A reader recently asked me to recommend some wines to cellar for their newborn—candidates to age 20 to 25 years or more, when junior or sissy has come into their own enophilia.
My answer to them is the same I would give to those seeking appropriate wine gifts for graduates, which is another common query at this time of year: It's best to pass along a gift of wine after you've learned what the recipient likes to drink, as in, once they themselves have become adults.
I speak from experience. I collected cases of wines for my two children a couple of decades ago, and many of the wines are either spent or on the ropes. And frankly, neither of my kids are as interested in wine as I imagined they would be at the time I bought those wines.
Buying those birth-year wines seemed like a good idea at the time, but I have a better one: Wait until they're adults to find out what they like—save that wine gift for one of life's later special occasions. A wedding gift might be the perfect solution.
There are plenty of reasons I don't recommend birth-year wines, not the least of which is the matter of taste and ideal storage conditions. Don't give your child a special-occasion wine when they're still finding their way, moving about the country and still learning to like wine.
A lot has changed, too, in the way we think about cellar-worthy wines. Old standards like Bordeaux, Vintage Port and California Cabernet are still good, popular choices. But what if your grown child likes Riesling, or Pinot Noir? Does it really matter that the date on the bottle be the same as their birth year? Me thinks not, and if junior or sis leans toward earlier-drinking wines (and ends up not liking older wines), you and they will only be disappointed if you pick wines to drink in decades without knowing that the wines will be to their liking.