Buying a birth-year wine

By Tyson Stelzer

8 Mar, 2023

If you're looking for a birth-year wine, or a special bottle to cellar, Tyson Stelzer outlines what you need consider before investing.

Guide to Choose a Birth Year Wine

I’m often asked for advice on buying birth-year wines, either for a newborn to crack on a milestone birthday in the distant future or, more importantly, for you to drink to celebrate their coming of age. Either way, it’s a great gesture when you get it right, but could prove a costly error if you get it wrong. Here are 10 tips to improve your chances.

Don't forget you can use the Halliday Vintage Chart to track wine regions and ratings across the last 30 vintages. The Vintage Chart rates the vintage in each wine region of Australia annually – the chart holds ratings for every Australian vintage from 1987 to 2021 and is updated with the release of the Halliday Wine Companion

Choose a wine for the long-haul

Just because they can drink it on their 18th doesn’t mean they’ll have developed a taste for old wine yet. They’ll more likely be up for it on their 25th or 30th, so be sure to select a wine that will go the distance.

Stick with the classic varieties and the most celebrated producers

There’s a time for experimenting with new producers and obscure varieties, but this is not it. For whites, riesling, semillon and Champagne are your most reliable options. For reds, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and vintage port are the most enduring.

Fraser Gallop Estate in Margaret RiverFraser Gallop Estate in Margaret River. 

Go for a region with a track record for long ageing

Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Sauternes, Barolo and Mosel are the classic European choices, but Margaret River, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Barossa and the Hunter Valley offer reliable and more affordable options.

Go for the top vintages

You don’t get to choose the year when you’re buying a birth vintage, but you can choose the region, and there will always be some of the top regions that had a good vintage in any given year.

Set yourself a calendar reminder

Set yourself a reminder for the right time to buy a birth-vintage wine. This may sound like an odd tip, but many people get excited about buying birth-vintage wines at the time of the birth, but the wines aren’t available yet. Set yourself a reminder for four or five years’ time for Australian wines or 10 years’ time for prestige Champagne.

John Duval magnumMagnums or larger bottles of wine will age more reliably.

Buy a bottle on its release

Buying a bottle on release is usually cheaper than buying at auction later on, and the provenance is guaranteed.

Buy a magnum or a larger bottle

Magnums or larger bottles of wine age more reliably and heighten the sense of celebration.

Buy a wine sealed with a screwcap

Buy wines under screwcap if possible, as they age more consistently.

Push the boat out

This is the time to buy the top wines of an estate, the First Growths, Grand Crus or prestige cuvées.

Store the wine carefully

Proper cellar conditions are crucial for long ageing.

Image credit: Wine Australia and Fraser Gallop Estate.