Back in the day, when the best wines were not only less spendy but also more abundantly available, it was not only possible but relatively common for wine lovers to regularly purchase a case or two of their favorites to enjoy over several years, witnessing and appreciating the added depth, complexity, and nuance that reward those with the patience to cellar.
Conversely, as might be true for young, less expensive wines that might not necessarily benefit from ageing, one could enjoy a box over the course of a few months or a year in order to really “get” what the wine has to offer, drinking it with different meals and friends.
I’ve recently had a few conversations with industry friends lamenting the fact that most people today rarely buy an entire case of wine. Which is fine, of course, but for me also a bit sad. And it’s not because I’m a greedy wine merchant pushing volume sales. But rather instead that, as it is with a good book, movie, piece of music, restaurant, or even friendships, repeat experiences give us so much more than a one-night stand ever possibly could.
Of course, even if one has the proper storage capacity, today’s pricing for the finest wines makes case purchases virtually impossible for all but the wealthiest of enthusiasts. That’s the fiscal reality.
Another challenge is that increasing global market demand, combined with violently wacky and crop damaging weather that’s doing a serious number on yields, makes wines that used to be relatively easy to get in quantity more likely to be available these days in bottle, not case lots — assuming you’re lucky enough to be on the allocation list.
With these rare and pricier wines my approach is to purchase a bottle or two of favorites each year in order to collect a nice sampling to enjoy over time in a vertical fashion.
While the difference in weather conditions will certainly play a role, there’s also no doubt that the qualities that make, say, Frédéric Mugnier’s Nuits Clos de la Maréchale sing to me are identifiably there in the bottle from one vintage to the next, as also, for example, are those in Montevertine's Pergole Torte, Antoine Jobard’s Meursault Blagny, or any other terroir-driven wine.
On the flip side, there are many daily drinkers that offer enough complexity for us to consider as “house” wines, ones which we indeed can enjoy regularly and really get to know. Looking around my shop’s shelves, for example, here are some obvious examples, a sort of bakers' dozen:
Savary and Louis Michel Chablis ($24 and $28 respectively)
Thiery Richoux Crémant de Bourgogne ($30)
Robert-Denogent Mâcon-Villages ($33)
Marcel Lapierre Morgon ($34)
Domaine de L’Ecu Muscadet Classic ($20)
François Crochet Sancerre ($28)
Berthet-Rayne Côtes du Rhône ($22)
Lascaux Rosé ($18)
Widmann Vernatsch ($24)
Oddero Dolcetto d’Alba ($24)
Laghiebllina Gavi ($22)
Sesti Monteleccio ($27)
La Sibilla Falanghina ($19)