The first day of a new year may just as easily be called Resolution Day as New Year’s Day. Wine is subject to this worthy impulse. I know I have made various vinous resolutions over the years. Unusually, they’ve been among the few resolutions I’ve ever kept.
Given this gratifying experience, may I make a few suggestions for wine resolutions?
Buy more than one bottle of a wine you really like. This may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve received a plea from a reader wondering where a wine recommended six months earlier still is available. “I liked it so much,” they say, “and now I can’t find it.”
Just how much wine to buy is, of course, a matter of your pocketbook and storage space. Many retailers are willing to sell you a case of 12 bottles of any wine you want at their wholesale cost plus 10 percent. This makes the Portland area one of the best places in the nation to buy wine in quantity. Many buyers split a case with friends, which is a good idea. I suggest keeping at least four bottles of a wine you like.
Although not all wines reward aging, nearly all of the wines recommended in this space are the sort that will do nothing but improve with time, both white and red. These days even the most age-worthy wines are released far too early. If you’re ever to taste a mature version, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
Consider creating a proper wine cellar. Now, this runs into money, but if you like wine and are planning to lay in a supply, it’s worth the expense. For storage of a couple of cases’ worth of wine, a shelf in the closet works fine. Twenty-four bottles won’t last long, so there’s no need to fuss with niceties such as a properly low temperature.
But if you’re hankering to hold on to wines for more than short-term convenience, then you need a cool spot. Coolness is everything. Ideally your space will be about 55 degrees year-round. That usually requires a cellar or some kind of below-ground insulated space. And even then, you may need a cooling unit.
All of this runs into money, but it’s a one-time expense. And the satisfaction of knowing your wines are resting cool is almost perversely gratifying.
If your living situation doesn’t allow for a wine cellar, renting temperature-controlled space for long-term storage is the way to go. Check out Portland Wine Storage (306 S.E. Ash St., 503-231-1121), which offers temperature-controlled storage and 24-hour access (starting price is $21.50 per month for 12 cases).
Buy cheaper wines for long-term aging. It’s almost irresistible to conclude that only expensive wines deserve and reward two or three years’ aging (or more). This is an expensive mistake. Today’s best wines, including wines that sell for $10 to $15 per bottle, are so well and seriously made that they are as worthy of cellaring as a wine selling for $50 or $100.
Resolve to make the effort. Let me be straightforward: It takes some effort to get better-than-average wines, but not a lot. Every wine recommended in this column is available, as always, from any retailer in the Portland area and well beyond. But it’s impossible for any one retailer to stock everything that appears in this space. So just because you don’t see the wine on the shelf doesn’t mean it’s not available. All you have to do is ask.
Briccaio 2001, Villa Pigna: Now, here’s a wine that costs disproportionately little for its quality. And although tasty right now, it will improve mightily if aged for a year or two in a cool space.
Villa Pigna is arguably the leading producer in the Rosso Piceno zone of the Marche region of Italy, on the country’s east coast along the Adriatic Sea. Labeled simply as Briccaio, this red wine is 100 percent montepulciano, a red grape that only recently has been given the low yields and winemaking care that help it reveal previously unsuspected qualities. This wine proves it.
The 2001 vintage was exceptional in many parts of Italy, including the Marche region. Many 2001s offer an unusual density and intensity of fruit, making them especially good candidates for long-term aging. That’s certainly the case with Briccaio 2001. This is lush, dense, even slightly stern red wine plumped with an opulently spicy fruit redolent of black cherries and plums.
This is a terrific red for anything from a good burger to a great pizza to a serious slice of beef or lamb. The price is equally lip-smacking: $12.95. You’ll have to look awfully hard to find something comparably good at this low a price. You might — dare I say it? — want to lay in a few bottles. (Distributor is Zancanella Importing.)
Matt Kramer: 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201
Matt Kramer is a Portland wine critic and author.
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