From The New York Times on giving old wine as a gift.
“Think about what a vintage brings to the equation,” says Steve Burgess, whose family’s winery, Burgess Cellars in the Napa Valley, is perhaps the most copious retail source of great old wine in the United States. “Besides the obvious marking of dates like birth years and anniversaries, the simple act of reading the year on the bottle may take your mind somewhere else.”
Having a basement full of aging wine enables gifts that stand out. One of the best presents my wife and I ever gave was a short vertical of Qupe Syrah. We knew it was our friend’s favorite, and we bought a bottle of each new vintage as he plowed through five years of med school. When he graduated we probably had $75 in the present, but the emotional impact was huge. I’ve never enjoyed giving a gift more than that one.
If you set aside a few bottles a year for gift-giving, and wait patiently for a few years, you’ll have a ready-made cache of special bottles to mark special occasions. Friends having a significant anniversary, celebrating a new house, a great new job? A trip down to the basement is easier than a trip to the mall, and the gift is more meaningful as well.
And the cost? Well, let’s let our inner nerd run free for a moment and do some math.
Let’s say every year you put aside a case of $25 bottles to hold for ten years to give as gifts. Let’s assume you get a 10% case discount and there’s no storage cost; in your basement you’ve got a cool, dark, unfinished corner far from the furnace and water heater where the temperature stays pretty constant. If you don’t, store the wine in a friend’s basement. It’s not like it’s going to cost him anything, and he’ll enjoy the old bottle you open together every year when you bring in a new case for storage.
The money you spend on that wine could be earning, say, 4% interest — which is a fairly standard assumption for low-risk assets. At the end of ten years you’ve got all of $32 in each bottle.
On the other hand, you could go to the mall and buy your friend a singing fish.
If you don’t need a case a year for gifts, put aside a few bottles. Or buy big on a great vintage and dole them out over the next 15 years.
There is, of course, the matter of worthiness for such a thoughtful and rare present. Not everyone will appreciate the significance of your gesture, so you need to pick and chose. Remember: gift-gving is about the person receiving, not the person giving. Hard though it may be to believe, there are those who’d rather have a singing fish than a well-aged Bordeaux. It’s important for you, as a thoughtful person, to recognize and honor that. Buy the damned singing fish. And when the party’s over, you can drink the wine yourself and mull the value of finding new friends.