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waters on wine
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Col d'Orcia Montalcino vineyard in Tuscany.Supplied

Most bottles of wine are consumed within hours of purchase. That cabernet or chardonnay is destined to be opened and quickly. Don’t pass go, do not wait for tertiary flavours that come from maturity to develop. Some wine lovers will prefer younger wines no matter what.

Despite the immediacy of our buy-as-needed wine consumption, I always include a suggested drinking window as part of each wine review should anyone be interested in delayed gratification. The ability to age is expected for expensive bottles, but any well-made wine, with good balance of acidity, alcohol and texture, stands a good chance of developing. Some styles of wine – amarones, barolos, châteauneuf-du-papes and whites and reds from classic grape varieties and regions – are specifically made for extended aging.

Refreshing or overtly fruity wines, such as Marlborough sauvignon blanc or rosés from Provence or most other parts of the world, are best enjoyed upon release. That goes double for most inexpensive, mass-produced wines. They will develop in bottle, but likely at the expense of the fruity intensity that makes them appealing in the first place.

I started collecting wine in university. Bottles of Niagara riesling, Trius Red and a prized bottle of Mondavi Napa cabernet displaced the shoes from the back of my closet. As the collection expanded from stacked cardboard boxes in an apartment closet to racks and a wine fridge in the basement of various homes, my focus remained on drinking, not investing. While I enjoy wines with huge reputations and price tags, I’m not after trophies. I don’t wish to end up with an assortment of blue chip wines that I can afford to buy but cannot afford to drink.

The goal is to purchase quality wines with more accessible prices that will reward my patience and overdeliver on my original investment.

For anyone with an existing wine cellar or who’s looking to stock a new wine fridge or wine rack, here are some of the regions and styles of wine that I’m currently focusing on buying and not drinking right away. These are serious wines with the potential to mature gracefully in a dark and cool corner of your home if you’re interested in seeing how different wines evolve.


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Bordeaux vineyards in Saint Emilion in Aquitaine region, France.samael334/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

While its first growth properties continue to be held in high regard, with skyrocketing prices as a result, the rest of Bordeaux is often overlooked. Winemakers in various parts of the world, notably Napa and Sonoma and South Australia and Western Australia, have adopted and adapted Bordeaux’s signature style – cabernet-merlot blends – and developed loyal followings with consumers and collectors. Time spent touring the area with Globe readers in June was a reminder of how much quality wine is made in high quantities beyond the splurge-worthy chateaux. Bordeaux continues to be the world’s largest fine wine district, which means there’s desirable bottles that offer good value for money to be had, especially in the $50 to $100 range. There’s been a slew of very good to outstanding vintages – notably 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 – which makes for a steady supply for Canadian consumers looking to stock up.

Canadian chardonnay

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Quails' Gate Winery in Kelowna.Supplied

From coast to coast, winemakers in Canada have a winning way with chardonnay. Distinctively different styles are fashioned in vineyards in Osoyoos, B.C., Vineland, Ont., Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., Wolfville, N.S., and many other towns and villages across the country. Some are racy, others are rich and rewarding, many are extremely high quality and worth buying now to enjoy later. To my taste, the best Canadian chardonnays are just hitting their stride as the winery sells its last bottle and starts selling the new, fresh vintage. The 2019 and 2020 growing seasons in British Columbia and Ontario offered the right conditions to produce exceptional chardonnays. I’m particularly keen on the aging potential of Ontario’s 2019, although those are becoming increasingly hard to find. Most wineries are offering their 2020 selections. Most quality Canadian chardonnays will mature nicely for five to seven years after release, outstanding examples will develop and hold for 10 years or longer.

Chilean cabernet sauvignon

Roughly one out of three bottles of wine produced in Chile is cabernet sauvignon. Many are cheap and cheerful by nature, but premium examples are richly concentrated and seriously structured. The fuller bodied styles from Colchagua Valley in central Chile and Maipo, which is located farther north, have great potential for aging. The Aconcagua appellation is another cabernet hot spot to consider. Even $20 bottles from good producers have the capability to mature in the cellar, developing more complexity and smoother texture. Four to six years after release will still show ripe fruit flavours, while a longer spell in the cellar results in a wine with more earthy flavours and polished texture. Producers of note include Concha y Toro, De Martino, Errazuriz, Montes, Santa Carolina, Santa Rita and Tarapaca.

South African chenin blanc

The money I used to spend on white Burgundy for the cellar is increasingly being diverted to South African producers. Outside of a continued good supply of chablis at a range of prices, the chardonnays from other celebrated parts of of Burgundy are becoming more expensive and increasingly difficult to source. Severe frost in April and a cool and damp summer made for a tiny crop in 2021, which is sure to make matters worse. Thankfully there’s an abundance of barrel fermented chenin blancs from Stellenbosch, Swartland and elsewhere to fill the gap. While imminently drinkable upon release, these will develop richer flavours and more complexity with age, say five to 10 years in the cellar. I’d stock up on wines by Alheit Vineyards, Bellingham, Ken Forrester, Mullineux and Radford Dale, which I suspect are going to be difficult to find when collectors around the world figure out how incredible these wines are.

Tuscany (Chianti Classico/Brunello di Montalcino)

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Col d'Orcia vineyards in Tuscany.Supplied

Tuscany continues to be a bountiful source of red wines that are appetizing and age worthy. Winemakers in Chianti Classico, the historic heart of the Chianti region, have three successive vintages that are worthy of our attention. Red wines produced in 2018, 2019 and 2020 are fresh and elegant, styles that I believe will develop gracefully, with many bottles that offer good value for their quality. There’s also excitement surrounding current and upcoming releases of brunello, fuller bodied red wines made exclusively from the sangiovese grape grown in vineyards surrounding the picturesque town of Montalcino. In a new initiative, the Consorzio of Brunello di Montalcino provided a sneak preview of the wines produced in 2018 at tastings in November in London, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Although by law Brunello’s 2018 vintage won’t officially be released until Jan. 1 – which meets the five years after harvest aging requirement – these tastings were designed to give wine journalists a chance to publish reviews ahead of the release. Brunello is particularly popular with North American collectors, who can afford $50 or often much more for the pleasure of these rich and powerful wines.

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