There’s nothing like a case of wine to bring friends together.
Years ago, we were living in Chicago at the same time as one of Paul’s high school buddies, Ben. Ben is a wine lover, worked at a wine shop, and introduced us to many delicious wines. We shared quite a few memorable, wine-filled nights…drinking leftover bottles from the wine shop on the bleachers in Montrose Park on a warm summer night…blind tastings that we either failed horribly or passed with some degree of success…dinner parties when one (or two) too many bottles were opened.
When Ben’s wife, Gina, was offered a place in a graduate program in Terre Haute, Indiana, we knew their days in Chicago were numbered. I wanted to do something to memorialize our happy years of wine drinking in Chicago, so I suggested we split a case of wine. I thought they’d just laugh at my sentimentality, but the guys really got into it, researching wines and finally settling on a 2005 Bordeaux that was said to be one of the best values of the vintage, Chateau Moulin de la Roquille (now, interestingly, sold in a box by retailer Wineberry!).
We each took six of the twelve bottles, planning to open one every time we got together over the next few years. The wine provided a thread through the following years: it’s present in pictures of dinners where we now look surprisingly young. Our half-case was gone by mid-2011: we knew it wouldn’t survive our extended trip and life in a Chicago storage unit. Over a few visits to Indiana, we put a dent in Ben’s supply. I thought we were out, but last time we were there, I noticed that Ben still has one bottle left. I have no idea when we’re going to open that final bottle, but I love that it still exists. Once the case is gone, the Chicago era will have finally ended. Maybe that’s the reason we haven’t opened that final bottle yet.
There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what type of wine to purchase for your sentimental case:
Oh, sorry, I didn’t say exactly why you should do it.
Well…because it’s fun. It’s fun to plan meals around a certain wine. It’s fun to see how a wine ages and evolves over a few years, like you and your friendships are aging and evolving. It’s consistent and yet it’s different, just like every gathering with old friends who’ve moved away.
So, what should you get?
Reds will generally keep longer than whites, but don’t rule out a nice, acidic Riesling, cold climate Chardonnay, or any other white with high acidity. Acidity in white wine performs a similar function as tannin in red wine: it’s a preservative that helps the wine age in beneficial ways.
Red or white too boring? Consider something offbeat. What about an undisgorged sparkling wine? Look for anything labeled “sur lie” or “méthode ancestrale” and you’ll have a sparkling wine that will continue to improve with time. How about a Port, Sherry, or Madeira? Or a dessert wine? All of these options will age well and will add some novelty to the experience.
Bottom line: taste the wine first. Do you all like it? Can you all afford it? If yes and yes, then get it.
How should you store it?
If you have a fancy wine fridge, that’s great, but any cool, dark place will do. Make sure it’s not too damp or too dry — “moderately” humid works best. Remember: long-term storage in a regular refrigerator is not a good thing. If the bottle is sealed with a cork, store the bottles on their sides so the wine remains in contact with the cork. Put the bottles in a box, put the box on its side in the bottom of your coolest closet (but not the coat closet…ever notice how smelly that one gets after a season of wet coats and shoes?), and you’ll be fine for a few years.
How long should you store it?
Wines that have been rated by one of the big magazines should come with a general recommendation for aging potential that you can find online. You can also check CellarTracker for crowd reviews. Trust your eyes and your taste buds. If a bottle is starting to taste old (say, you’re beginning to detect hints of vinegar), or if the color is significantly changing (red wines becoming very orange, white wines becoming very brown), then DRINK UP!
Wine is a pleasure to share with family and friends. Happy case sharing!