Many of us have helped mark a special occasion with fine wine. What better way to celebrate and honor a spouse, child, relative or friend than a gift that can be shared by all.
The clinking of glasses filled with the libations of a painstakingly selected bottle of wine symbolizes the camaraderie, the close bond, the emotional connection we feel as we congregate around the dinner table.
I’ve always felt that this aspect of enjoying wine with family and friends is more fully enjoyed with planning and forethought. I typically purchase a special bottle of wine for these occasions.
One aspect of celebrating special occasions never entered my mind until recently. Why not commemorate a landmark with a bottle of wine from the birth-year of a child or the marriage-year of a relative? It wasn’t until our first grandchild was born that I began to think of purchasing memory wines.
A memory wine is a wine harvested in the year of the birth of someone special, typically purchased at, or soon after, release and then stored away by the bestower until that date in the future when the recipient attains a landmark. It might be the commemoration of the 21st birthday of a family member, a 25th or 50th wedding anniversary or an auspicious occasion that has a special connotation.
But which wine will symbolize the importance of attaining a life-status and will memorialize the gift-giver’s generosity and forethought, decades hence?
Here are my thoughts from my research and the ultimate purchases for my grandchildren.
- Select age-worthy wines. Most wines are produced to be consumed within a few years of harvest. I sought out wines that were built to last; wines produced in such a manner to improve in taste and character as they age over a 20- to 30-year continuum.
A number of wines are noteworthy for their ability to age: French Bordeaux and Burgundy wines are considered the premier aging wines, along with select Napa Valley Cabernets and Italian Barolos. As one might expect, these wines command a premium price. While it is not critical to invest several hundred dollars in a single bottle of First Growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy (which translates into a significant investment for a case), most age-worthy wines are priced in excess of $75 upon release.
- Consider the quality of the vintage. In highly rated years, prices tend to be high and rise in the future; you may have to seek out a lesser – but excellent – wine to match your price affordability range. In less regarded years, the reverse is true, and excellent wines may be more affordable.
- How many bottles? It’s difficult to celebrate with a single bottle. If your budget permits, a six-pack or a case is preferable. A case is the gift that keeps on giving beyond the year of an occasion, building lasting memories.
- Here’s the rub: Investing in age-worthy wines requires age-worthy storage. The top of the fridge or the back of a closet are grossly inadequate. If you don’t have the benefit of owning a climate-controlled wine cellar, consider purchasing a modest-sized portable storage unit or renting space at a certified, bonded storage service.
So, what have I selected for my memory wines for my grandchildren? The safest choice would have been a highly regarded Bordeaux or Burgundy. Resisting this temptation, I ultimately decided that I should be patriotic and pass on my patriotic fervor to my grandchildren.
Although there aren’t many American wines that compare favorably to high-end French wines, I narrowed my selection to three Napa wines and then chose one of my all-time favorites: Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Several cases of several vintages are now resting comfortably in my climate-controlled wine cellar.
Memory wines can be the perfect legacy gift. If you’re so inclined, don’t procrastinate. Fine wines not only improve with age, but their prices increase commensurately. Buy now. You will assure your legacy with family and/or friends.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted numerous wine tastings and lectures. Nick is the co-chairperson of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.