Wine is a fickle thing. It relies on us to age it in ideal conditions for years or decades to reveal its glory. And if we let it down by storing it above the refrigerator, or under the staircase, or any other place where temperatures spike from time to time, it will taunt us with what might have been. Old wine is all too often a lament of lost opportunity. So when we have a chance to taste a properly aged wine that has been kept in the winery cellar for nearly two decades before release, we should celebrate. Here are five wines: One that has aged beautifully, and four that could.
Balgera Rosso di Valtellina 1999
Lombardy, Italy, $30
You read that right: This current release is a 1999 vintage nebbiolo from northern Lombardy. It was aged for 16 years in 100-liter barrels made from Slovenian oak. The wine has developed beautifully, offering a full spice rack of cloves, nutmeg, dried plums and cherries. At $30, it’s a steal for a fully mature nebbiolo. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent.
Distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at A. Litteri, MacArthur Beverages. Available in Virginia at Camden’s Dogtown Market and J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Department of Beer and Wine and Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Grape + Bean (Old Town Alexandria, Rosemont), Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton, Tastings of Charlottesville, Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Brasserie Saison in Charlottesville, Saison and Wild Ginger in Richmond.
Weingut Josef Bauer Riesling Feuersbrunn 2016
Wagram, Austria, $17
This wine shows exceptional balance and focus, a laser beam of acidity that should help it age well and lovely fruit that makes it exceptionally delicious now. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Distributed by Siema: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits. Available in Maryland at Berry County Market in Waldorf, Bo Brooks Lighthouse Liquors in Baltimore, Cranberry Liquors in Westminster, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Hop N Grape in North Bethesda, Lucky Beer & Wine in Takoma Park, Orion Wine & Spirits in Frederick, Sunderland Wine & Spirits in Sunderland, the Wine Harvest in Potomac. Available in Virginia at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar and Wine Gourmet in Roanoke, Swiss Bakery in Springfield; on the list at Brenner Pass in Richmond, Crush Wine Bar in Winchester, Southside 815 in Alexandria.
Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc 2016
Napa Valley, Calif., $20
Grenache blanc is common in France’s Rhone Valley and in parts of Spain, and lately it has become a darling of California’s Rhone movement. Priest Ranch gives it a Napa Valley panache; the wine is intense and focused, certainly not shy, but not heavy either despite generous alcohol. Bravo! ABV: 14.6 percent.
Distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at Rodman’s; on the list at the Riggsby, Ris, Sonoma. Available in Virginia at Grapevine in Warrenton, Unwined in Belleview; on the list at Markham Street Cafe in Annandale.
Attems Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Venezia Giulia, Italy, $16
This wine grew on me — reticent at first, it developed a minerally character in the glass. Think Loire in style, and compare it to your favorite Sancerre. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Capital City Wine & Spirits, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s, Wide World of Wines. Available in Maryland at Cork & Bottle Liquors in Laurel, Frederick Wine House and Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Giolitti Delicatessen in Annapolis, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington.
Mas Amiel Vertigo 2016
Roussillon, France, $20
Mas Amiel is a family winery in southwestern France that produces a number of delicious wines. Vertigo is its entry-level wine, and it comes in red (red label) and white (green label). Think Rhone in style, with spicy, herbal notes on the red and white flowers and beeswax (more a textural note) on the white. ABV: 14.5 percent.
Distributed by Simon N Cellars: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley. Available in Maryland at Wine Cellars of Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Tastings of Charlottesville.
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.