Wine is one of the most enjoyable beverages on the planet. There are many facets to this mystical drink, and even if it feels intimidating, the key to a great bottle is simply one that tastes good to you. Know that there is no pressure to think about it or describe it, and you don’t even have to know where it originates. You just have to love it.
So, rather than noodling through wine stores and settling on a bottle because of its pretty label, let this list of the best wines guide your next decision.
Domaine de Villaine La Digoine Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise
“We pick the grapes when they are ripe and do nothing,” says Domaine de la Romanée-Conti gatekeeper Aubert de Villaine, when asked how he makes his wines. He’s modest about his French operation, though, especially when it comes to this bottle of perfection.
Medium ruby with violet hues, this pinot noir has notes of raspberry, strawberry, and black cherries with a bit of earth, soft tannins, and kirsch aromas alongside crushed purple florals. A quintessential Burgundy, it’s fresh, round and approachable.
Denner Vineyards The Ditch Digger 2017
Not only is Denner Vineyards committed to producing their wine through eco-conscious farming practices, but they also make a delicious bottle of red. Cultivated from the western edge of Paso Robles, the 2017 Ditch Digger has all the flavor and character of an exciting wine for any occasion.
Expect bright aromas of black raspberry, rose petal, and brown spices like cardamom and cinnamon. Super juicy and lifted with boysenberry and cranberry, this red is zesty and refreshing with a cocoa-dusted finish.
Related: The Best Red Wines
Storm Chardonnay Vrede 2017
Storm Wines offers this prize from South Africa’s Hemel-en-Aarde Valley off the Southeast coastline, where the cool, Atlantic maritime climate meets the hearty local terroir.
This outstanding chardonnay is delicate on the palate with notes of citrus, oak, pear and a hint of vanilla. Buttery with bright acidity and a refined finish, the wine pairs nicely with a variety of preparations, from bone-in grilled pork chop to roast chicken and potatoes or grilled whole branzino.
Related: The Best White Wines
Grounded Wine Co. Space Age Rosé
Imagine the excitement of sitting around a television to witness Neil Armstrong take “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as it was happening. Grounded Wine Co. founder Josh Phelps is tapping into that excitement with his playful, eye-catching Space Age label, drawing inspiration from the “space race” that ended with America landing on the moon. In Phelps’ new-age take on that ambitious time in history, a bottle of Space Age rosé, made from grenache growing in California’s Central Coast, is due to land on your doorstep. The label alone makes it worthy of a "best" rosé pick, but the delicious wine in the bottle is the real ticket.
Rich tropical fruit finds farmer’s market strawberries and candied watermelon in a mineral-fueled, tangerine-peel-tinged, elegant, and lip-smacking rosé. Drink it while stargazing or while re-watching Spaceballs, the 1987 Mel Brooks film, and toast with the classic line: “May the Schwartz be with you!”
Best Sweet Wine
Donnafugata Ben Rye 2017
This highly-revered sweet wine from Donnafugata in Sicily is made with the juice of zibibbo grapes grown on the island’s volcanic soil. It hits the nose with aromas of apricot, candied orange peel and sweet dates. Full-bodied and lush, this wine is peppered with honey and citrus zest with an exceptionally long, satisfying and persisting finish. Pair it with rich, savory foods like blue cheese and duck as well as baked treats.
Related: The Best Sweet Wines
Best Sparkling Under $20
Mionetto Brut Prosecco
Mionetto Prosecco Brut is produced from 100 percent glera grapes grown in the province of Treviso, an area renowned for high-quality prosecco. This sparkling wine features a luminous straw yellow hue and stylish mousse. The palate is marked by aromatic notes of honey and white peach. It pairs beautifully as an aperitif or as a refreshing spritz: Mix equal parts Mionetto Prosecco and Aperol over a full glass of ice, add a splash of soda and a garnish of orange slice, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Aperol Spritz.
Related: The Best Wines for Everyday Drinking
Best Under $20
Embrazen Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Winemaker Olivia Teutschel celebrates historical, trailblazing women with this flavorful bottle that won’t break the bank. A merlot-syrah combination, emBRAZEN offers their red blend in tribute to Josephine Baker, noted American-born French entertainer.
A mélange of dark fruits dominates this wine, including blackberry, plum, currant and blueberries, layered with vanilla, chocolate and spice. Bold texture, salty aroma, modest acidity and smooth tannins also make for a lasting finish.
Related: The Best Cheap Wines
Müller-Catoir Haardt Muskateller Trocken 2017
Some of the best muscat wines are found in Germany, like this organically-grown bottle from Müller-Catoir. Operating out of Pfalz, the winery does wonders with these aromatic grapes and turns them into a wine that will transport you to the rustic German countryside.
With a clean and minerally texture, this wine has strong notes of grapefruit, mint, citrus and marzipan, as well as a balanced zip that dances you to the end.
Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva 2016
Enjoy this critic’s choice from Tuscany today. The Folonari family has been making superb wines for generations, and this particular bottle hails from the Nozzole estate in the Chianti Classico region. The wine boasts flavors of black cherry fruit and tart cherry compote with tobacco tannins sarsaparilla and rose petal florals. It's smooth and silky with great acid and a flourish of a finish.
Guigal Château d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie 2014
The Guigal family produces their wine from the fruit of seven vineyards spanning both sides of Côte-Rôtie, off the banks of the Rhône River. They grow their grapes in the historical namesake chateau with equally historical vines averaging 50 years of age.
This bottle is as romantic and passionate as one expects from a French wine: sultry with lush, roasted espresso beans and cured meat, white pepper, gorgeous rose petal florals, garrigue and cigar box. Pomegranate seeds, muddled wild strawberry, cherry pie and anise flavors continue on the palate. All these flavors are finely delineated with great energy and poise.
L'Ecole 41 Estate Merlot 2017
L’Ecole is one of the top wine producers in Washington state, and their Estate Merlot is a standout. Made with grapes from the high-elevation Ferguson Vineyard in Walla Walla, this diverse blend is peak merlot.
Expect notes of oak, vanilla, blackberry, plum cassis, jam, earth, leather, mushroom, and pepper tinged with black tea, raspberry coulis and pipe tobacco. All in all, this wine has a pleasing texture with elongated tannins and a persistent finish.
Massican Annia White 2019
Dan Petroski grows grapes in Napa, yet somehow makes wine with the distinct flavor you'd get from Italy. He produces top-notch red wines at Larkmead and continues to flourish as a major figure in California’s wine industry.
There are notes of fresh white flowers, underripe peach, along with that unique aroma of a slate sidewalk after a thunderstorm. It's mouth-filling with silken fruit textures and deep flavors of lemon peel, pear and stony minerally. The delicious factor is very real.
Lange Winery Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
This smooth pinot noir is made from the confluence of fruit from several vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Winemaker Jesse Lange worked through a careful barrel selection of the cellar’s finest wines, eschewing any rigid rules regarding site, clone, rootstock or soil type.
With a balanced, elegant texture, this pinot has hints of dark cherry, plum, saddle leather and cola. Aromas of clove, cinnamon and Oregon’s treasured marionberry dominate, along with luscious tannins and a natural balance of ripe sweet fruit and dazzling acidity.
Related: The Best Oregon Wines
DeLille Chaleur Estate Blanc 2018
Out of Washington’s Columbia Valley, DeLille has distinguished itself as one of the top wineries in the state. This white Bordeaux-blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon is a crisp, refreshing ode to France’s best Bordeaux Blanc wines—only at a fraction of the price.
Expect aromas of pie crust, pineapple and citrus. Full-bodied with a creamy texture and zippy acidity, this wine is laced with exciting flair.
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Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade, regularly tasting wines from around the globe. Cristaldi was named a "Wine Prophet" by Time Out New York for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education.