Here at VinePair we drank a lot of really great wine in 2016. Still, some bottles truly stood out, and you’ll find the list of these below.
Each wine on this list possesses one crucial quality: immediate drinkability. These wines are approachable, interesting, and, despite one or two exceptions where aging would help, ready to be popped and poured. That’s not to say most of the bottles can’t be aged; they can, and if you have the space and time, they should, but we recognize most people are looking for that great bottle to buy and drink on the same day. All of these bottles deliver that and more.
Here are the top 50 wines of 2016 according to the VinePair staff:
1. Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013, $34
This wine is truly mind-blowing, and a prime example that Brunello is not the only Tuscan DOCG producing outstanding Sangiovese. In fact, this wine has us wondering whether Montepulciano might be the best place in Tuscany for the grape’s cultivation. Made by a boutique family producer, this wine is a beautiful balance of fruit and earth, with bright cherries equalized by tobacco and leather. What we find truly amazing about this wine is that it is not only drinking beautifully now, but it’s also a bottle that could be saved for years and it will only get better.
2. Le Cigare Volant Réserve 2012, $69
Randall Grahm is a winemaker who continues to impress. His move to close all of his wines with screwcap might be seen by some people as cheapening the wines, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a serious, age-worthy red wine that showcases why Randall is one of this country’s best winemakers. A Rhone-style red blend, the wine is deep and dark with the Syrah playing the dominant role. Flavors of dark berries marry with leather to create a delicious wine.
3. Tabarrini Campo alla Cerqua Sagrantino 2010, $50
It’s a rare occurrence to find a wine and winemaker both as exciting as Tabbarini. While Sagrantino may not be a grape that delivers immediately, once it’s aged it can be one of the greatest wines in the world. This bottle is the best example coming out of Montefalco. Ageable for decades, this is a wine that is worth purchasing and holding on to; a fantastic investment.
4. Viña Real Reserva 2010, $30
Good Rioja is one of the greatest bangs for your buck in the wine world. This reserva from one of the region’s top producers doesn’t disappoint. The wine pours a beautiful ruby color with aromas of red cherries, vanilla, and leather. There are flavors of dark red fruit, with nice acidity and balanced tannins.
5. COS Contrada 2009, $85
This is what opulence tastes like. This is the purest expression of Nero d’Avola we have ever encountered. One sip and you’ll see why so many people think this little grape from Sicily really could be the next big thing in the wine world. It’s a truly elegant wine.
6. Guy Breton Morgon “Vieilles Vignes” 2014, $31
This bright and fruit-forward wine is a delicious example of what Gamay from Beaujolais should be. Guy Breton farms all of his vineyards organically, with only indigenous yeasts used during fermentation. The Gamay is carbonically macerated and aged on its lees, leading way to a layered palate of bright red fruit.
7. Mullan Road Cellars Red Blend 2013, $44
This Columbia Valley red blend is a stellar example of what Bordeaux blends from Washington State can do. The assemblage of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and a mere 1% Malbec creates a full-bodied yet utterly smooth wine, bursting with flavors of ripe blackberries and figs. Well-integrated tannins leave the wine feeling silky on the palate, with an ageing potential of up to 10 years.
8. Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port, $33
There’s no better wine for a cold or rainy night than Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port. The wine is a blend of both older and younger wines, with an average age of 10 years. Older wines bring complex, layered flavors of caramel to the blend, while the younger wines bring bright fruit and zesty acidity to the mix. The result is a copper-colored wine full of nutty caramel flavors, rich and gentle on the palate, with a lasting finish.
9. A Portela Mencia 2013, $15
Indigenous to northwestern Spain, the Mencia grape thrives in the granite and slate soils of Galicia, specifically in the Bierzo and Valdeorras regions. A Portela Mencia comes from high-elevation vines, all tended organically, producing a bright wine with meaty yet fruit-forward characteristics. Cold soaking prior to fermentation followed by ageing in stainless steel produces this bold yet easy drinking wine that remains authentic to the true characteristics of the Mencia grape.
10. Jim Clendenen Nebbiolo – The Pip 2011, $30
Yes, this is a Nebbiolo from California, and yes, you are going to love it. Made by Jim Clendenen, a winemaker who has become known for outstanding Pinot Noir under the Au Bon Climat label, this Nebbiolo has flown a bit under the radar. We think it may be one of the best wines he makes. It’s also typical of Nebbiolo; you’ll find aromas of roses and cherries, with deep dark fruit, bright acidity, and tannins on the palate.
11. Clos du Val Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, $66
This is a wine that completely changed our minds about Napa. It’s balanced, low in alcohol, and absolutely incredible with a steak. This wine illustrates why Napa became known for Cabernet in the first place.
12. Venissa Dorona 2013, $189
This wine, hailing from the Venetian Lagoon, might seem pricey, but it’s well worth it. Flavors of almonds abound as this orange wine opens up and becomes something beautiful and serious at the same time.
13. Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage 2014, $27
This is one of Syrah’s purest forms, plain and simple. Earthy red fruit flavors and hints of cracked black pepper make this wine a knockout.
14. Charles Heidsieck Brut 2008, $50
This bottle is Champagne the way Champagne is supposed to be. Lots of yeast and flowers on the nose and incredibly rich and light at the same time; this bottle is absolutely beautiful.
15. Lam Pinotage 2014, $15
This funky, South African red is nothing short of a pleasant surprise. It’s super light, easy-drinking, and fantastically fruity. Serve lightly chilled for an even better experience.
16. Farella Coombsville Napa Valley Merlot 2012, $41
Farella’s expression of Merlot from Coombsville is exactly what varietal wine from this appellation should be: supple, smooth, and slightly herbaceous. Soft, juicy plum fruit flavors make this wine exceptionally easy to drink.
17. Ameztoi Rubentis Txakolina Rosado 2015, $25
If you ever wanted to know what wine made by the sea tastes like (trust us, you do!), this is the bottle to reach for. The wine tastes briny and refreshing, and it smells of the ocean.
18. Pieropan Calvarino 2013, $27
Soave is that refreshing, complex white wine that many more people should be drinking, and this bottle is the perfect example.
19. Domaine de Montbourgeau L’Etoile “Cuvee Speciale” 2011, $42
For those interested in yellow wine, this bottle is essentially vin jaune without the vin jaune price tag. Nutty, oxidized flavors come together to form a smooth, persistent palate of bruised apple and honey. A delicious find from the Jura.
20. Araujo Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013, $97
Crisp citrus flavors with a strong mineral presence make this one of our favorite domestic Sauvignon Blancs on the market. Grapefruit nuances and bright acidity present as a vibrant, zesty choice.
This Tuscan Sangiovese pours a gorgeous ruby red in the glass, with delicious aromas of ripe berries that carry over to the palate and mix with notes of rose petal and herb. An absolute must for Italian wine lovers.
22. Le Clos du Tue-Boeuf Vin Rouge 2014, $16
Some might call this Gamay from the Loire a natural wine. It’s definitely super drinkable, with a light amount of carbonic acid present.
23. 2012 Phelan Segur, $40
An age-worthy Bordeaux from a vineyard that isn’t part of the 1855 classification but should be. Still, because it’s been left outside the designation, you get this bottle for a steal.
24. Marie-Noelle LeDru Extra Brut NV, $70
This rich, full-bodied Champagne presents delicious, creamy flavors of stone fruit and toast. Persistent, delicate bubbles lead to a long-lasting finish. Fun fact: Every bottle ages three to six years on its lees, followed by disgorgement by hand.
25. Buglioni Valpolicella Brut “Il Vigliacco” Rosé 2012, $28
This floral, fruity sparkler is an ideal example of just how unique and special the Molinara grape is. Often left in the shadows of its other Valpolicella blending components, the grape absolutely shines in this bottle of bubbles.
26. Domaine Damien Pinon Vouvray Tuffo 2015, $16
This juicy Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley bursts with crisp apple flavors. Bright acidity and lightness on the palate make this wine incredibly easy-drinking. A true crowd-pleaser.
27. Bisol Crede Prosecco, $18
This is what high-quality prosecco should taste like: a creamy texture balanced by an extremely fresh and light acidity.
28. Cepa 21 2011, $23
This 100 percent Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero packs a mean punch of flavor and intensity. The palate presents savory, meaty characteristics with well-integrated tannins that lead to a persistent finish. Pair with a juicy steak for a mouthwatering, gastronomical experience.
29. Ant Moore New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $15
Unlike many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that can be aggressive and weighty, this medium-bodied, mineral-driven example is insanely drinkable, with a beautiful balance of bell pepper notes and clean floral notes.
30. Clos Puy Arnaud Cuvée Bistrot Côtes de Bordeaux 2013, $15
This is a completely unexpected bottle of Bordeaux. Light and insanely drinkable, the wine goes through partial carbonic maceration and is biodynamic to boot!
31. Vina Leyda Pinot Noir 2015, $15
This bottle is an extremely well-balanced Pinot Noir with bright acidity from Chile.
32. Paumanok Chenin Blanc 2015, $25
One of the only Chenin Blancs produced in New York State, this wine is extremely fresh, with juicy stone-fruit characteristics.
33. Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence Rouge 2014, $15
This is an incredibly drinkable Provencal red with flavors of ripe berries and herbal notes.
34. Scarbolo Ramato Pinot Grigio 2012, $14
Technically an orange wine, this is a great bottle to taste if you’re looking to experience a quaffable, skin-contact white.
35. Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2012, $25
A solid Bordeaux blend from Mendoza, Argentina.
36. Inman Family Russian River Chardonnay 2013, $30
Zesty acidity and bright stone fruit make this wine extremely reminiscent of Chablis.
37. Heinrich Zweigelt 2013, $18
Light-bodied and pleasant with earthy notes, this wine should be slightly chilled and served as an aperitif.
38. The Chook NV, $18
A unique sparkling Shiraz from Australia, this wine is ripe, juicy, and extremely fun.
39. Stinson Vineyards Rosé 2015, $25
This wine is a mouthwatering, fruit-forward rosé from Virginia.
40. V. Mitolo & Son Shiraz 2014, $50
This strongly balanced wine presents blackberry and pepper notes with a striking acidity, making it great with food.
41. Macari Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013, $31
This wine is a solid example of what the Cab Franc varietal can do on the North Fork.
42. Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2015, $30
This wine is basically Santorini in a bottle: stunning, unique, and delicious.
43. Fonseca Terra Bella Organic Reserve Port, $23
Certified organic from the Douro Valley, this ruby style comes with succulent, warming flavors of ripe black fruit.
44. Slo Down Wines Sexual Chocolate 2014, $26
Concentrated Syrah/Malbec blend from California, this one is full-bodied, luscious, and extremely silky.
45. Geil Trocken Spätburgunder 2015, $22
This interesting medium-bodied Pinot Noir from the Rheinhessen has strong coffee and mineral notes.
46. Domaine Jorel, “La Garrigue” Rancio Sec 2003, $32
This orange wine is made from 100 percent old vine Macabeo. It has lots of spicy garrigue notes and is aged 10 years in barrel. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience at an affordable price.
A solid domestic Pinot with notes of cherry, leather, and wood at an affordable price.
48. Stoller Reserve Chardonnay 2014, $33
A Burgundian-style Chardonnay with lots of Old-World influence.
49. Omero Cellars Pinot Gris 2014, $22
This amber wine from Oregon has hints of orange peel and acacia.
50. Ghost Pines Zinfandel 2014, $16
Full-bodied and juicy, this is exactly what you hope a California Zin will taste like, at a great price point, too.