Some say that giving is better than receiving, and when it comes to choosing a special bottle for a special person, the world of wine opens up a plethora of opportunities for you to splash out.
On the principle that a rising tide lifts all boats, you’re spoilt for choice in younger anniversary vintages such as Champagne 2012, because the wines are excellent and most likely available at an independent wine merchant near you. If not, you should be able to access the wine you’re looking for through a search engine such as wine-searcher.com.
For older wines, style and quality from a good vintage are the keys to longevity, and among styles at the top level capable of improving with age, you’ll find Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône, reds from Spain, Italy, California and Australia, late-disgorged Champagnes, German Riesling, Sauternes, sweet Loire, Hungarian Tokaji, South Africa’s Vin de Constance, Port and Madeira.
Where availability is an issue, you’re likely to have to search on the secondary market (including auctions) and so condition, too, becomes an issue.
To bring some perspective to the most recent trade in older vintages, I asked Liv-ex, the global wine trading platform, to look through a crystal ball backwards and show which vintages have dominated the market in the past five years.
In the case of Bordeaux, among the 2012s the region accounts for 47% of all trade, for 2002 just 25%, 1992 38%, but in the great 1982 vintage a huge 95%.
Not yet fully on the market, Champagne in 2012 accounts for 12.5% of all trade, the 2002 vintage the largest proportion of trade at 53%, but trade in the 1992 and 1982 vintages is negligible.
Burgundy 2012 and 2002 accounted for just 12% of all trade, but 1992 was the biggest traded vintage, at 43%.
A few tips: for anniversary vintages, try a wine broker such as Albany Vintners, Farr Vintners, Fine & Rare or Wilkinson Vintners. Search online for vintages and specific wines at auction houses such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams, or Zachys in the US. Register your interest in a wine or vintage at Christie’s (signup.christies.com/signup) and you’ll get a notification when the wine or a vintage comes up for sale.
Give a bottle, earn brownie points; give a magnum, earn double brownie points.
Think 20-, 30- and 40-year-old tawny Port. Finally, a cheat’s recommendation: if you’re stumped, give two, three, four or five 10-year-old bottles and your recipient will be as grateful for your generosity as for your ingenuity. (Stockists shown in the following text are a representative selection… )