Halloween is around the corner, so what better time to prepare for a zombie infiltration than now? You’ve formulated your escape plan. You’ve stockpiled supplies like food and candles, but what about wine? Does a deep cellar figure into your preparation plan when hiding out from zombies? It’s a good bet that a great bottle of rosé with that canned tuna may be the only bright spot while waiting out the undead uprising.
However, it could be years before society rebuilds itself, and wines age at different rates, some not maturing well at all. Many wines should be consumed as fuel in the early days of the outbreak, while others will take decades to evolve into their best selves. Factors that affect a wine’s evolution include packaging, storage conditions and composition, namely acid, tannin, sugar and alcohol.
Print and tape this guide to your cellar. When it’s “go time,” and the living dead are at the door, you’ll have the perfect reference sheet to best savor the art of survival.
The First Three Months
You’ve survived the initial zombie attack. Send out the pre-arranged signal to your friends on WhatsApp, drop a pin on your secluded cabin and arrange transportation to pick everyone up. At the compound, a wall of canned goods and decades’ worth of wine await.
What to Drink: Boxed Wine, Tetra Pak and PET Bottles.
These packaging types have the fastest oxygen exchange rates, and thus, the shortest shelf lives. As things get rough, you’ll have to drink your cheapest wine first. Hang in there.
The electrical grid collapses, but propane and solar panels keep the generator humming. The initial zombie wave has passed and the wine is stable.
What to Drink: Everyday Whites, Reds and Rosés.
Most wine isn’t meant to age beyond a year or two. Simple Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Beaujolais Nouveau should be consumed while still fresh, as they generally lack the structure and complexity—the stuffing—for long-term cellaring.
Establish a fenced perimeter around your cellar to stave off security breaches.
What to Drink: Chianti Classico, Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, and Rhône Valley whites.
Time to open moderate-acid whites like Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne from the Rhône, and warmer-climate Chardonnays from California. Lighter reds like Chianti Classico and red Burgundies will provide a calming, if temporary, salve.
You’ve learned to nimbly avoid the scattered clusters of remaining zombies. You cut the fence at the nearby reservoir to collect drinking water and boil it as a precaution. After all, for every glass of wine, you should have two glasses of water.
What to Drink: White Burgundy, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, New World Merlot and Bordeaux Supérieur.
Start to pull your medium-bodied, moderate-acid reds and mineral-driven whites meant for earlier drinking. Wines like Sancerre and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, plus California Zinfandel or Merlot, should be ready to go. Due to concerns over premature oxidation, start cracking the white Burgundy. Frankly, if you’ve made it this long, you’ve earned a glass of Chassagne-Montrachet.
Thank God for your wine stash. Life is hard. You plant a small garden and start to barter squash and potatoes with neighboring communities of non-zombified humans. Nobody knows about the wine. Sharing would be too risky.
What to Drink: Rhône Valley reds, Loire Valley whites, German and Austrian Riesling, Tasmanian Chardonnay, Langhe Nebbiolo and Pomerol.
By now, acid levels in cooler-climate whites have begun to soften and integrate, though Riesling can mature favorably for many more years. Higher-quality reds have started to develop tertiary notes and rounder tannins, perfect to pair with your venison-heavy diet.
On bicycle reconnaissance rides, long stretches pass without any sightings of the living dead. A seed of hope embeds.
What to Drink: Napa, Margaret River and Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage Champagne, Oregon Pinot Noir and Premier Cru Burgundy.
The best New World Cabs start to sing after a decade, though they can easily go longer. Well-made Pinots have shed primary fruit for lovely layers of savory underbrush. Vintage Champagne tends to age better than nonvintage because the grapes tend to come from a good harvest and the best vineyards. Time to pop a bottle and toast to optimism, perhaps?
The initial horror of the zombie outbreak starts to become a fading memory. A new society begins to form. You ally with neighbors and open your cellar to a select few who cry at the sight of maturing wines.
What to Drink: Italy’s top reds from Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino; Grand Cru red Burgundy.
With firm acidity as their backbone, reds from the greatest vineyards ascend toward the sublime. Integrated, resolved tannins swaddle red and black fruits, often still vibrant, along with tertiary notes of tobacco leaf, mushroom, truffle and leather.
You accept the role of community wine grower and plant the first vines. The humidity and rain contribute high disease pressure and only cold hardy vines will make it through the harsh winters. This in mind, you’ve opted for hybrid varieties like Baco Noir and Chelois, grapes that have seen success in places like the Hudson Valley, Vermont and Oregon.
What to Drink: Grand Cru Classé red Bordeaux, Vintage Port, exceptional dessert wines like Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese.
Top Bordeaux starts to hit its optimal window, and you’ve got plenty to celebrate. You wonder if you’ll ever see a new vintage of fragrant Margaux or powerful young Saint-Estèphe. Vintage Port and aged Sauternes represent the height of liquid aesthetics.
It’s a brave new world. The zombies are a forgotten memory. The sun still rises and sets. Wines from your vineyards trade avidly between villages, and your light-bodied reds and fresh whites fuel evening gatherings around the local improv group.
What to Drink: Madeira.
Practically indestructible, this fortified wine serves as an emblem of your tenacity. Once produced on the Portuguese island of the same name, Madeira possesses its trademark toffee, caramel, and nutty notes from heat-treated aging. Like Madeira, you’ve made it. You’re a survivor.