"There is a devil in every berry of the grape" - The Qur'an
Cellaring wine is a great hobby. It frees you from the whims of stocking levels at wine shops or grocery stores, allows you to lay down wines when young (and inexpensive) and enjoy them in their age, and is an insanely difficult equation to optimize. There are many multi-variable equations in life, but wine collecting has got to be one of the more complicated ones I've come across.
For starters, Wine is a living thing. You can take a great vineyard, and vines that have produced fabulous wine over the centuries, and a freak rainstorm or heatwave will render this year's production worthless to all but vinegar producers. Winemakers are a fickle breed as well, constantly tinkering with their post-harvest techniques in order to pander to the palette of this or that wine critic. Then you have the problem of provenance.....what happened to the wine after the winemaker bottled it? Did it sit in a nice cold, humid cave somewhere, or in the hot backroom of some wine shop, getting slowly cooked? How was it shipped.....air conditioned and dark, or in the back of someone's pickup truck in the Arizona sun?
And that's just one bottle! Last month I was looking forward to a tasting of wines from Saint Estèphe, a sub-appellation within Bordeaux. One bottle in particular, a 1986 Chateau Cos D'Estornel, was at the top of my list to try, after a life-changing glass of the wine in 2004. The wine-tasting night arrived, the blind tasting commenced, and I didn't find the spice box of Cos among the glasses. There were some amazing wines, and some horrid ones, but the elusive chimera of Cos was nowhere to be found.