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Wines for $50 and under that can be cellared for a while
While the typical American palate might be impetuous and impatient, that's no fault of the wines themselves - they literally have no say in when their corks are pulled! There is a myriad of cost-conscious wines out there that can - and even should! - be cellared before they're opened to show their true potential. Granted there are some wines that are produced with the full and explicit intent of being consumed immediately (we're looking at you, 99% of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs...) and that's totally fine. What we want to focus on here are wines that are under $50 a bottle, and absolutely worthy of a spot in your cellar. Three easy places to start to find these gems are vintage, varietal, and location.
When a vintage "hits" it means that all conditions of the growing season were as close to perfect as possible: did the spring bud-break avoid frost and hail? Did summer bring enough heat, sun, and rain to produce great fruit? Did the vineyard manager decide to pick when grapes were perfectly ripe and at their "phenolic peak"? If you answered yes to all of those things (and avoided any winery disasters during production) then you likely are in the midst of a classic vintage - congrats! Consumers should seek out wines from these classic vintages - 2016 in Piedmont, 2017 Cote-d'Or, 2015 (and 2016) Tuscany, 2018 (and 2019) Bordeaux, and 2016 Napa were all world-class vintages and ALL have sub-$50 wines that can age for 10, 20, or even 30 years!
Next up is varietal, and is maybe the easiest category to find cellar gems for a bargain. Certain varietals typically need time to age before they're imbibed. Nebbiolo tends to be one of those varietals - particularly when it's used to make the higher end Piedmontese wines of Barolo and Barbaresco (which, yes, you can find ultra-high quality for under $50). Red and white Burgundies also have tremendous ageability for the most part, and can be emotion evoking wines when consumed at their peak. Tempranillo (Rioja) has a built-in system for ageing at the winery, but even they can last long in a cellar after release (and Spain consistently offers some of the best QPR in the wine world!)
Finally, location. With the reality of our global climate constantly changing, the wine world is having to adapt and faces new challenges every single day. Thankfully, scientific advancements in the vineyard have provided vineyard managers the data they need to make smart decisions re: pruning, trellising, harvesting, et. al. to offset some of the conditional changes to help stay true to their location's natural terroir. Bordeaux has been at the forefront in this effort - maintaining their style even during the hottest of recent vintages, and offering a ton of cellar worthy wines. The northwestern Spanish region of Galicia, the Rhone Valley in France, and southern Italian regions like Puglia, Calabria and Sicily (Etna Rosso, hello!) all have adapted to change and are making delicious, ageable wines that offer value and develop graciously over decades
One thing we haven't discussed - and clearly we need to - is, well, storage itself. Wine is a living, breathing, evolving thing. It prefers cool, dark, and atmospherically consistent storage (going from 72 degrees to 40 degrees over and over is unpleasant for wine). Please don't buy a case of $35 2016 Barbaresco and store it on top of your boiler. You don't have to build a $500K storage unit (unless you want to), but store it in a cool (60-65 degrees is ideal) spot that is out of direct sunlight. Being nice to your wine will reward you in the future, and prove that there are tons of cellar-worthy options available that won't break the bank!
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