under $20?

Today's wine marks the end of my journey through the Italian region of Piedmont and my first review of Nebbiolo on GWU$20. It also represents an opportunity to explore whether or not it makes any sense at all to cellar a wine that costs less than $20.

Most of the wines reviewed on this blog are ready to drink on release. Many will improve and taste even better in 6-12 months. Some need more time--say 12-18 months. But the 2001 Dessilani Spanna Riserva that I opened up recently provided a ringing endorsement for the idea that some wine--not terribly expensive, to be sure, but made with a grape that rewards patience--can be held for three years and make you happy that you waited so long before drinking it.

The 2001 Dessilani Spanna Riserva was a spectacularly good example of a budget-friendly Nebbiolo, one of the Piedmont's most illustrious and coveted grapes. I paid $12.99 for this bottle of wine at BevMo back in March 2006. More recent vintages will now cost you $15-$26. Three years later, in March 2009, this wine had blossomed into a beauty. It had aromas of violets, black tea, charcoal grill, and plums. The wine was fairly drying on the tongue even now--eight years past harvest--and earlier tasting notes on CellarTracker! indicate that it was a fairly challenging wine when it was young. Now, however, it revealed meaty and plummy flavors with silky, well-integrated tannins and hints of cedar in the aftertaste. It was best within several hours of first opening, but continued to be drinkable through the second day.

Will all inexpensive wine improve with age? Absolutely not. But it's worth doing your research to find out what grapes--like Nebbiolo--do benefit from a few extra months in the bottle.

What have your experiences been with cellaring inexpensive wine?


bccdavid said...

I don't believe the cost of the wine is a factor for cellaring. If the wine needs to age, it should be properly cellared. I have over 450 bottles of wine - most are less then $20 (probably 85%). I cellar them so they are kept properly and not corked, cooked, etc. when I want to enjoy them.

I do watch drinking windows (using Cellar Tracker) to help me pick out which wines need to be consumed soon.

Matt.mmwine said...

I don't think price has any impact on cellaring. The question is which wines under 20 should be cellared. I dont think there's a clear cut answer for that.

I will say that much of what I drank over the summer and fall was 2005 Bordeaux, mostly under $20. A good deal of that would have benefited from 2-10 years in the cellar. I wish I could find the same bottles now at that price, unfortunately.

It's hard to be sure exactly which wines will stand up to time. However, finding those gems, even through trial and error, and putting them away for a few years, will yield some fantastic results.


Lucky Mike said...

I agree that price has no relation to cellaring. I once purchased a case of Trader Joe's La Boca Malbec ($3 a bottle, as I recall). While it was perfectly drinkable when purchased, naturally, some of it sat for awhile. About a year and a half later, the wine had mellowed some and had a smoother, more even profile. It was still a fairly basic wine, but the 18 months it spent resting had done it good.

While plenty of wines are ready to drink at the time of their release, I think most of them will improve in the first year or two of cellaring. Is it necessary? No. But if you have the space and the patience, it's worth a shot.

The South Florida Punch said...

I found this really interesting to read. I've almost always drank wines young until recently, when I discovered in my wine class just what it means to drink a wine that has aged well. Now I really want to get into trying this more. I'm planning to get a wine refrigerator, but I'm a little fuzzy on what types of grapes or blends I should lay down. I would be happy to read more about your experiences and suggestions with aging a wine to its full maturity.

Dave Mention said...

I agree with bccdavid and with the original post - Last week we opened two bottles of 1999 Roero that we brought back from Italy and stuck in the cellar. The Roero, like Spanna, is a Nebbiolo wine, and both bottles were very nice. Fearing that it might not fare so well, I decanted it in the morning and we drank it that evening. Excellent.

I wish I had more wines in my cellar, regardless of original price!