Guide for Cellaring Italian Wine for 20 Somethings by a 20 Something.

As someone who is actually in his 20’s, I quickly get bored with wine cellaring advice directed at young people. I truly appreciate the  effort and advice, but it is often just a regurgitation of what an older generation has already done in the past; forgetting that these wines are now unaffordable for someone starting out their wine adventure due to the rise in the wine’s cost and student loans.

If that offended you, you are probably bothered by wine bars that have rap music.

In my first wine retail job in Allston, MA, we were a destination point for Rhone heads. Vintages of Château de Beaucastel and white Hermitage for days. I soon learned how these wines used to be sold at pizza wine prices. The economy got better, and years later that generation could afford to buy homes. Rhone got expensive.

There is much discourse and literature on the past generation’s discoveries, and even what was unaffordable for them. With the changes in our society’s economic makeup and mirrored market shifts in the wine industry, these wines that used to be expensive are realistically impossible to attain. How many stories do we hear of people now regretting they did not buy this or that vintage of Lafite? They were expensive but attainable. If they had only known it would become financially impossible by the time their children could legally drink, maybe they would have splurged. The point is that a guide for someone NOW, means you cannot recomend Barolo or Brunello. That ship has sailed. To do this we also need to avoid stocking up on Zinfandel-like charmers or warm climate Pinot noir projects. The perfect balance can be found if we have historical proof that the wines have aged in the past, yet are still not hallmarks and thus financially viable.

Here are some overall Italian regions that if left forgotten in a 20 something’s “cellar”, offer value, and are currently affordable. Even on an entry level job that requires 5 years experience (saving up is allowed).

Valtellina

This is a bit harder to find, but so were Rhone wines for the last generation. These have the staying power of Barolo but with the finesse of Mosel. I have had almost 50-year Grumello that was still smoky, bold and had depth of color. The region’s names makes it obviously collectible. You can even have it as an excuse to trick your future children into eating buckwheat pasta with spinach by cooking up some Pizzoccheri.

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Sagrantino Di Montefalco‎

If you are a fan of Tuscany, or generally bigger bodied wines, this is the pick. Head to Perugia in Umbria. This dark plumy grape is better known by only a few producers but there are about 50 out there. 50 more than anyone else knows about. A vertical at Arnaldo Caprai will settle any doubts.

Taurasi

Mastroberardino can get extremely expensive in the States but there is a trickle of other Taurasi and Aglianico that is much more affordable. These have the power, alcohol and acidity to age, evolve and become a soft winter wine at a special roast beef dinner. Maybe when the kids get into middle school?

Passito

Anyone who doesn’t list noble sweet wines in their cellaring list should not be listened to. The longest lived wines are sweet white wines. Tokaji, Saturnes, Trockenbeerenauslese and the appropriate Sherries are without doubt the best examples of wine that can and should be aged for a long period of time. For Passito, one gets the choice of locations all over Italy and at all price points.

Beautiful Chambave Passito from Valle d’Aosta? Affordable Vin Santo del Chianti? Or my personal favorite, Zibibbo from the the volcanic island Pantelleria? These will age and become beautiful creatures to share at some special occasion, 30 even 40 years down the road.

Marsala

Maybe mentioning a wine region that has wines that are already aged on release might seem silly. However these are bound to last through the realities of a modern cellar. Unless this 20 year old is either lying wine down in their parents basement or lives in Kansas, the “cellar” is most likely their closet, and they will most likely move several times. Marsala is not Madeira, but it is not Vinho Verde either. Regardless, the current state of base mass market (not cooking) Madeira is actually high quality. It is guaranteed to age, and will either become a relic of a lost treasure or, if it swings in Sherry’s direction, you will have some very cool stuff other than Nike sneakers in your closet.

The main thing is to go out and experiment. But do it on things that make you think they have the bottled exuberance to last. Does a Lago di Caldaro remind you of a young Volnay? Are there a multitude of Super Tuscans and merlots across the peninsula that are a great value and cellarable? Only by setting them down can you find out.

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