Thursday, August 12, 2010

Birth Year Wines

I've been thinking a little bit about birth year wines lately. I'm going to be 40 years old not too long from now (absurd, as I still like to think of myself as a 27 year old) and I hope to find a special bottle from 1971 to share with friends on my birthday. 1971 was a good vintage in Burgundy and also in Piedmonte, so it shouldn't be too hard to find something interesting and delicious.

What do you do, though, if your birth year was a bad vintage? It's fun to drink birth year wine, and I think it's worth trying to find something anyway. But it's not so easy to find a bottle of wine that's in good condition after 35 years, even from a good vintage. An off vintage makes it that much more challenging to find something delicious and expressive, not merely a wine with the correct vintage number on the label.

A good friend had a birthday recently, and later this month he will very generously share a bottle of wine from his birth year with me. His birth year is 1973, not a great vintage in most places. But he knows enough about wine so that his search was very specifically directed, and he found something from the Loire Valley that should be fantastic - I'll let you know how it goes in a few weeks.

I've been having a lot of fun thinking about and slowly accumulating birth year wine for my daughters. They are 23 months apart in age, born in 2007 and 2008. I want to save wines for them that are meaningful to me in some way, and also wines that are great wines, wines that should be beautiful and moving in 16 or more years. Here's what I have for them so far:

Older daughter - 2007:

Domaine Jean et Gilles Lafouge Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru La Chapelle, $27, Imported by Fruit of the Vines. BrooklynLady and I visited the Lafouges in 2006 when she was 7 months pregnant with our daughter. Okay, it's not Roumier or Lafarge, but I'd say that it's more meaningful. The daughter was there in the Lafouge cellars, inside her mommy's belly, when her mommy tasted this very wine (and spat, thank you very much). Middling vintages can sometimes be surprising, by the way. I recently had a 1995 La Chapelle and it was fantastic.

Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes, $120, Becky Wasserman Selections. For our 1st anniversary dinner, BrooklynLady came home with a bottle of 2001 Lafarge Volnay. So this producer is meaningful too. And it's Lafarge Clos des Chênes, it should be darn good when she's old enough to drink it.

I've had a harder time with the whites. I've chosen wines that I think should age well. I'm waiting for vintage Champagne to be released, as 2007 is supposed to be a pretty good year. So far I've saved these white wines:

Domaine Huët Vouvray Sec Clos du Bourg, $29, Robert Chadderdon Imports. BrooklynLady and I love Loire Valley white wines, particularly Huët - who doesn't? This one should be great when she gets home from her prom.

Pierre Gonon St. Joseph Blanc Les Oliviers, $32, Imported by Fruit of the Vines. A weird one, in a way. A white wine from the Rhône Valley - do they age well? A lot of the time, no, but I think this one will. It's so intense and well balanced. We'll see what happens...

Gilbert Picq Chablis 1er Cru Vogros, $29, Polaner Imports. I love Picq's wines, I think they were great in 2007, and Vogros is their old vines 1er Cru that ages very well. I have high hopes for this one.

I would have saved something by Paul Pernot, who we also visited on that same trip, but his wines weren't supposed to be so great in 2007.

If you have more than one kid you'll know what I mean when I say this - the second child often gets the short end of the stick. I have hours of video of my first daughter. My second - perhaps 45 minutes. It's terrible. And so far, I have only one wine for her. I'll find more, but the 2008 Burgundies haven't really been released yet in NYC, never mind things like vintage Champagne. So far from 2008 I have:

Domaine Huët Vouvray Sec Clos du Bourg, $29, Robert Chadderdon Imports. There is going to be some overlap here. Younger daughter gets Huët Clos de Bourg too. And she could do a whole lot worse.

I was in Burgundy when BrooklynLady was pregnant with our second daughter, but I didn't go back to Lafouge. I visited Dujac, Roumier, Mugnier, Pierre Morey, Arlot, Rousseau, Pacalet, Le Moine, and Des Croix. 2nd daughter will definitely get something interesting from one or more of these producers.

Have I missed something? Was 2007 or 2008 fantastic somewhere and I should save the wine? What do you think about all of this birth year wine stuff. Please, share your thoughts.


Cliff said...

If you're going to go for birth-year wines and are looking for whites, I'd put away some Prum, Haag, Puffeney, Ganevat, Macle, Hirtzbirger, and/or Nikolaihof.

Alfonso Cevola said...

1971- also a good year in the Mosel...and Campania

nice vintage...

Chris Newport said...

I think the '08 burgs are going to surprise a lot of people... it may end up getting lost in the '09 fenzy that I'm sure will ensue here shortly. You may be able to find some bargains.

Huet's '08 Demi-Secs are supposed to be fantastic as well... perhaps add some Le Mont Demi-Sec??

Not sure if you enjoy German Riesling, but I really like the '08s... the Schafer-Frohlich Bockenauer Felseneck Spatlese is still available and should cellar well.

Charles said...

I thought the same thing as Cliff for 2007--Germany.

For 1971, don't forget Bordeaux. It's often seen as an "off vintage" and because of that you can often get some great deals. It pops up in auction every now and again.

Ned Benedict said...

07 Roumiers are superb - same for 08 Dujac. Have you had 07 Pernot?

Derek said...

Last year I helped a friend find a birthday wine for his buddy turning 40. He wanted a '69 Ch. Climens, which turned out to be next to impossible to find, and after 4 months searching I spent more $ shipping from London than the cost of the bottle, but did get a perfect looking specimen; great color and level. A month before his birthday I met Climens' Frederic Nivelle at charity auction in DC and he was walking around pouring the '69. Absolutely delish, and I was sure my buddy's pal would be happy.
When I followed up after the birthday I got the crushing news that the bottle was undrinkable. My friend said it smelled like Lysol and tasted even worse.
You take your chances with older wines, but worth the risk in my opinion!

Anonymous said...


The 2008 1er Tries from Huet are supposed to be something else. 2007 Barolos as well, and both will be able to take some serious age.

As for me, I got stuck in 1980, which was a crappy year in a lot of places (a friend told me, "well DRC made some great wines in '80" which is not too helpful) luckily my wife's father put away a case of 1980 Clo du Val for her and it survived. We recently opened a bottle that was stunning for her 30th.

- Cory

Unknown said...

I still have some '80 vin de glace.

Huet's '71 demi-sec is staggeringly good. Remind me when we next meet.

Asher said...

Derek, I am sorry to read about the bad showing by the '69 Climens that you sourced. I owned one bottle of this wine, and opened it about four years ago (I'm vintage '69 myself, and I opened it on my 36th birthday). It was fabulous. My friend Marty posted a tasting note on that wine on CellarTracker.

For my 39th, I opened a '69 G. Conterno Barolo, which tasted like pondwater. I'm hoping that a '69 Cappellano Barolo that I still have in the cellar shows better for my 41st. Damn, I feel old.

Scott Reiner said...

for 08 huet go with the demi sec...

Lyle Fass said...

Prum, Scchafer-Frohlich, Haag, Lieser