Posted: Mar 04, 2019
As has been well established, not all wines are worth aging. But when age-worthy wines are discussed, talk often turns solely to the classics: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Rioja. Though the staying power of these wines has been proven, there is a huge array of wine readily available these days, including plenty of age-worthy wines that fly under most wine drinkers’ radar. Consider branching out by adding a few wines from these grapes and regions to the wine fridge.
There’s a hefty bonus to stocking the cellar with lesser-known wines; the competition for these bottles is far less fierce – and far less expensive – than it is for top vintages of Brunello di Montalcino or Bandol. Not only is it possible to find these wines, but it may not break the bank to spring for a full case, allowing for some flexibility when it comes to popping the cork on one. Don’t stop with these five grape varieties and regions, either; experiment with laying down top vintages from Beaujolais, structured Sagrantinos from Umbria, high-quality single-vintage Champagnes from grower-producers, and more. Big bottles are always interesting to experiment with, too; magnum wine bottles and their larger counterparts age more slowly than standard-sized ones.
Stock up on some of these wines now and see how they evolve over time. Who knows – maybe these regions will set new standards for aging during the coming decades.
Aglianico from Southern Italy
When it comes to red Italian grapes, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese – in no particular order – hold the top two spots for prestige and potential. Though it isn’t on the radar of every wine drinker, Aglianico should rank at a solid number three. Full-bodied and firmly structured, Aglianico thrives in the southern Italian regions of Campania’s Taurasi and Basilicata’s Aglianico del Vulture. Much like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, the power, tannins, and acidity of Aglianico prime these wines for long aging. Mastroberardino has proven the potential of Aglianico with its decades-old Taurasi wines, but look for versions from Guastaferro, Feudi di San Gregorio, and more.
Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina
Looking for a smooth, easy-drinking, affordable red? Malbec is a go-to. But don’t forget that Malbec comes from the Bordeaux family of grapes and therefore shares some of the age-worthy qualities of its siblings Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Certain Mendoza producers are making serious versions of Malbec, focusing on prime sites at different elevations and vinifying their wines in oak. Consider hanging on to well-made bottles from producers like Catena Zapata, Achaval-Ferrer, and El Enemigo and see how complex Malbec can really get when the fruit plays merely a supporting role.
Touriga Nacional from Douro, Portugal
It shouldn’t be a surprise that dry reds made from Touriga Nacional are built for aging. After all, the grape has comprised the core of Port wines for centuries. Deep in both color and flavor, Touriga Nacional tends to be both friendly in youth and concentrated enough to slowly unravel over time, unveiling herbal, floral, and earth-laden tones. Best of all, Touriga Nacional-based wines from the Douro tend to be far more affordable than more classic age-worthy wines like Brunello di Montalcino and Rioja.
Pinot Gris from Alsace, France
Alsace is famous for serious, age-worthy whites, but Pinot Gris – the same grape that is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy – is a less likely candidate for aging than Riesling or even Gewürztraminer. Alsatian Pinot Gris can be firm and spicy in youth, so even a bit of bottle aging allows it to open up into an expressive, layered, earthy wine that is fantastic with food. Off-dry versions in particular can age for 10 or more years, the sugar preserving the wine for the long haul.
Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley, France
Chenin Blanc may just be one of the most underrated white grapes around. After all, it’s able to make sparkling, still, dry, and sweet wines in a range of styles, and Chenin Blanc’s searing acidity helps many of those styles age for years, if not decades. The Loire Valley’s sweet Chenin Blancs like Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux, and Quarts de Chaume can easily improve over time, while the dry but concentrated Savennières sometimes doesn’t even become palatable until it reached five or more years of age. Even the ready-to-drink dry wines of Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire can develop pleasantly earthy, nutty nuances when aged. Those who are skeptical should seek out the back-vintage Vouvrays of Domaine Huet, or dive right in and look for long-lived wines from Jacky Blot of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups or Richard Leroy.
By Courtney Schiessl
February 27, 2019
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