This Month in Your Cellar: Find the Best New Wines to Buy That Go Beyond the Trophy Wine Formula

Best New Wines to Buy

Matt Kramer says that Quarts de Chaume is one of the best new wines to buy because it tastes regal and makes your cellar more interesting. Photo Credit: Wikimedia CC user jamesonf

 

Critic Matt Kramer recently praised the “contrarian cellar” in his Drinking Out Loud op-ed. He thinks of a contrarian cellar as the opposite of what you’d normally see in a collection; instead of dust-covered bottles of DRC, you’ll find obscure Quarts de Chaume from Loire; instead of Screaming Eagle, you’ll find Malvasia Istriana from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In short, being a contrarian collector means finding the best new wines to buy that aren’t already on every collector’s shelf. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with buying trophy wines (after all, they’re considered trophies for a reason), Kramer makes an excellent case for including at least a few lesser-known gems in your collection.

Why Buy Contrarian Wines?

Ok, you may be thinking, “But I like my Screaming Eagle, and my Lafite gets me a good return on investment. What’s so great about contrarian wines?” Well, the point of investing in lesser-known wines isn’t to find obscure wines for their own sake. There are some good reasons why you should give them a try.

Obscure Wines Have More Than Monetary Value

At a tasting party last year, I realized that many collectors take their wine for granted, viewing it as a pure financial investment. One man I spoke to spent an hour talking about promising Liv-ex statistics for his bottles of Lafite, but he never once talked about how the wines tasted or made him feel. Truthfully, it seemed as though he didn’t even particularly like wine, which is an odd thing to say about a man who spends upwards of $50,000 per year on trophy bottles. One benefit of searching for the best unusual wines to drink and cellar is that it can help you begin to appreciate the taste of wine again. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest market trends, en primeur deals, and investment returns. However, when you focus only on these factors, you can lose sight of the wine’s artistry–and what got you into wine in the first place.

This season, for every blue chip bottle you buy, try buying at least one obscure wine that you’ve never tasted before. Maintaining this one-to-one ratio for the next few months not only gives you the chance to try new vintages that could become staples in your future cellar, it also allows you to reevaluate your priorities. It forces you to answer the question, “Which is most important to me, investment potential, or taste?” Neither answer is inherently wrong, but it’s still a question worth asking. Understanding what type of collector you are (a taste-focused contrarian or a blue chip trophy hunter) allows you to consciously lean into that personality and make better-informed purchases in the future.

Timeless Cellars Avoid Trends

Another reason why you might consider Kramer’s contrarian approach is to ensure that your cellar remains timeless, even as tastes change over the next 10 or 20 years. The key to success in collecting is having a cellar that’s constantly evolving alongside your palate, and that, as a result, never feels dated, and never is a wash in terms of investment because you’ve put all your eggs in one trendy basket. There are certain trophy bottles that will likely always be in style, such as Margaux or Liger-Belair, but there’s no guarantee that bottles of, say, jammy cult Cabernet Sauvignon will still be popular in 2050. As long as you only invest in wines that you love to drink, and you’re willing to taste test the best new wines to buy, then your cellar will always be relevant and diverse.

This mindset also helps collectors find the confidence to invest in what they want to invest in and drink what they want to drink without feeling constrained by what’s acceptable in the world of collecting. I once knew a collector who convinced himself that he loved Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Southern Rhone, and yet I only ever saw him drink fruit-forward Malbec at home. One day, I asked him why he had so much Rhone if he appears to love Argentinian Malbec more. He told me, “Someone made fun of my Malbec obsession! They told me that I should be drinking Rhone instead, because it’s more sophisticated, so I listened to them.” Eventually, he sold off his savory bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and embraced his love of fruit-forward styles. As a result, he grew to love his cellar more, and even found some truly collectible bottles of high-end Malbec.

The Best New Wines to Buy for Your Contrarian Cellar  

To get started on your contrarian cellar experiment, consider the following wines, based on trophy bottles that you might already own.

If you like d’Yquem

Try Quarts de Chaume instead. This ultra-sweet Chenin Blanc from Loire has the same aging potential as its Sauternes peer, and it has a rich, complex set of flavors. What makes this wine so special is that it’s capable of pairing with either sweet or savory dishes, so you don’t have to stick with the dessert wine formula.  

If you like Krug

Try a grower Champagne made from 100 percent Meunier instead. Usually, this grape is only used as part of a blend, but on its own, it has an herbaceous personality, with savory ginger around the edges. While it doesn’t have the creamy, bready quality of Krug, they share a brut feel that makes this style worth a space on any Champagne lover’s wine rack.

If you like Screaming Eagle…

Try Nero D’Avola from Sicily instead. This unusual Italian grape has the same sort of black fruit characteristics that you might find in a Screaming Eagle vintage, but with a darker feel overall. This wine ranges from light to dark, and I recommend trying both versions. The lighter red is a blend of Frappato and Nero D’Avola, whereas the darker, fruit-forward version is blended with Syrah instead of Frappato.

Each of the unusual wines above have an elegant flavor profile that makes them well worth a space in your cellar. Additionally, some of them have significant market value, which is good news if you prefer to sell, rather than drink, the wine in your collection. No matter what you decide to do with these wines, you’ll learn to appreciate your collection more when you break away from the usual trophy wines and find something fresh and utterly unique.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.

At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles--we love sharing a great glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.