According to Dr. Vinny (short for Dr. Vinifera),
The term “library wine” refers to a wine that is being kept or cellared away, or is part of a collection—basically, anything you’re not drinking at the moment. Sometimes wineries will sell an older vintage of their wine that they’ve kept cellared for a while, calling it a library wine. The term doesn’t refer to a specific age, but it does suggest a wine that has been or should be cellared before drinking. How long depends on the wine and on the person drinking it. There isn’t really a standard.
He also explains the purposes of library wines. “There are a lot of uses for library wines. I know some winemakers who regularly go back and taste their older wines to see how they’re aging or to get a sense of how a vineyard is developing. I’ve seen older vintages poured at winemaker dinners and charity events—many people rarely try aged wines, so it can be a real treat (or a real eye-opener). I’ve seen plenty of wineries offer up older vintages or even verticals of their wines in charity auctions. And occasionally a winery might make an older vintage available for sale to its customers.”
If the vines, the winemaker, the winery, and the terroir remain the same, weather may be the deciding factor about why one vintage is different than another. I love hearing Jim Law, at Linden Vineyards, describe how the weather–temperature, humidity, precipitation –can greatly affect the same wine from one year to the next. Of course, the wine maker may also do some tweaking (to blend or not blend, to age in oak, stainless still, a concrete egg, when to bottle, etc) but still not interfere with the inherent nature of the grapes.
“Valance’s anecdote exemplified the storytelling that a library—a winery’s collection of older vintages—brings to branding. But a library provides more than marketing mystique” This quote comes from Betsy Andrews article exploring how a collection of library wines helps a winery establish a legacy in SevenFifty Daily.
Why Buy Library Wines?
There are several reasons why wine lovers seek library wines:
•The wines have generally reached peak maturity.
•Many collectors stock up on favorites they may have originally missed.
•Most wineries hold back slow-aging, large-format bottles (magnums and up), which are popular as wine-cellar trophies and gifts.
•People often seek vintages for milestone celebrations, and many wineries accommodate those requests.
•Library wines have been stored properly, and their authenticity is guaranteed. “Restaurant owners don’t go to auctions to buy older wines, but if they buy wines that have been aging at the winery, they know they have been well-kept,” says Paolo Domeneghetti, founder of wine importer Domaine Select.
Have you ever tried a library wine? Join in the conversation and share your vertical wine experience. Where you at a winery or a charity event? What differences could you note between the different years that you tried? What is the oldest and/or most expensive wine you have ever tried? Was it worth the price?