Cracking a bottle of Champagne to celebrate one’s 18th birthday is de rigueur, of course. How much sweeter it tastes, though, if it is a bottle from a case of vintage Champagne that a thoughtful, generous godparent laid down for you many years before and is now reaching its peak. And how wonderful to have many more bottles with which to celebrate life’s memorable moments and rites of passage to come. Laying down wine for a new arrival in the family is a tradition in all wine-drinking cultures, and it is one of the most civilised gifts imaginable, an investment in the future not just of a wine, but of a human being. But, as a wine lover with a benevolent eye on the future of a beloved child, how should you choose which wine to lay down for him or her? Which wines, and which vintages, can be guaranteed to stay the course? Assuming your chosen beneficiary is a fairly recent arrival, here are five recent vintages and five types of wine that will give joy long into the future.
The Gift of Wine
2020 Northern Rhône The best, most long-lived wines from the Northern Rhône come from Hermitage (100% Syrah) and Côte-Rôtie (Syrah, traditionally perfumed with a splash of Viognier). 2020 – like several recent vintages – was a hot, dry year, and the best wines have plenty of heft, along with dense fruit and silky tannins. Suggested wine: Guigal “La Landonne” Côte-Rôtie 2020: 100% Syrah, complex, dense and tannic.
Guigal “La Landonne”
2019 Left-Bank Bordeaux Bordeaux’s Left Bank makes some of the world’s longest-lived wines: with a high proportion of dense, chewy Cabernet Sauvignon, the best wines can age and mellow happily in bottle for many decades. The 2019 vintage was particularly successful in estates with deep-rooted vineyards, giving the wines access to water in a hot, dry year. Suggested wine: Château Pichon-Baron 2019: Pichon-Baron boss Christian Seeley’s favourite recent wine, the 2019 has racy fruit, great charm and enough intensity to improve for many years.
Château Pichon-Baron
2018 Vintage Champagne Some non-vintage Champagnes will last for decades – Krug NV is a case in point – but vintage Champagne offers a unique snapshot of a year, and all indications suggest that 2018 was a great year. However, all vintage Champagnes undergo at least three years cellar (and often many more) before release, and most houses have yet to release their 2018s: when they do, look out for the new wave of top-quality growers’ Champagnes as well as the better known grandes marques. Suggested wines: Charles Heidsieck’s Champagnes continue to grow in reputation – look out for their Brut Millésime and the sublime Blanc des Millénaires – while “grower” Egly-Ouriet, based in Ambonnay, make superb, full-bodied Champagnes that are built to last.
Blanc des Millénaires
2017 Vintage Port The most traditional of wines to lay down for a youngster, vintage port can often be approachable relatively young, but evolves beautifully over decades: great vintages like 1963 are still a delight. Not every house declares a vintage in the same years, but they were unanimous in 2017, the driest vintage since 1945 and the earliest on record. Suggested wine: Quinta do Noval 2017: sweet red fruits balanced with herbal notes and silky tannins.  
Quinta do Noval 2017
2016 Red Burgundy 2015 was widely acclaimed as a great Burgundy vintage, and so it was, but the best wines from the small-but-excellent 2016 vintage are equally worthwhile: already delightfully expressive, but with bright, complex fruit and great ageing potential. Suggested wine: Mazoyères-Chambertin Grand Cru, Arnaud Mortet 2016: supple, spicy strawberry fruit. Savoury and delicious.
Mazoyères-Chambertin Grand Cru, Arnaud Mortet


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