Sunday, January 08, 2017

A Guide to Collecting Italian Wine for the 30-Year-Old – Part I

For those who read books, there are numerous treatises on collecting wine. I’ve read all that I have in my little library. Some of them strike a chord, while others sound vaguely disjointed from the times we live in now. My exposure to old Italian wines of recent has come from the new (and some not so new) wave of winemakers in California, who are buying up old Barolo and their ilk from the auction houses. And it has been a rewarding experience to revisit some of my bottled up old friends of late. Economic realities can present the average Joe from having exposure to these rare gems. But if one is predisposed and patient, you can have those peak moments of wine appreciation, with a little careful and well-planned action. This is a very personal, and specific, guide for the 30-year-old collector on a budget.

I have wines in my cool closet that I first put there over 30 years ago. I am not quite finished with collecting, but after 30+ years of doing so, I’m close to done with that. If I were 30 and starting to collect Italian wine now, here is what I would do.

First of all, there would be no rosé wines in there. Secondly, there would be few, if any white wines. And before anyone gets all riled up, let me say that I pulled out a 1991 Verdicchio di Matelica last month and tried it. It was very nice, but it was one of a half dozen of those wines that made it. And when it was all said and done, I would have probably been better off just collecting good white Burgundy, if white was what I wanted to collect for old age. But it wasn’t and it isn’t for this post. So, if you want to collect Italian white wine, make sure it is fortified or sweet.

Sparkling? Again, there are some worth considering, but, let’s get to what I’d really want to have waiting for me 30 years down the road – well-aged red wines.

Tuscany. First and foremost, I’d have some really good producers of Chianti. Badia Coltibuono, Rampolla, Felsina. Wines in styles that I like. Not international in style, and wines that will age well. Selvapiana, from Rufina as well. No kitschy Chianti Classico in fiaschi. Leave that for the fashionistas in San Francisco. I need long marchers, not sprinters. These are wines that are going to have to look good when there are old as well as when they are young.

While in Tuscany, grab a little Brunello and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Brunello is a tricky proposition these days. 30 years ago there was one really expensive Brunello, Biondi-Santi. Now there are many. But if you are not a millionaire, what is there for you? If you want to push it, a little, I’d recommend you gather some Le Chiuse. For my money, that is one of the great values for long-term ageing Brunello. I’d also give a nod to Barbi. I have Barbi going back to 1979 and even though there have been icy patches along the way, for the most part, that has been money well spent. The wines still have that naïve rusticity that make the wine age so well. And when they do finally get “there” that roughness is like a saddle that has been ridden for many years, smooth but still true to its nature. Is it Brunello? Well it isn’t the fancy spit and polish Brunello that garners those 100 point scores, but it ages really well.

Vino Nobile, oy. I’ve had high hopes for Avignonesi over the years since I was first exposed to the winery in 1982. A recent bottle disappointed. If I were 30 in 1987, I might recommend putting some of them away, but in 2017, I’m not of that mind. The entry level Vino Nobile, today, is good for everyday or even five years from now. I’d put away some bottles of “Asinone” from Poliziano, but it will set you back almost as much as a Brunello. Not that it shouldn’t. But you have to budget accordingly. I’d set aside magnums.

I’m not going to discuss Vin Santo or any dessert wine in this post. I have way too much dessert wine clogging my closet. I love it, but that’s another post.

I am not a Super Tuscan collector. Well, I was. And then I sold them, for a hell of a lot more than I bought them for. This is not a post about wines to collect for investment purposes. This is for the cellar that brings enjoyment to the person who takes the time to store them. It’s about sensual, not monetary, pleasure.

Piedmont. I have more bottles of Produttori del Barbaresco in my closet than any other wine. And if you are young and on a budget, you too, can still enjoy those wines. Buy now, and enjoy later. There are still a few 2011 Crus around. The next release will be the 2013’s in 2018. They will get praise. They should be more expensive than they are. There are great ones besides the Rabaja and Asili, which silly retailer clamor for, because they get 95 points from the Wine Spectator, while the others only get 94 points. Ridiculous nonsense. Give me the Pora, the Rio Sordo, the Montestefano and the Montefico. All take any and all of them. And you should too. These are great wines for the long haul.

While in Barbaresco, the Marchesi di Gresy wines are amazing. I have wines from them in my closet going back to 1980. Wow. I guess I’m just more of a Barbaresco man than anything else. These are a step up in price from the co-operative, Produttori. And if you can have the patience these wines will reward you in your dotage.

A lesser known winery in Barbaresco is Boffa. Carlo Boffa. When he releases his 2014 Barbaresco, buy all you can of this wine. Yeah, I said 2014. The annus horribilis for Italian and French wines. I will buy some of this wine. And you should as well.

Barolo – At this point, if I were 30 in 2017, I’d buy Burlotto and Rocche Costamagna. Burlotto, because the wines are great, they are still pretty affordable and they will age remarkably well. Rocche Costamagna, because the wines are such incredible values.

There are more and there are others. But for now, this is a good start. Most of these wines are available in the US market, where most of the folks reading this are from. Note to Russia (a country which now has the second highest traffic to this blog): I have no idea where you should look for these wines in your country. Or why so much traffic to my site is coming from your country.

Good luck - more to come in Part II.

Other posts from the past:

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Marco Sapienza said...

The Russia ruble is c. 60 to the dollar if that means anything. Maybe your Russian traffic is fueled by other factors. If I were 30 I would be at my 2 local wine retailers tomorrow morning with you list bookmarked, but I have a cardio check up.

TheMotleyCru said...

As a 33-year-old this is perfectly timed! I'm in Ireland and though not all are available here, many are, especially Produttori del Barbaresco.

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