What wine to lay down for 20 years?

Answered by Nicholas Phillips

When it comes to laying down for 20 years or more, there are a few key varieties that come to mind. These wines have the potential to develop and evolve beautifully over time, offering a complex and nuanced drinking experience. As an expert sommelier and brewer, I have had the pleasure of tasting and experiencing the aging potential of various wines. Here are some dry red wines that you can confidently lay down for 20+ years:

1. Aglianico: This Italian grape variety from the Campania and Basilicata regions produces bold and structured wines that can age exceptionally well. With its high tannins and acidity, Aglianico has the ability to develop fascinating tertiary flavors over time. I vividly remember tasting a 20-year-old Aglianico that had transformed into a masterpiece of dried fruits, leather, and earthy aromas. It was a truly memorable experience.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon: Known for its age-worthiness, Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic choice for long-term cellaring. The tannins and structure of this grape variety lend themselves to extended aging, allowing for the development of secondary and tertiary flavors. I recall opening a 15-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon from a renowned Napa Valley producer, and it was remarkable how the primary fruit flavors had mellowed, giving way to more complex notes of cedar, tobacco, and black currants.

3. Nebbiolo: Hailing from Italy's Piedmont region, Nebbiolo is the grape behind renowned wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. These wines are known for their incredible aging potential, with some Nebbiolo-based wines reaching their peak after 20 years or more. I had the privilege of tasting a 25-year-old Barolo that showcased an exquisite combination of dried roses, tar, truffles, and cherry . It was a true testament to the magic of aging Nebbiolo.

4. Pinot Noir (high quality): While Pinot Noir is often associated with being best consumed in its youth, high-quality examples from regions like Burgundy or Oregon can surprise you with their aging potential. I recall opening a 20-year-old Burgundy Grand Cru, and it was a revelation. The wine had developed a beautiful bouquet of dried cherries, forest floor, and exotic spices. The tannins had softened, and the wine had gained an elegant and ethereal quality that was truly exceptional.

It's important to note that not all wines are meant for extended aging. It takes a combination of factors such as grape variety, winemaking techniques, and vintage conditions to create a wine that can withstand the test of time. Additionally, proper storage conditions, including temperature, humidity, and light exposure, are crucial for successful long-term cellaring.

If you're looking to lay down wine for 20+ years, consider Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, and high-quality Pinot Noir. These wines have proven their ability to evolve and improve with age, offering a drinking experience that is truly worth the wait.