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I would like to buy a bottle of wine from a specific vintage to give many decades later as a gift. What wine should I buy?

This question usually goes like this:  “I want to buy a bottle of wine for my nephew who was just born, and give it to him when he is 21 years old.”  Or “I want to buy a bottle of wine from the year I was married and open it on my 25th anniversary.”

In both of these cases, you should be looking for a bottle of wine that will age for a substantial amount of time.  You want to look for a wine that has two of three natural preservatives in high amounts: tannin, acidity and/or residual sugar.

Bordeaux, Port and Barolo would all be excellent candidates but most importantly you should seek out something from …

  • a fine estate (knowledge, history, reputation)
  • an excellent growing region (history, reputation)
  • an excellent year (good weather makes great grapes)
  • one that has been reviewed by a reputable wine writer in regards to its general longevity in the bottle

The general rule of thumb is – the amount of time it takes for a wine to reach its peak, is the amount of time the wine will hold before it begins to decline.  After you have met the criteria above, you will want to find out when the wine is estimated to be at its peak.  If you find that the wine will be at its peak 10 years from the vintage, then you can guesstimate that it will last 20 years.  (I use the word guesstimate because this is not an exact science.)

However, before you go running off to the store, you have to consider how you will age this bottle for the next 10, 15 or 20 years – otherwise it will be vinegar by the time you open it.  Proper long-term storage conditions are:

  • 50-55 degrees F
  • 70% humidity
  • dark
  • no vibrations
  • lack of strong aromas

If you can not store your wine in this method for the length of time needed, then you are better off seeking that particular vintage from an auction house or a fine wine shop closer to the date of opening.  While the wine will be substantially more expensive, you will not have had the expense (or worry) of aging it properly.  As well, there will be many more reviews available at the time of purchase that will help you to verify the wine has indeed lasted as long as expected.