Five of the best wines to cellar

There’s a common (mis)perception that the only wines worth building a wine cellar with are incredibly pricey, usually from Europe and often inaccessibly hard to find, but history reveals that most wines improve after a year or two in the bottle. A large number improve for 5 years and many for a decade – or more. It all depends what flavours you like, how patient you are and how much dosh you want to spend.

The world is changing and so are the wines worth keeping.

Who would have thought a $10 Aussie white (Jacob’s Creek Riesling) or a $20 Sicilian red (Cent’are Nero d’Avola) or a $60 Central Otago Pinot (Bannock Brae) would change positively beyond recognition after 10 years in the bottle. And they were cellared in less than perfect conditions, namely, the humid basement of an Auckland house I shared in Grey Lynn in the 2000s, followed by the draughty cupboard in a dilapidated 1800s Auckland cottage on the cold east face of Arch Hill.

The key to cellaring is to choose wines that can change for the better. This is usually determined by high amounts of tannin in reds, acid in whites or sweetness in botrytised and other late harvest styles. Tannins, acids and sugars are all preservatives.

Then there’s the issue of where to keep them. Most of us don’t have a wine cellar or a house with an underground space that could become one. The answer is to build. This can cost a large amount or a modest one, if it’s in a small cupboard, an unused room or even an insulated garden shed.

Like the wine choice, the physical cellar space can be optimised if  left to the experts, such as those at White Refrigeration; www.whiterefrigeration.co.nz/

Here are five top wines that are worth keeping for at least five years, in some cases, far longer. All are available now.

The Central Otago Pinot 

2014 Bannock Brae Central Otago Pinot Noir $60

Many of us wax lyrical about Central Otago Pinot Noir and its fruit bomb flavours but I prefer these wines after 8 or 9 years of leaving them to their cherry fruit and oak/cedar devices. A bottle of 2007 Bannock Brae Pinot Noir tasted last year is a great case in point. I stumbled upon it when moving house and was more than  pleasantly surprised by its earthy rich flavours; I remember tasting it back in 2009 and thinking it was nice but this was a revelation.

The new 2014 Bannock Brae Pinot Noir ticks all the drink-me-right-now boxes – dry, full bodied, fruity and spicy – but it’ll be so much better in another 8-9 years.

The southern white

 2015 Ceres Black Rabbit Vineyard Riesling $22

Central Otago winemakers may have most of their eggs in the red wine basket (80% of the region is planted with Pinot Noir grapes) but this cool southern area is ideally suited to a cool, crisp white wines, such as the Ceres Black Rabbit Riesling (winner of a pure gold medal at the 2015 Air New Zealand Wine Awards), which tastes like succulent limes, fresh crunchy green apples and lemon curd. It’s refreshing and crisp with very high acidity, which means it will age superbly for up to a decade; possibly beyond.

The keeper Shiraz

2010 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz $40

Originally Bin 28 was named after the Kalimna Vineyard, which Penfolds Wines bought in 1945, but the words South Australia on the front label mean this is a multi-regional blend of grapes from this reliably warm, Mediterranean-style climate. This is ideal for Shiraz, which needs heat to develop its trademark dense dark fruit, spicy, robust tannins flavours, which wines like this one absolute winners –right now, if you like the big-is-best style or in another 15 to 20 years, if you prefer to taste smooth, savoury, earthy and impressively long lived reds, as a bottle I opened from my cellar two years ago showed.

The budget bargain

2015 Jacob’s Creek Classic Riesling $10.59

Bottles this good are rare anywhere in the world. It’s a wonder it doesn’t cost double because of its ability to transform positively for 10 years, which give it the breathing space to taste all about fresh lemons and limes and crisp red apples with notes of honey and white flowers. That’s no mean feat for a wine that costs $10.

The big red

2014 Vidal Hawke’s Bay Legacy Syrah $79.99

It’s a high price but this is from arguably the better of two exceptionally warm, dry years (rarities in New Zealand’s maritime climate); 2013 was the first and the 2014 reds are now proving to have the muscle, the power and the savoury dark spice flavours that can age exceptionally well for up to a decade, perhaps far beyond.

All of these wines were tasted by me in the past six months and all are currently available.