One of the coolest gifts you could have been given as a child isn’t that lego set you played with for a few weeks before losing all the pieces, or that t-shirt you wore until there were holes in it, but a bottle of wine whose vintage matches the year of your birth and is meant to be opened the day you reach twenty-one. It’s a gift many of us not only would have loved to have received but now in our adult state would also love to give – this gift also works beautifully for wedding anniversaries. But not every wine is meant to last until a child’s twenty-first birthday or a couple’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s a unique gift that takes a little bit of guidance to pull off, but if you do, it will be a gift the receiver never forgets.
The first rule of giving a bottle of wine to mark someone’s birth year or anniversary is that you can’t give that bottle of wine on the day of the actual birth or wedding – looks like you’ll need to stick to the registry on that one. Wine that’s age-worthy is often released a few years following the grape harvest, and this is because high-end wine often sits for years both in barrel and in bottle developing its complex flavors – many regions even have strict restrictions on the exact time wine must sit in the barrel and bottle before it’s released. For example, right now in 2015, the most recent Bordeaux vintage that is widely available is 2012, this means this is a gift you want to give on a third or fourth birthday or anniversary. An added bonus is you’ll look super cool for giving such a unique gift on an anniversary or birthday that many people don’t make into such a big deal.
The second rule is that the bottle needs to be age-worthy in the first place. Most wine on the market is not meant to be aged — it’s intended for immediate consumption — but the good news is that it’s pretty easy to find an age-worthy wine if you stick to these general guidelines: spend over $40 on the bottle and look for a Bordeaux, Rioja, Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino or Napa Cab. Sure there are other wines you could grab, like a high-end Argentinian Malbec or a Super Tuscan, but the ones initially named are your surest bet for selecting a great wine that will be stunning when it’s opened twenty-ish years down the road.
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Finally, help the gift-receiver out by instructing them on how to store the gift. Make sure they know to store the bottle on its side and to keep it in a cool dark place. Fail to store it correctly, and you might wind up drinking vinegar in twenty years instead of delicious wine. The only thing you can’t really avoid is if the bottle ends up being corked, but a good way to hedge your bet in this regard is to buy two of the same bottle. That way, the gift-receiver will either have more wine to share, or, in the rare event the bottle is corked, there’s a backup bottle!