The vast majority—something like 90% or more—of wine purchased in this country is consumed within 48 hours of purchase. This list isn’t about that. It’s not about pop and pour; it’s not about instant gratification. Instead, our list of the year’s Top 100 Cellar Selections is about laying the groundwork, anticipating the pleasure and—perhaps 10 years from now—experiencing the delights only a mature wine can offer, secure in the knowledge that you purchased it on release and cellared it carefully until just the right moment.
To a large extent, our list of Top 100 Cellar Selections reflects which classic wine regions released the best vintages during the past year. In 2011, that means the list is heavy on 2007 Barolo and 2006 Brunello di Montalcino, but light on the terrific 2009 Bordeaux and Burgundies, which are largely yet to be reviewed. In the interest of diversity, we sprinkle in wines from a wide range of countries and grape varieties, but since most of these ageworthy wines come from established regions and top vintages, the emphasis is on quality, not value. Despite that, this year’s list does feature 30 wines that were originally released for $50 per bottle or less, including the year’s top pick. Multimillionaires shouldn’t have all the fun, should they?
Lush and classy, with earthy blackberry, hard spice, chocolate and lemon peel aromas. The palate is a mile deep and tannic, but it’s not too hard or mean, and it tastes fantastic, with ripe blackberry, chocolate, spice and toast flavors. Complex and masculine, with tobacco and woodspice on the finish. Drink from 2012 through 2016.— M.S. (11/1/2011)
A little bit hickory-dominated on the bouquet, but also giving balsamic notes, blackberry and chocolate mint. The palate is linear due to a streak of cutting acidity, while the palate is also snappy with wild raspberry and bright plum flavors and plenty of wood tannin. A toasty finish with espresso and chocolate is fine and long. Drink now through 2017.— M.S. (8/1/2011)
Brokenwood’s three current-release Semillons, this one gets the nod as the most complete. It’s light to medium in weight, but oh so long and precise on the finish, and intense yet seemingly transparent, like spider’s silk, with fleeting glimpses of wet stones and moss. Try between 2015 and 2025.— J.C. (11/1/2011)
A powerful wine, very structured with wood, coffee notes and dark tannins. It feels extracted, although the weight of fruit is certainly enough to handle that. It’s for the long haul, a concentrated wine that needs at least 10 years.— R.V. (9/1/2011)
Shows the dryness, acidity and tightly wound minerality of all Hanzell’s young Chardonnays, but with a depth of citrus and apricot fruit that marks it as a reserve. It really warrants time in the cellar. Best after 2013, and should develop for several more years.— S.H. (5/1/2011)
This Barolo from the Brunate cru shows gorgeous characteristics of mature fruit, spice, natural rubber, asphalt, tar and root beer. The wine’s personality is marked by a comforting, almost familiar territory-driven feel that recalls the greatest Nebbiolo-based wines from Piedmont. Save this bottle in your cellar for 10 years or more.— M.L. (9/1/2011)