Almost all the wine samples we reviewers receive are current releases or current vintages from the producers. The idea of reviewing is to alert and inform readers of wines they can buy right now from wine shops, online retailers, or directly from the wineries. And often, reviewers such as myself will speculate on how well certain wines, generally reds, will develop with time and be enjoyable for many years, should the buyers want to save them in their cellars.
What is often lost in these conversations is how well so many inexpensive wines will age – wines made in some volume from well-known producers and costing perhaps a third or less of what “collectible wines” in that category fetch – say, an $18 Argentina Malbec or a $35 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 1980s and 90s, when I was much younger, I stocked my cellar full of these wines based primarily on two criteria – first, I had to really enjoy the wine when it was released, and second, all the elements of the wine – its structure – were in balance.
I have been well-rewarded. I routinely drink with our evening meals a wine made 20-30 years ago, along with a current release I have been sent by the wineries or their representatives, though not more than a glass or two of each. It’s an instructive and enjoyable exercise, and fortunately, my wife also enjoys older reds. Last evening, for example, when I sampled the 2020 Feudo Montoni Sicilian Nerello Mascalese – soon to be on the market, I drank with it a 1996 Chehalem Willamette Pinot Noir from my cellar. Both were delightful, if not stellar.
The moral of this lead-in? Simply don’t just stock your cellar with whatever trophy wines you can afford. If you really enjoy that $25 bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir or the $18 Rosso from Sicily, buy three or four more bottles and stash them away. Think of it as your wine IRAs for old age.
2020 Essay South African Chenin Blanc ($12). With one-third Roussanne and Viognier blended in, it has the light fruitiness of tart apples, pears, and guava with great minerality – quite nice.
2021 Stark-Condé “Monk Stone” Jonkershoek Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc ($18). A little tart with crisp apple and light pear flavors, along with some dry-wood notes.
2021 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé ($31). More rounded than linear, with mellow apples, a pleasant touch of gaminess, and good minerality.
2021 Vietti Moscato d’Asti ($16). Delightful – lots of light spritz, sweet but balanced with green acidity, somewhat lean in body with pastel flavors like a cotton candy confection.
NV Piper Sonoma Brut Reserve ($24). Full in body but delicate in flavor – floral, ripe pear cake icing among the crisp bubbles.
2021 Garofoli “Farnio” Rosso Piceno ($13). Bright cherry and berry fruitiness with lots of spiciness and a lean finish.
2019 Aia Vecchia “Lagone” Toscana Rosso ($17). A light-bodied, mildly tannic wine with smooth cherry and blackberry flavors.
2020 Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso ($22). Combination of red fruit tartness and dark fruit richness, with flavors of black raspberries and a crisp finish.
2019 Stark-Condé Jonkershoek Valley Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon ($22). Light-bodied with lots of stemmy, savory notes, and barrel oak blended in with the blackberry flavors.
2020 Casanova di Neri “Irrosso” Toscana Rosso ($25). Not complex, but pleasant red-berry fruitiness with light tannins on the finish.
2018 Querciavella Chianti Classico ($29). Very good, balancing the tannic raspiness of Sangiovese with nice cherry fruit – fresh and full.
NV Feudo Montoni Terre Siciliane Passito Bianco ($40/375 ml). Strong aromas and flavors of garrigue and dried lavender blending in with the sorghum notes to construct a distinctive sweet wine that could be mistaken for a liqueur. Very enjoyable.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.