What are the best Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages for cellaring? Nearly all of them, to some extent. This region has a reputation for producing wines with great aging potential–most red Châteauneuf-du-Pape benefits from at least five years in a cellar, and the finest vintages can even last for decades. Last month, I met a collector who had a bottle of 1998 Pégaü Cuvée Laurence in his cellar that he had completely forgotten about until this summer. When he opened the wine, he was met with wonderfully intense, earthy aromas, soft tannin, and rich flavors of smoked meat. After 20 years, the wine had reached near perfection.
However, while you can reliably store your Châteauneuf-du-Pape for a few years, only the very best Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages (like the 1998 Pégaü) are designed to see their tenth or 20th birthdays. This guide will help you identify the wines with the greatest aging potential, allowing you to enjoy (or sell) these wines at their peak.
Should You Age Châteauneuf-du-Pape?
At a dinner party last spring, I brought along a bottle of 2005 Clos du Caillou to share with a small group of friends. The wine had aged beautifully, and it inspired a lively conversation about the age-worthiness of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Nearly everyone in our group believed that the best Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages either need to be drunk very young (within the first year or two of release) or after a prolonged period of aging (at least ten years). Most producers in the area focus on crafting wines that can be drunk young, however, as these wines approach maturity, they often shut down temporarily. It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, as every wine is different. Some wines will drink well for the first two years and then will enter a disjointed phase for another six years before blossoming into a well-balanced, mature wine. Other wines may drink beautifully one year, and the next taste slightly closed off.
The relative scarcity of older Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages means you’ll likely make a greater profit by reselling these wines once they’ve aged awhile.
This is part of the reason why many collectors choose not to age their Châteauneuf-du-Pape at all. César Perrin of Beaucastel says that, despite the high quality and excellent aging potential of the estate’s wines, even Beaucastel collectors tend to drink the wines exceptionally young. The estate did a study on its 2010 release (which is one of the most age-worthy in recent history) and found that only 20 percent of the wine was being stored long-term by collectors. About 80 percent of the wine was drunk within just the first two years of release.
For most collectors, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is so rich in flavor and enjoyable in its youth that they see no need to age it–especially knowing that the wine may enter a “dumb phase” before it reaches maturity. However, if you want to sell your wine for a profit on the secondary marketplace or you wish to experience all that these wines have to offer, then you should lay down a few bottles of top-quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape for at least a decade. Wines from this region can reward collectors with incredible flavor development and depth when they’re allowed to reach maturity. However, because these wines are usually drunk young, they rarely reach this stage.
The relative scarcity of older Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages means you’ll likely make a greater profit by reselling these wines once they’ve aged awhile. You can approach aging Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine in the same way that you approach aging wines from other regions; as long as the wine has strong tannins, high acidity, and excellent balance, then it will be a great candidate for cellaring.
The Best Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vintages for Cellaring
Generally, the best Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages for cellaring are made in especially warm years, as this allows the grapes to ripen fully. These wines are known for their plush fruits; however, they also retain a great deal of elegance and freshness, even when the fruit flavors are intensely concentrated. Some of my favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines to cellar are those made during summers with warm days and cool nights, as this boosts the acidity levels in the wine, which can help these wines age for a longer period of time. While you can find high-quality wines from cooler years, these often are more enjoyable in their youth.
Aging isn’t absolutely necessary for Châteauneuf-du-Pape since these wines taste so approachable in their youth, but if you enjoy the flavor of mature wine, it’s worthwhile to wait if you can.
The best Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages for long-term aging are:
- 1988: Drink or sell these wines soon, as they are at their peak.
- 1989: This vintage is approaching peak maturity, so drink or sell in the next few years.
- 1990: Some wines are ready to drink now, and others may need a few more years in storage.
- 1995: Whites are ready to drink now, but the red wine styles may need more time.
- 1998: One of the best vintages in recent history; these wines are drinking well now, but may benefit from another ten years in a cellar.
- 1999: Drink these wines soon, especially if the blend is Grenache-based.
- 2000: Age these wines further if you prefer very soft, integrated tannins; otherwise, drink or sell these soon.
- 2001: Some of these wines are reaching maturity, but many need more time in a cellar if you’re looking to drink at peak maturity.
- 2003: This was an irregular vintage. Some wines matured too early while others were outstanding and have excellent aging potential. It is best to research the drinking windows for specific wines individually for this vintage.
- 2004: You can drink or sell most of these wines now, but wine made by top producers may benefit from additional cellaring time.
- 2005: A legendary vintage that would benefit from more cellaring time–hold these bottles for at least another five years.
- 2006: Hold your whites for a few more years, but consider drinking your red wines soon.
- 2007: A very concentrated vintage that may develop more complexity and elegance with additional aging.
- 2009: A well-balanced vintage that can be drunk now or held for a few more years.
- 2010: Nearly all of these wines need more time in a cellar to fully mature; while they are enjoyable to drink now, hold these bottles if you want to taste them at their peak.
- 2012: Hold these bottles if you’re looking for soft, fully-integrated tannins.
- 2015: Ideally, keep these wines in your cellar for at least ten years, as this is a legendary vintage.
- 2016: One of the best growing seasons in recent history; for savory, mature flavors, prepare to store these wines for a long period of time.
Wines made before 1998 can be enjoyed at any time; you won’t feel as if you’re drinking these wines too young if you open them now. Similarly, wines made between 1998 and 2009 can also be enjoyed now, however, they are generally still young enough to benefit from a bit more time in a cellar (usually about five more years). And finally, if you have a high-quality bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape made after 2010, consider keeping these bottles in storage. Aging isn’t absolutely necessary for Châteauneuf-du-Pape since these wines taste so approachable in their youth, but if you enjoy the flavor of mature wine, it’s worthwhile to wait if you can. If your goal is to cellar your wine for as long as possible and resell it on the secondary market when the bottles reach maturity, then I recommend investing in either the 2015 or 2016 vintages, in particular. These two recent vintages are among the best that Châteauneuf-du-Pape has ever produced and will likely increase significantly in value as they age.
How to Invest in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
As with fine wine from any region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is only worth cellaring if you invest in wine from top producers and vintages. When you shop for wine, look for producers such as:
- Clos du Caillou
- Vieux Télégraphe
- Mourre du Tendre
- Clos des Papes
- Clos Saint Jean
These estates are known for producing wines with excellent aging potential. Once you’ve identified a few producers that you enjoy, the best method for investing in and cellaring Châteauneuf-du-Pape is to carefully track tasting notes from other collectors or critics, as this will tell you how much longer your wine should be stored. You can track the vintage’s progress using an online or mobile cellar tracker, which will offer you recommendations on the best time to enjoy each bottle. These apps can also provide you with estimated values for each of your bottles, allowing you to decide the best time to sell. Using these tools, you’ll never miss the drinking window for your Châteauneuf-du-Pape and you’ll be able to fully enjoy these beautiful French wines at their peak.
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 finest wine.