Most wine in America is consumed the night it is bought. Whether it be a bottle of Opus One for a dinner party or a box of Franzia white Zin to improve Tuesday-night leftovers, they’re often opened immediately with little thought.
Unfortunately, buying wine that way sacrifices a great deal of the pleasure of wine, and it can rarely provides the best deal. Pretentious though it may seem, it’s actually worthwhile to develop a strategy for acquiring wine. It’s both fun and rewarding.
There are a number of reasons for planning your purchases, but they almost all lead to having a stock on hand, ideally in a wine cellar or refrigerated storage cabinet. The most obvious advantage is that some wines improve with age, and even if you can afford to buy properly aged vintages, they may be very difficult to find. Buying young saves money, but it also means that you’ll be able to enjoy the wine when it’s at its peak. Of course, most wine doesn’t improve with age, but if you’re reading this, you most likely appreciate the wine that does. Most better reds certainly improve for a few years, and though many of today’s wines are made to reach their peaks within a decade, most are released when they’re only two or three years old. Hold them for even three or four years and they will improve tremendously. But if you buy wines at that stage, you will have to pay a premium.
Serious collectors, of course, often see wine as an investment that can be sold at an appreciated value in the future. Others see the real value in having far better wines to drink themselves.
And of course, some wines just keep on improving for decades: top Bordeaux, Burgundies, Napa Cabs, Barolos and many Spanish wines fall in this category. It’s not wise to drink them when they’re only a few years old, because if you do, they probably won’t be much better than ordinary wines.Some people even develop a taste for old wines that many would consider past their prime, while others enjoy learning what happens to wines as they age.
You can obviously save a great deal when you cellar wines yourself, but even cursory planning can also save a lot of money. Buying wine on sale can be very rewarding.Almost every retailer offers at least 10 percent off for full cases, sometimes mixed cases, and that’s like getting more than a bottle free with each case.
Some wines are even sold as futures. This primarily applies to top labels, but even some relatively modest wineries sell wine this way if it’s in short supply. For example, after disastrous fires and earthquakes in wine warehouses, some producers in California offered attractive futures for their wines to maintain cash flow.
When all is said and done, however, perhaps the best reason for planning ahead is to have the right wine on hand when you want it. It’s awful nice to be able to go into your cellar and grab a perfectly aged bottle that’s the perfect match for dinner,or to take a special treat to a celebration without a trip to the wine store,which may not even be open. In many places, finding a special bottle could require ordering ahead, or a long drive to a state store that is open during limited hours.
The only downside to having good wines on hand is a mixed one: You’re more likely to enjoy it!