By and large, American culture is obsessed with the present, often favoring instant gratification over distant pleasure. But there’s a real beauty and deeper sense of appreciation to purchasing a wine upon release and properly storing it until just the right moment in time. It’s an experience that requires patience, but one that should not be overlooked or underestimated.
Although most wine lovers are aware of the potential benefits of aging certain special bottles, more than 80% of wines are consumed within 48 hours of being purchased, and over 95% are consumed within the next six months. Overall, consumers seem to have a hard time playing the waiting game.
That’s where we at Wine Enthusiast hope to help. We know it’s not easy—or cheap—to keep a cellar stocked with selections worthy of future enjoyment. But we also know that some of the best wines in the world deserve a little love in the cellar. With that in mind, our editors have culled through the wines designated as “Cellar Selections” in the magazine this year, and have chosen the 100 finest candidates to lay down.
In the interest of diversity, we chose bottlings that span many countries and varieties, though it’s no surprise that many of the best cellaring wines come from established regions and top vintages. Many of these wines are of limited production, and just like wines on our other Top 100 lists, some may have sold out or increased in price since our initial reviews were published.
Let’s talk about price. This list emphasizes quality over value, including many reputable, top-dollar selections with price tags that should not surprise serious collectors and aficionados. But in the spirit of Wine Enthusiast, we still considered price and availability. Regardless of your location or wallet, these are wines that you can collect and enjoy.
J Winery goes against the grain of the modern high alcohol, superripe style to produce this bone dry, steely, somewhat austere young Chardonnay. It hits with a smack of acidity and minerals, with an elegant complexity that may challenge those looking for big, fruity Chards. Give it a couple years in the cellar and see how it evolves.— S.H. (4/1/2012)
Sourced from another of the Cayuse vineyards, this is two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one-third Syrah—a proven blend in Walla Walla. There is a potently aromatic herbal quality to the perfectly ripened fruit that marries black cherry and earthy tannins to the herbs. A big wine, with dried leaf character dominating the tannins. Good length, in an Italian style…— P.G. (12/15/2011)
From this top Bergerac producer comes this powerful blend. With its 30% Malbec, it has intense tannins and a firm, solid structure, with dense and richly concentrated blackberry fruit. It does need to age for at least five years.— R.V. (6/1/2012)
The Cesari family has perfected its formula for achieving pure pleasure in liquid form. This is superstar Amarone, with loads of chewy, ripe fruit, decadent dark chocolate, leather, moist pipe tobacco and candied raspberry flavors. Even with all of the richness, extraction and deliciousness, this is an elegant wine. Drink after 2018.— M.L. (11/1/2012)
A worthy followup to the 2007, perhaps not as immediately flamboyant, but a major Pinot Noir to age in the cellar. Shows flashy cherry and raspberry fruit, with tantalizingly rich spices and a perfect coating of sweet, smoky oak. Fine and delicious now, after decanting, and should develop over this decade.— S.H. (2/1/2012)
A perennial favorite, Wakefield’s St. Andrews bottling shows how good certain parts of Clare can be for Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2006 displays a masterful blend of cedar, chocolate, mocha, cassis, baking spices and leather, all wrapped in an elegant coat of dusty but supple tannins. Drink 2015–2025.— J.C. (5/1/2012)