Where to buy aged wine

Part V - Where to Buy Aged Wine

Where to Buy Aged Wine: The Best Online Retailers & Auction Houses for Aged Wine

In Part V of this guide:

Other parts of this guide:

Ultimately finding the answer to this question is why I decided to write this Useful Wine Guide in the first place — there are some wonderful places to shop for aged wine that might not be obvious to someone just getting their feet wet with older wine.

Common places to buy older wine are: wineries, retailers, high-end restaurants, and auction houses. The most reliable, if you want to be certain of proper storage, are the wineries themselves, followed by wine retailers who are dedicated to long-term aging programs or who acquire aged wine directly from wineries, and lastly the auction houses and restaurants.

Library Wines from Wineries

Wine Tasting in a Barrel Room

Library wine, back vintages, and late release are terms wineries use to describe vintages available for purchase after they might normally be released. Some wineries hold back 1-2% of each wine they make for release later to their loyal customers as library wines (they also use these libraries to keep their vintage charts up to date).

Others, particularly in Bordeaux where there’s a culture of selling their wine as Futures, will hold back their entire release until it’s ready to drink. And still others release wine in regular tranches, often 10 years after their first release, or in the case of Dom Perignon P2 and P3 (P stands for Plenitude), when the Champagne has taken an evolutionary step forward in its aging process.

For aged American wine, sometimes you’ll find these library selections on wineries’ websites, and sometimes you’ll only hear about them in the tasting room, if you’re on their email list, or if you’re a wine club member (for wineries which offer wine clubs).

Aged Wine from Retailers

Wine on Shelves in a Store Photo by Javier Balseiro on Unsplash

There are different kinds of wine retailers and which ones are worth buying aged wine from requires a closer look.

For starters, I would not buy aged wine from just any old wine shop (or grocery store) because odds are good the conditions for storage/aging were not appropriate. How many wine stores have you been into that have big, bright picture windows streaming UV light into the store? Or wine stores that aren’t 55 degrees inside? Most of ‘em, right? Hopefully these places have proper storage in the back or the basement, but you really can’t be sure how a bottle you’re looking at was treated or how long it’s been on the shelf.

So which retailers should you buy aged wine from? Let’s start with the difference between aged wine and back vintages. While technically the same thing, there’s an important difference between the two.

Back vintages are wines that are not the current release. A retailer who has older wine in inventory may have purchased more than he was able to sell through before the new release came out. He may keep these back vintages indefinitely until they sell out (a great opportunity for you to try older wine!), but I wouldn’t expect to see something more than 5 years old kicking around.

Shop my trusted selection of back vintages or aged wine by region and grape from online retailers. Here is a preview:

Testarossa Winery Los Gatos Monterey Cuvée Chardonnay 2021

Variety: Chardonnay / Sold by: The California Wine Club
Tasting Notes: Fig, kiwi, apple, passion fruit, and lemon-zest. On the palate, the qualities on the nose continue and are met with a full and dense mouthfeel. The modest acidity is balanced by a smooth and pleasant finish. 91 Points, James Suckling Final Blend: 100% Chardonnay Pair With: Tuna poke bowl, lemon risotto, creamy or semi-hard cheeses Alcohol by Vol

Testarossa Winery Los Gatos Monterey Cuvée Chardonnay

$16.99 28.00

Buy This

Testarossa Winery Los Gatos Monterey Cuvée Pinot Noir 2021

Variety: Pinot Noir / Sold by: The California Wine Club
Tasting Notes: Pomegranate, cranberry, cherry cola, and vanilla leap out of the glass. With some time, notes of cloves, blackberry, and raspberry round out the profile. On the palate, these qualities build in intensity and are balanced by vibrant acidity and silky tannins. The finish is long and lingering. 90 Points/“Editor’s Choice” Wine Enthusiast Final Blend: 100% Pinot Noir Pair With: Mushroom Veloute Alcohol by Vol

Testarossa Winery Los Gatos Monterey Cuvée Pinot Noir

$18.99 32.00

Buy This

Castoro Cellars Paso Robles Estate Grown Chardonnay 2021

Variety: Chardonnay / Sold by: The California Wine Club
Tasting Notes: A lovely collage of rich flavors and aromas of green apple, ripe pear, and sweet peach. This wine is beautifully fresh and is meant to be consumed young! Final Blend: 100% Chardonnay Pair With: Creamy cheeses or rich seafood pasta dishes Hold Time: Enj

Castoro Cellars Paso Robles Estate Grown Chardonnay

$20.00 25.00

Buy This

Strey Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pommard Clone Pinot Noir 2021

Variety: Pinot Noir / Sold by: The California Wine Club
Tasting Notes: Holiday spice, violet and herbaceous aromas on the nose. Soft, medium-bodied roundness, and smooth mid-palate of pomegranate and fruit punch, with a light vanilla finish. Double Gold Medal, Pacific Rim Wine Competition 94 Points/Gold Medal/Best in Class (Limited Production), LA International Wine Competition 93 Points/Gold Medal, LA International Wine Competition 92 Points/Gold Medal, Orange County Fair Commercial wine competition Final Blend: 100% Pinot Noir Case Production: Only 88 cases produced Pair With: Creamy pasta, buttery shellfish, rib-eye, or pork tenderloin Hold Time: Enjoy now or hold up to 6 years.   Alcohol by Vol

Strey Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pommard Clone Pinot Noir

$62.00 65.00

Buy This

Les Hauts De Lagarde Rose 2020

Variety: Blend / Sold by: Organic Wine Exchange
A brilliant pink colour. Intense aromas of fruits, flowers and spices give this wine its unique character. Well balanced & structured, with a nice freshness and a long finish. A real treat!  Enjoy With: BBQ, Appetizer, Spicy dishes, Poultry, Grilled Fish. Varietals: 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec Alcohol Content:  12.5% Sugar Residual: 0.43 g/L Awards:  Tastings.com - 90 pts - GOLD Medal *Certified Organic by Qualité France and USDA NOP (National Organic Program) IMO, Switzerland.  Only Indigenous Yeasts used. Suitable for Vegans. Note:   A Handling Fee includes labor, shipping materials and FedEx "adult signature required" fee and are added into the Shipping Fee

 Les Hauts De Lagarde Rose

$18.00

Buy This

Chateau Bousquette "Nord du Sud" 2019

Variety: Blend / Sold by: Organic Wine Exchange
Very pale yellow color with silver highlights. The nose is very delicate with notes of pear, bergamot and citrus. Fresh and balanced on the palate. Varietal: 50% viognier, 50% Vermintino.  *Vegan friendly

 Chateau Bousquette

$20.00

Buy This

Aged Wine Specialist Wine Stores

There are also retailers who specialize in aged wine — wine they either purchase at release with the intention of aging it themselves, or wine they acquire after release from a winery or other trusted source. These specialty merchants are usually the best non-winery option for acquiring aged wine (by my standard, anything more than 5 years old).

There are three online retailers I recommend for acquiring aged wine based on how they source their wine, how they store their wine, and the selection of wines they carry.

Millesima — The Fine French Wine Superstore

Particularly for Bordeaux and Champagne, I recommend Millesima — a négociant headquartered in Bordeaux who carries a massive inventory of wine.

I spoke with Michael Peltier, Senior Fine Wine Specialist at Millesima, who told me they purchase everything as Futures or when it’s released directly from the winery and immediately transport it to le chais, their storage facility in Bordeaux. There, in perfect conditions, they age their inventory until someone orders it. These wines are sold as “Pre Arrival” because they don’t ship them to the US until someone has ordered them.

The selection of back vintages at Millesima is a bit mind-boggling, with significant Bordeaux inventory back to 1995 (and sparse inventory further back than that, too). With a site like Millesima, you can explore how wine ages on your own by purchasing a vertical from one particular Château.

The reference for Grands Crus

Another reason to choose Millesima when exploring aged wine is they have one of the largest collections of large-format Bordeaux & Champagne in the world. In Part I of this guide, I pointed out that large-format wine bottles (those larger than 750 mL) are better suited to longer aging of wines. According to Peltier, the best format for very long aging of wine is 3L bottles, commonly called a Double Magnum and also known as a Jeroboam.

Unsurprisingly, when you’re doing everything right in a couple of areas, you scale your operation. In addition to supplying you with Champagne and Red Bordeaux wines, Millesima also carries an excellent selection of fine Burgundy, Rhone, Italian, and American wines.

Browse Millesima’s selection of carefully-aged Bordeaux and Champagne.

Wine Access — The Insider’s Wine Store

Wine Access is a special kind of online wine store. They procure limited amounts of special and hard-to-find wines (in the US) and sell them as a limited time offer or until they sell through their inventory.

What’s really different about Wine Access is that their team writes all of their own tasting notes. That’s because their team is led by a Master of Wine (Vanessa Conlin) but includes several other top-ranking sommeliers and Master of Wine candidates.

This extra level of detail is super critical if you’re looking at purchasing aged wine. Relying on the tasting notes provided by the winemaker at the time of release is a gamble, but relying on professional tasting notes written when you’re going to buy and drink the wine is just plain smart.

Here’s a great example of how tasting notes can change over time using the 2010 Larkmead Vineyards Solari Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa which you can purchase at Wine Access for $250.

Wine Access Ad Banner 2010 Larkmead Vineyards Solari Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

2010 Larkmead Vineyards Solari Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Former Larkmead winemaker Andy Smith’s original tasting notes when the wine was released:
“Very dark ruby purple color. Simultaneously bright yet dark, fresh yet profoundly rich with a deep core of aromatic complexity – menthol, tar, black cherry, blackcurrant, smoky iodine richness, dried herb and classic Larkmead minerals. Dense, chewy, powerful palate with great depth and structure but always lively and energetic. Aromas carry through to the palate - powerful dark fruit, succulent and brooding. Multi-layered mid-palate with wave after wave of flavor. Extraordinary length and persistent finish. The wine has great enveloping flavor – deep intense black fruits, full & round, interwoven with many subtle savory elements – dried herbs, cedar & sweet tobacco supported by broad, rich, chewy tannins.”

Wine Access tasting notes in 2020:
“Showing a beautifully deep brick-garnet color. Wonderfully alive on the nose, featuring dried and fresh blackberry and currants, mocha, allspice, toasted vanilla, and hints of tertiary leather, mature tobacco, and black truffle complexity. Perfectly structured, with a touch of supple give to the firm tannins from maturation, while maintaining a dense mid-palate and full body. Fresh black cherry and cherry pie notes on the palate yield to notes of earth, leather, and spice, swirling in a complex dance throughout an incredibly long finish. A stunning Cabernet, making a convincing argument that a decade is a good sweet spot for Napa Cabs, but clearly with plenty of life ahead. Drink now - 2033.”

What changed?

My favorite part of this comparison? The original drinking window according to the winemaker was 12-18 years, Antonio Galloni (then at The Wine Advocate) suggested 10-30 years, but Wine Access’s 10-year check-in pinpoints the range to 23 years.

Another reason to consider making your aged wine purchases with Wine Access is that they go the extra mile. Not long ago they offered an aged Barolo. After their assessment of the wine, and the condition of its corks, they sent out a free Ah-So cork puller with every purchase to make sure their customers fully enjoyed the whole wine experience.

Browse the aged wines at Wine Access.

Aged Cabernet / 3-Month Wine Club Gift Join for ~$235 per shipment

The California Wine Club

While The California Wine Club is perhaps best known for their two-bottle wine of the month club featuring affordable selections from small family wineries in California, they also offer a unique wine club featuring Aged Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you want a low-effort way to get started with aged wine quickly, I recommend joining this wine club. They offer premium Cabernet Sauvignon aged 7-12 years, primarily from Napa Valley, but some Sonoma sneaks in there from time to time.

Membership benefits include: Access to a Personal Wine Consultant; Discounts when you reorder your favorite wines; A "Love It" 100% Guarantee; VIP Touring and Tasting invitation at any of the artisan wineries we feature.

Aged Wine from Auction Houses

& Others Who Source from Third Parties

Last on my list of places to acquire aged wine are auction houses and other organizations who acquire aged wine from private third parties. There are always exceptions to every rule, but the biggest issue with these groups is with verification of provenance. Unlike a painting whose condition is clear before you buy it, the condition of an aged wine is not. Auction houses have been guilty of selling counterfeit wine, too (not intentionally, but it still happens). Some places have trusted sources and stand behind the wine you purchase. Others do not.

If you’re willing to risk third-party purchasing in the US, I recommend buying your aged wine here.

WineBid

WineBid is a Seattle-based company with locations in Napa and Hong Kong. Auctioning wine online since 1996, WineBid offers an online wine auction platform lets collectors place bids, buy instantly or sell their wine. They also have their own import subsidiary, Peloton Imports, to offer wines directly from Europe.

WineBid doesn’t require people to buy or sell full cases and they hold 52 auctions a year with thousands of new bottles added each week. They have two sommeliers on staff and an expert tasting team. They inspect and place every bottle by hand in our temperature-controlled warehouses.

Learn more about WineBid on their website.

Benchmark Wine Group

Benchmark Wine Group (BWG) is a Napa-based company that sources and stores aged wine for its clientele. They are very serious about provenance, and they have an inside track on a lot of aged Napa wine.

Much of the wine that they carry was purchased directly from the winery and transferred in climate-controlled conditions to BWG’s cellar for permanent storage. Their customers who wish to sell their wine at a profit can sell it through BWG’s website. From what I’ve researched, I would consider these sales as safe as buying directly from the winery, but I am not guaranteeing anything personally, though BWG guarantees the provenance of the wine they sell. Like Millesima, they also offer Pre-Arrival sales for wines from Europe.

Learn more about the extensive operations at BWG on their website.

Vinfolio

Vinfolio — on the surface — looks very much like BWG. They offer the same type of winery-to-cellar-to-sale service that BWG does. I imagine that there are some differences between the two services, but again, they guarantee the provenance of every wine they sell, so your risk is mitigated.

Learn more about Vinfolio on their website.

Jessyca Frederick

Guide by: Jessyca Frederick

Inspired by frequent questions from friends and family about different wines and wine practices, I write Useful Wine Guides so that people I don’t know might benefit from my knowledge and desire to share information, too.