What's in your wine cellar?

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Entertainment,Food and Drink,Scott Greenberg

Wine collectors tend to gauge each other's "commitment" to wine by asking two essential questions. First, "What type of wine do you collect?" And second, "How many bottles are in your cellar?"

Despite our somewhat competitive nature, we frequently want to share with our fellow wine friends, even if some of us, usually me, seem to be hanging on the lowest rung of the wine cellar ladder.

But lately, many of my fellow collectors have not been obsessed with how much wine or even what wine we currently have stashed away in our private inventory. Instead we are concerned about the rapidly increasing prices of collectable wines from around the globe that are making it more challenging to purchase wines that we have been accumulating throughout the years. And what about wine enthusiasts that are new to the game? What wines will the next generation of oenophiles find affordable in order to inoculate their collection?

With many 2010 Bordeaux futures hitting stratospheric prices, and California cult cabernet sauvignons reclaiming their financially affluent following, finding value-oriented wines worthy of stuffing away for future consumption is still possible with a little research. It is important to note that the majority of wine produced is meant to be consumed soon after it's released. However, there are some wines that evolve over time, developing complex textures and flavors that are worth the wait. Here are a few worth hunting down now for delayed gratification. Retail prices are approximate.

It took Aline Baly four years to convince her father and her uncle to make a still white wine from their famous estate in Barsac, France. Today, the 2010 Opalie de Chateau Coutet ($29) is the first-of-its kind dry white wine produced in a region in Bordeaux known predominately for dessert wines. The wine, made from equal parts of semillon and sauvignon blanc grapes that are selected from just a few rows of 40-year-old vines, produces an elegant dry white wine that sports crisp acidity and stunning minerality. Flavors of passion fruit and pineapple are at the core of the palate, but additional notes of pear and honeyed lemon fan out across the palate and end with lingering hints of wet stone. Aging potential, five years. QPR 9.5

Several years ago, I wrote about the age-ability of wines from Chile, particularly those from Cousino Macul. The 2010 Cousino Macul "Antiguas Reservas" Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) from the Maipo Valley is an incredible value and an inexpensive way to learn about how wine evolves as it ages. Today, it shows a hint of green peppercorn that accents the red cherry and dark plum fruit up and earthy notes of black currant on the firm finish. Buy a case and see what it evolves into over the next 10 years. Aging potential, 20 years. QPR 10

Another collectable wine from the Southern Hemisphere is the 2010 Salentein Primum Malbec ($50) from Valle de Uco, located in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This young beast is produced from grapes grown in the stony soils of a high-altitude vineyard. Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, its fragrant bouquet of cocoa, blackberry jam and violets on the nose melds superbly with the flavors of black cherry, dark fruits and vanilla in the mouth. Savory notes and a touch of espresso cap off the ultra-firm finish. Aging potential, 10 to 15 years. QPR 9

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia is one of the most famous producers of sangiovese in Tuscany. The 2008 Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove ($50) is the "second" wine of the legendary Ornellaia red and is, indeed, a close second. At one-fifth the price, this wine delivers layers of dark cherry, blackberry and black currant fruit that caress the tongue in waves. The balance between fruit, acidity and tannins is near perfect, giving the wine weight and richness while remaining elegant. Sweet accents of toasty oak and firm tannins support the ripe fruit on the impeccable finish. Aging potential, 10 to 15 years. QPR 9.5

Note: QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.

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