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.
A top-rank Pinot Noir, dry, silky and elegant, with moderate alcohol despite great richness. The flavors of cherries, cola, plums and herbs are simply delicious, while the structure displays great integrity of acids and tannins. A bit tight now in youth, it should unfold over the next eight years. If you pop the cork now, give it a few hours of airing.— S.H. (5/1/2012)
This sets a high standard for Oregon Chardonnay. Bright and snappy, yet deep and concentrated, it’s a symphony of lemon, citrus, stone and tropical fruits, well-differentiated yet perfectly integrated. The extraordinary length and precise focus, along with the overall balance and structure, suggest that this should improve for many years to come.— P.G. (12/1/2012)
A gorgeously rich wine, powered by tannins but just as importantly by ripe berry fruit and crisp acidity. Smoky wood flavors blend with juicy fruit, powerful dark tannins and an intensely fresh finish. Age for seven years or more.— R.V. (5/1/2012)
A bold, muscular, striking wine with nerves of steel, this offers a dense, demanding array of black fruit threaded with veins of espresso, smoke, tar, tobacco and iron. As it bursts with exotic barrel flavor, the fruit seems a bit buried, but time after time these wines unfold over the course of decades into glorious maturity. These are arguably the most long-lived…— P.G. (9/1/2012)
Capanna’s offering in 2007 is extremely bold, dark and opulent. Loads of aromatic momentum in the form of blackberry, cherry liqueur, spice, leather, tobacco, rum cake, cinnamon, vanilla bean and bitter chocolate characterize the bouquet. The wine also shows a soft, ripe, generous texture, yet remains well-contained and balanced.— M.L. (5/1/2012)
This Cabernet-Merlot blend is packed with blackberry and crème de cassis, with a firm minerality. With the weight of the middle palate and the long, spicy finish, it’s especially attractive, although it's also quite tannic. The only difference between this Estate Monte Bello Cabernet and Ridge's Monte Bello Estate Cabernet ($150; note the difference in the…— S.H. (8/1/2012)
A major success of the vintage. The wine exhibits extreme richness of the fruit, with all its sweet blackberry flavors. It also has underlying firm structure, density and solid tannins. Bring in the acidity at the end, and this is both impressive and ready for long-term aging.— R.V. (2/1/2012)
A stunning Pirouette—63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 9% Cab Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. Full and magnificently rich, it is loaded with dense and thrilling fruit flavors of black cherry and cassis. A streak of iron and a hint of citrus keep the wine evolving through a long, beautifully balanced finish. Retasted after being open for 24 hours, the wine was as fresh…— P.G. (2/1/2012)
Here’s a “wow” wine on every level, with incredible intensity and supple softness that builds momentum over many long minutes. A sweet cherry note at the core is surrounded by lush layers of tobacco, dark chocolate and spice, which promise to evolve gracefully over years to come.— M.L. (2/1/2012)