For the purposes of this column, “hereafter” refers not to an ultimate Hereafter, but to the time between this evening's dinner and your golden wedding anniversary, or maybe a little bit less. There are wines for each term of this span, between what will nicely suit meatloaf tonight and a triumphant loaf of beef wellington in the spring of 2052.
There's an optimistic delight in laying down a bottle you tend to leave alone for a fairly long time. Did Thomas Jefferson, I wonder, peer into the shrouded future of his new nation when in 1789 he laid down in the cellar of his official Paris residence some bottles of '84 Yquem and Lafite, which would lie there undisturbed until their discovery in 1986.
Keep this in mind when you want to find a gift for the person who has everything - boss, wealthy uncle, U.S. Senator. Even if he/she has six cases of some great red burgundy, vintage '96, six cases and a bottle are so much the better.
It may be that the intended recipient of your thoughtfulness doesn't like red wine - or white (which, depending on his/her age and health, may be a better choice, for red wine usually outlives white) - it doesn't make much difference, since a really fine bottle of either color from a great year makes an appreciable lump on the toting up of one's net worth.
What kind of price are we talking about? Start at $50, and be prepared to go up, far up. Ask your dealer for guidance if you don't feel confident in your judgment; he/she will doubtless be happy to help.
Don't wait for the week before Christmas, either. Many of Europe's finest bottles never get far past the East River piers, and only a special order from your dealer may be able to liberate one from the East Coast retail dealers.
One last note: If a bottle is the right choice, it's like a dollhouse; you can simply add another each year. To really make an impression, of course, give not just a bottle, but a whole case. Wooden cases are really classy, and almost all retailers will give you the 10 percent discount the Ohio Liquor Commission grudges the retail customer. You might want to know, by the way, that apart from North America and, I believe, Japan, where a case is 12 bottles, the rest of the world seems to do well with six-bottle cases.