Wine is one of the most appealing gifts that can be given to a newly baptised child. When chosen with care, it will appreciate over the years in complexity and value.
St Luke understood that old wine was finer than new wine. However, not all bottles benefit from being kept for 18 or even 25 years.
The dual secret is sourcing wines with high . flavour compounds and phenolics, notably tannins, and then finding a good place for storage.
Red wines made from such grape varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Syrah (often called Shiraz in the southern hemisphere) are therefore a good choice. For whites, opt for dessert wines, notably Sauternes, Hungarian Tokay and rich Austrian and German wines.
If you are thinking of a red Bordeaux, 2005 was the finest year in the Medoc and Pessac Leognan districts since 1961. This is classic Cabernet Sauvignon. Currently merchants are quoting per dozen bottles in bond (with VAT and excise duty liable later). .
From the Pauillac appellation, Lynch-Bages and Pichon-Longueville-Lalande are stunning. Traditionally the structure of St Estephe ensures the that wine keeps for at least 15 years and in 2005 there will be no difficulty in enjoying them longer — Cos d'Es
tournel and Montrose notably.
For the black grape Nebbiolo, seek a powerful Barolo or Barbaresco from villages of the same name in north-west Italy. Rich, concentrated with pronounced acidity and tannins, these wines mature into stylish reds of delight.
Look particularly for examples from Son Paitin (2001 Barbaresco from Jeroboams), Angelo Gaja and Bruno Giacosa (both from Armit). Bruno Rocca is still not fully appreciated but his Barbaresco Rabaja 2002 shows his dedication — he went through the estate five times to pick only the ripest grapes. It is hauntingly scented (f26.99 from Liberty Wines).
Only one Australian wine has the power to keep 18 years plus: Grange from Penfolds. This is almost entirely Syrah, ensuring a spicy full-bodied red of distinction. The 1999 is available from better merchants.
Syrah is the hallmark of the northern Rik:Vie. Cote-Rotie, made on steeply terraced slopes just south of Lyons. The star producers are Guigal, notably his single vineyard wines (La Mouline, La Landonne, La Turque) and Jasmin. Magnums develop slower than bottles and Jasmin's 2004 in this double size is available from Yapp Bros (f55).
Dessert wines can age well. Look for 2001 Sauternes, which is the finest since 1983, from estates such as Climens, Coutet and Rieussec.
While Riesling is currently unfashionable, pick up good value Rheingau district Beer
enauslese, sourced from overripe grapes. Its richness will make a future celebration memorable.
One of the best ranges of wines for specific years is offered by The Antique Wine Company Vintage Port is a marvellous gift for long-term ageing: It is made in strictly limited amounts from grapes grown in the Douro valley. Outstanding years are declared by Portshippers with the wine bottled two to three years after the harvest.
For depth and richness, look for Dow (£39.95 from Tanners), Fonseca, Graham, Taylor and Warre from the 2000 vintage. The 2003 is an attractive, lighter alternative.
Wines from Madeira mature well. A wonderfully dry 1978 vintage Sercial made by Barbeito (£59 from Berry Bros & Rudd) or a sweet and complex 1964 Blandy's Bual (V5 Tanners) will last a further quarter of a century.
When storing, look for a space that is cool (as close to 12 degrees centigrade as possible without fluctuation), dark and with clean air circulating. Place all bottles on their side so that wine stays in contact with the cork, ensuring that it will not contract and let oxygen in.
If you opt for a bonded warehouse, no VAT or excise duty are paid until the wine is eventually withdrawn. Wherever the wine is stored, make sure it is insured at full replacement value — not the original cost.
Conal Gregory is a Master of Wine