Great Older Vintage Wines to Buy and Drink Now

You don't need a well-stocked cellar to enjoy mature vintage wines. Here, some of our favorite wine retailers share their best tips for sourcing special bottles to enjoy this holiday season. 

Courtesy 24 Hubert
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I vividly remember the first time I sat down to taste through a vertical of older vintage wines, sipping a selection of SIMI cabernet sauvignons from 1935, 1941, 1956, 1964, 1974, and 1984 amidst the fruit flies and barrels of its Sonoma County cellar. They were vibrant and distinct, each showing the long life of well-made wine: from the figgy, fruity, still full-bodied 1934 and the wild strawberry and balsamic delicacy of the '41; to the more modern styles of the '74, with its big, spicy tannins and bright black fruit still present, and the concentrated, rich, and powerfully structured '84. I was hooked on the nuanced flavors of maturing wines; on their savory notes of earth, stewed fruits, honey, spice; on the more esoteric quality they represent as well, nodding to times gone by.

Of course, finding older vintages worth drinking can be a challenge: Age does not necessarily mean a wine is better, and looking for particular vintages, producers, or even regions can be a tiring, and sometimes fruitless, search. “It is also important to remember that mature wines may have traveled, changed hands, or been subject to temperature or storage conditions that may have compromised them or prematurely advance their age—it's part of the adventure, but certainly buying mature wines increases the risk of coming across a bottle that is not what it could have or should have been,” notes Rosemary Gray, wine specialist at Flatiron Wine & Spirits in Manhattan.

Fortunately, there are great shops across the U.S. that spend a good part of their time finding these wines for you, whether scouring auction catalogs and the hundreds of lots listed therein, working directly with wineries, or sourcing from private collections. We asked a handful of our favorites (in locations that ship across the U.S.) to share what they look for when buying and selling wines with bottle age, as well as some suggestions for things to buy and drink now, with plenty of special occasions for drinking and gifting in the coming weeks.