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Buying a few birth-year bottles for your offspring or the children of family or friends can be a fun, meaningful gift, especially if there’s a chance you’ll be present to share in their enjoyment.
The question centres on which wines to buy as well as when to buy them. Some readers have asked for suggestions while seemingly still in the delivery room, which is obviously too early to start shopping.
The sweet spot for the most collectable and age-worthy wines will typically be available when the child is three to five years of age. That means for children born in 2015, 2016 or 2017, the coming months should provide ample opportunity to shop for wines with the best potential. An investment of $50 or more should yield options that range from good to outstanding in nature.
It helps if the child’s birth happened in a great year for wine, but that’s not as important as it once was. Fine wine that has the capacity to age can be produced all around the world now, so there is sure to be something suitable even if, say, Bordeaux, Burgundy or Napa’s grape harvest was lacklustre in the desired year. It’s also worth noting that even in lesser vintages, there are producers that defy the odds and produce stellar wines.
Sweet and fortified wines have long been suggested as solid birth-year investments for good reason. The abundant residual sugar and/or high alcohol content works as a great preservative for the wine to mature gracefully over time in a controlled environment. Their concentrated character is likely to be enjoyable for the now-grown child compared with other older wines. A mature dry red wine with dried fruit, tobacco and leathery notes is even more of an acquired taste.
For table wines, the classic regions are always the best starting point, given their established reputation for wines that can age. Think Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone Valley in France, Barolo, Brunello or Tuscany in Italy or California or Australia for red wines. For white wines, don’t overlook the Mosel or Rheingau regions of Germany for well-priced and long-lived rieslings, ranging from dry to sweet styles.
If you can find a magnum bottle, which contains the equivalent of two conventional-sized bottles, the wine will develop more slowly in bottle.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be reviewing wines that would fit the bill for long-term cellaring for future birthdays or other milestone events. Even in these strange times, the lead up to the holiday season will see a rush of rare and collectible wines coming to market. You should consult a trusted source wherever you shop for wine. Let them know what you’re looking for, and they can advise what’s on hand and keep an eye out for suitable selections as they become available. Finding something to sock away for a future celebration is easily done. Whether the birthday boy or girl actually enjoys a taste of that special bottle is harder to say.