Nine wines to build an unbeatable cellar, chosen by our critic David Lawrason
I recently spent an evening with my cousin pouring over-the-hill wine down the sink, about 10 bottles in all. We tasted each one first. The New World reds were cooked into a raisiny, composty glop. The higher-acid Euro and Canadian wines, including a cheap 1981 Bordeaux, were dried out. I pronounced them all deceased. The cull cleared my cousin’s wine rack of special occasion bottles she’d been given over the years. Being sentimental, she couldn’t bear to drink them, even though most were under $20 and never meant to age. There is no sure-fire formula for selecting age-worthy wines. However, buying more expensive and concentrated wines will help—the more full bodied a wine, the longer it will keep. That means cabernet sauvignon and its Bordeaux-style blends, syrah and its Rhône family and many native varieties from Italy, Spain and Portugal are good bets. Your job is to be adventurous and willing to open them. Wine is made to be enjoyed, not hoarded.
$26 | Napa Valley | 89 points
Dense and tannic cabernet sauvignon ages well. New World editions can lack acid backbone, unless you go upmarket to Napa Valley. This well-priced version shows complex fig, cherry, pencil lead, Marmite and dried herb flavours. It’s full bodied with real tannic grit. Best 2014 to 2018. LCBO. Vintages 987420
$40 | Piedmont, Italy | 89 points
The nebbiolo grape of Barolo and Barbaresco requires long aging to smooth out its dry tannin. This 2007 has already evolved to a luminous brick colour, and the aromas are savoury and leathery with sun-dried tomato-cherry fruit. It remains tart, so let it evolve until 2015. LCBO. Vintages 286070
$24 | Stellenbosch, South Africa | 90 points
Cabs from Stellenbosch are among the most structured and age worthy in the world. The house that golf built has produced a sleek red, with blackberry, iodine, chocolate and tobacco flavours. Epic length suggests a long future. Best 2015 to 2020. LCBO. Vintages 278358
$15 | Bairrada, Portugal | 90 points
Most Portuguese reds require ageing, especially Bairrada, made from the tannic baga grape. However, touriga nacional has been added to this one so it can be enjoyed a little earlier. It’s lush and rich, with roasted chestnut and cherry flavours. Best 2013 to 2018. LCBO. Vintages 293415
$33 | McLaren Vale, Australia | 90 points
Most Aussie shiraz is rich, soft, smooth and best enjoyed young. However, the more expensive, full-bodied wines can live for years. This organic behemoth, with a brooding nose of pepper, black olive, leather, burnt chocolate and prune, is still taut and tannic. Best 2014 to 2019. LCBO. Vintages 149914
$18 | Rioja, Spain | 90 points
Spanish Rioja is not heavy, but natural acidity makes it a good aging candidate. Already aged five years at the winery, this bargain has a rich and compelling nose of cocoa butter, cedar and blackberry fruit. It’s medium-full, ripe and dense—amazing for $18. Enjoy it for another five years. LCBO. Vintages 170092
$40 | Burgundy | 92 points
Pinot noir doesn’t age as long as other reds, but this premier cru burgundy from 2009 should last 10 years. It already shows lifted aromas of cran-cherry fruit, cedar and clove, and it will become even more complex and smooth once its twiggy tannins recede. Best 2014 to 2018. LCBO. Vintages 279067
$60 | Tuscany | 93 points
This Brunello has been aged at the winery for five years—in the barrel and the bottle. It’s worth the splurge to taste a great, mature red with intense and complex aromas of cedar, herbs, tomato-cherry jam, leather and spice. It’s rich, smooth and balanced. Best now to 2017. LCBO. Vintages 651141
$45 | Tuscany | 93 points
Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast has become a hot spot for age-worthy blends of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. This full-bodied, dense, firm and elegant version has a lifted nose of violets, tobacco, dill, leather and raspberry pie. Fine tannins should ensure a long life in the cellar. Best 2014 to 2020. LCBO. Vintages 292391
Scores: David Lawrason assigns scores on a 100-point scale. They reflect a wine’s overall quality.
A rating of 95 to 100 is outstanding; 90 to 94 excellent; 85 to 89 very good; 80 to 84 good.