I occasionally duck into the local Grocery Outlet to shop for wine bargains. This 400-store chain operates mostly on the West Coast and in Pennsylvania, offering discounted, overstocked and closeout foods and beverages.
Everyday white wines are what I usually look for. Among dozens of labels are reasonably priced bottles from producers I respect that are a few years past their initial release. I select a few to bring home. After sampling, I head back to buy a larger quantity of the ones that were good.
One gratifying discovery was a five-year-old Chalone Vineyard Estate Grown Chardonnay from the grape growing district of the same name in the Gavilan Mountains of California for $15, about half the usual price. Known for its age-worthy Chardonnay, Chalone is one of the state’s iconic vineyards. This one tasted perfect. In addition to nervy mineral and citrus flavors, it was showing the subtle almond, marzipan and lanolin nuances that develop in Chardonnay over time.
While not expensive or rare, it still showed the magical benefits that time can bring to one’s enjoyment and appreciation of wine.
An overwhelming majority of wine is consumed on the day it is bought, but that’s not necessarily a recommendation. Wines change with time in the bottle. And if they’re stored in a cool spot, some of them will develop and become more complex, revealing, and memorable.
While it’s possible to stumble onto them at Grocery Outlet, it’s smarter to be a little more strategic. Set yourself up with a wine rack or fridge at home and stock it with wine categories known to improve with age, red Bordeaux and Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon being prime examples. Plenty of $20–40 bottles show some benefits of aging just five years after the vintage.
Don’t fret when you see older vintages for sale at wine stores. These merchants may have done you a favor by intentionally stocking library releases that have been resting at the winery under ideal conditions.
“Good wines, like good people, mature over time. They become better company and have more to say.”- Jim Gordon, Contributing Editor, Wine Enthusiast
I believe that too many of us guzzle these wines in their youth and never get to know how smart, subtle and soulful they will be when they grow up.