With another year winding down (or ramping up, depending on your holiday plans), we find ourselves in a reflective mood. As 2017 approaches its finale, we are contemplating the things we did, places we went, and, of course, wines we drank.
Selecting the best and brightest from the many bottles we were lucky enough to taste in 2017 was no easy task. We called upon a team of VinePair staff, contributors, and other trusted wine experts to help nominate and narrow down our list of favorites. As we fervently dissected and debated our top 50 wines of the year, we installed a few criteria. All bottles needed to be readily available in the U.S. (no rare cuvées or decades-old vintages), and all had to be tasted by us in the year 2017.
Our ranking emphasizes drinkability, interesting flavor profiles, value, and, above all, deliciousness. We selected no more than one wine from each winery and did not repeat any selections from last year’s list. After much heated discussion that fell just short of actual bottles being tossed around the room, we came to a conclusion.
Without further ado, here are VinePair’s 50 best wines of 2017, ranked.
We consider Valter Fissore — Elvio Cogno’s son-in-law — to be one of the most talented, interesting winemakers in Italy. Despite receiving international acclaim for his consistent, high-end Barolos, Fissore has zero pretension. Always lively, Fissore’s wines have exceptional balance and purity of fruit. The Bricco Pernice Barolo comes from a specific vineyard plot within the lauded, long-aging Ravera cru. It’s elegant, silky, powerful, and refined, with bright red fruit, soft tannins, and a thin line of acidity that will preserve this cuvée for decades to come. It’s the kind of bottle that embodies traditional Nebbiolo, yet defies the Barolo region’s tannic, angular, unapproachable stereotypes. Elvio Cogno always maintained that this vineyard was truly special. After sipping this time capsule of a wine, we fully agree.
2. Pierre Gonon Saint-Joseph 2015 ($75)
Because Saint-Joseph is one of the largest northern Rhône crus, it’s tempting to assume that its wines are always approachable, entry-level Syrahs. Saint-Joseph, however, can be just as dramatic, complex, and expressive as nearby appellations like Côte-Rôtie and Cornas. Sniffing this Saint-Joseph is like inhaling a breath in fresh air. “Ah,” you’ll think, “so this is what Syrah should taste like.” While we could list this wine’s many aromas and flavors — pure summer berries, roses, olive brine, fresh, earthy fields on a sunny morning — there’s a je ne sais quoi that elevates the Gonon Saint-Joseph beyond tasting notes. Savor every moment of this wine; you’ll wax nostalgic about it for years to come.
3. Bérêche et Fils ‘Brut Réserve’ NV ($42)
There are more terroir-driven, grower Champagnes available in the U.S. than ever before, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Among the single-vineyard, single-vintage Champagnes showcasing the region’s nuances, this bottle is consistently interesting, delicious, and a damn good value. From a family domaine that dates back to 1847, the Brut Réserve may be the entry-level bottling of a producer that makes a wide range of excellent cuvées, but it’s anything but typical. The rose gold-hued blend of roughly equal parts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier hits on all cylinders: racy one second, rich another, with incredible drinkability and complexity at the same time. Rich, nutty, red-fruited flavors greet the palate, with fine texture, savory minerality, and a citrusy, lip-smacking finish. C’est magnifique!
It takes solid four-wheel drive and a bit of courage to climb the winding roads beyond the Napa Valley’s tourist-filled Highway 29 to get to Cain. But reaching this spectacular, high-elevation vineyard is truly worthwhile, particularly in light of Cain’s thoughtfully made wines. The iconic Cain Five is a blend of five classic Bordeaux varieties that absolutely sing of their inherent varietal characteristics and place of origin, all at the same time. Winemaker Chris Howell’s attention to detail is evident in the wine’s complex flavor profile: restrained plum, cassis, and blackberry fruit, savory spice, stony minerality, and an incredibly long finish. This wine is a lesson in intentional, careful winemaking.
5. Alkoomi ‘Black Label’ Riesling 2016 ($16)
Australian Riesling defies Old World versus New World stereotypes, taking enamel-stripping acidity and austerity to a new level. One of the pioneers of Western Australian winemaking produces this lean, lively gem from grapes grown in the cool Frankland River region. It’s utterly classic, mixing lime candy, peach jam, and pool toy (it’s a good thing, we promise) on the nose, followed by a rush of bursting, zesty lime and long, zingy acidity on the palate.
6. Villadoria Barolo Riserva 2010 ($50)
An affinity for grapevines has been shared through the generations of the Lanzavecchia family, most recently landing in the hands of the talented Paola. Together with her father, Paola Lanzavecchia crafts a true expression of Barolo wines from Serralunga d’Alba. While a traditionally vinified Barolo Riserva from a notoriously structured cru could easily skew the way of aggressive and unapproachable in youth, Villadoria’s seven-year-old wine — a baby in Barolo years — is already stunning. Elegant and ethereal, notes of red cherries, roses, and turned earth are lifted by high acidity. This is a beautiful wine.
Name any grape in the world. It’s a safe bet someone in California is growing it. Turley is known for its wide range of single-site Zinfandel wines, but they also experiment with a few other grape varieties, such as Cinsault. Planted in the 1800s, Turley Wine Cellars’ Cinsault vines have benefitted from generations of local experimentation and expertise. The result is a juicy red that is light enough for summer days yet concentrated enough to keep the palate engaged. Wild berry flavors and irresistible floral tones explode on the tongue, heightened even more by slightly chilling the wine prior to drinking.
Some may be tempted to call all Nebbiolo wines from outside of Piedmont’s key Nebbiolo-producing areas “baby Barolo” or “baby Barbaresco,” but this Nebbiolo d’Alba deserves to be recognized for its own merits. While the quality might be surprising for the price, it makes sense. The Ochetti is made by the son of one of Barolo’s greatest winemakers, so even the entry-level wines from this top producer will be fantastic. The aromas and flavors persist, driven by ripe red and black fruit, fresh earth, herbs, and particularly beautiful rose petals. Any Nebbiolo lover should pick up a bottle immediately.
Although South Africa is one of the top wine-producing countries of the world, many still consider many of the country’s wines overly fruity and full-bodied, friendly but not necessarily interesting. That’s why some Loire Valley loyalists might scoff at South Africa’s iterations of Chenin Blanc, a grape that South African winemakers have adopted as their own. However, the Secateurs Chenin Blanc, grown in Swartland, defies all preconceived notions of what South African Chenin Blanc can be. It’s fresh, savory, layered, textured, and under $15. It was one of the most surprising wines we tried this year.
10. Bodegas Ontañon Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 ($40)
It’s a special opportunity to be able to taste a wine with over a decade of age without paying a fortune or cellaring bottles yourself. That’s why we appreciate when a producer waits to release their cuvées until they reach an optimal drinking maturity. Bodegas Ontañon makes Rioja wines from stony-soiled, high-elevation vineyards, which is part of the reason why this Gran Reserva has a certain Burgundian elegance. Classic, tart cherry gives way to tertiary notes of leather, tobacco, iron, and dried herbs; this Rioja’s upfront richness transforms into a long, dry, acid-driven finish.
11. Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2016 ($18)
We’ve sung the praises of this wine’s previous vintages, and it truly is one of the most consistent, value-driven wines from this exciting, thought-provoking Sicilian region. Produced by U.S. importer Marc de Grazia, it’s readily available without sacrificing nuance or drinkability, and provides red fruit and fine minerality.
This natural northern Rhône Syrah is both a perfect introduction to natural wine and a varietally correct, go-to bottle, with notes of black fruit, cured meat, and violets. It’s proof that truly good natural wine should simply taste like good wine.
13. Forty Ounce Rosé 2016 ($16)
14. Christophe Pacalet Chénas 2015 ($18)
There’s a lot of tasty cru Beaujolais out there, but this one manages to be both budget- and palate-friendly, and appealing for Bojo veterans and newbies alike. Black fruit and floral accents combine to make this bottle super chuggable, like a darker Fleurie.
Yes, this bottle is very expensive — but if you’re in the mood to splurge, it’s totally worth it. Entirely comprised of Chardonnay, it’s beautifully perfumed and luscious, yet searing in acidity. Envision Grand Cru Chablis with bubbles.
16. Marco Porello Roero Arneis 2016 ($15)
An ideal white wine for seafood, this Arneis from Piedmont is bright and refreshing, with bright, limey acidity. It’s super versatile and evocative of beachy summer days, making it just the thing to keep on hand, all the time.
If you didn’t look at the label, you might think this Sicilian wine was actually white Burgundy. Made from Grillo grapes in Marsala country, careful usage of new oak does exactly what it should, adding another layer of savory richness to an already high-quality wine, rather than covering it up.
18. Château des Jacques Morgon 2014 ($23)
From one of Beaujolais’ best-known crus, this Morgon is tasty and easy to love. The acidity is bright and refreshing, making the tart red fruit pop.
Without a doubt, this is the best Riesling from Germany’s Nahe region. The sweetness is balanced, with concentrated lemon and pear flavors and saline minerality. We dare you not to finish the bottle.
20. J Vineyards ‘Cuvée 20’ Brut NV ($25)
Europe doesn’t have the monopoly on solid, traditional-method sparklers. This Sonoma bubbly is floral and easygoing, with pear and citrus flavors, making it a reliable standby and fantastic value.
Made by a legendary sommelier and a top enologist, Sandhi’s wines are the picture of balance and restraint, and this Chardonnay is no exception. It’s succulent and linear at the same time, with enough complexity to second-guess yourself over whether it might be from Burgundy. We want to dive into a pool of this wine.
No, that isn’t a typo — this is premier cru Burgundy in the $30 range. Because the vineyard is located in the overlooked Côte Chalonnaise, just south of the famed Côte d’Or, all that you love about good Burgundy is here — fresh fruit, earth, and minerality — at a steal.
Proof that Pinot Grigio doesn’t have to be one-note, this northern Italian, cool-climate bottle is complex and savory, like a good Chablis or Chenin Blanc.
From one of the most talented next-generation winemakers in Argentina comes this Malbec with a beautiful balance of rich fruit and acidity.
25. Canon-la-Gaffelière Saint-Emilion 2006 ($85)
Right Bank Bordeaux doesn’t have to mean dense, fat wines. There’s a freshness to this bottle, enlivened by spring berries and flowers, and this vintage is just starting to show a second layer of aromas and flavors, including leather and cigar box.
26. Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2016 ($17)
This budget-friendly bottle does what most Rhône whites can’t, maintaining a fresh, spring-like profile without being boozy and bitter.
From one of Chile’s best winemakers, this Cabernet Sauvignon proves how good Chilean Cab can be. It’s rich and earthy, with lovely flavors of black fruit, fresh herbs, and violets.
28. Gamling and McDuck Cabernet Franc 2014 ($38)
Though this Cabernet Franc is from the Napa Valley, it has the Loire written all over it. Red fruit and flowers meet loads of spice and black pepper for a complete and interesting wine.
29. Division Wine Co. ‘Béton’ 2015 ($25)
An Oregonian version of a tasty, easy-drinking Loire Valley blend, this Cabernet Franc-based wine is a bit addictive, which explains why we kept returning to our local wine bar to guzzle it. Raspberry, cranberry, bell pepper, and green peppercorn flavors intermingle with earthy and leafy undertones.
30. Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Poulsard 2016 ($30)
Light, fresh, and lively, but certainly not one-note, this biodynamic wine from one of the Jura’s top producers offers juicy, springy cranberries and strawberries alongside savory, slightly rustic earth. It’s perfect for a dinner party.
31. Dyer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($80)
Yes, it’s a splurge. But this bottle proves that Napa still makes some of the world’s best Cabs. It’s rich with intense black fruit plus cedar, jasmine, and gravelly earth.
Think the old guard can’t be adventurous? Think again with this funky Tempranillo from a famous Rioja producer.
33. Roulot Bourgogne Aligoté 2011 ($50)
Aligoté, the “other white grape” of Burgundy, may be your best chance to taste wine from this legendary Meursault producer without spending an arm and a leg. This bottle is like a more opulent Chablis, with round almond notes and a crunchy, lime-salt finish.
34. Quinta de la Rosa Douro Tinto 2013 ($20)
A red wine for everyone, this Portuguese bottle is smooth, full-bodied, fresh, and balanced. This is the perfect Netflix-and-chill wine.
You’ll quickly fall in love with this featherweight, transparent ruby-hued wine. It is incredibly floral and delicate, with bright red cherry and barely-there tannins.
Varietal Nerello Cappuccio from Mount Etna? Who does that? This wine from one of the pioneering producers of the region is super cool, yes, but it’s also super delicious. It’s juicier and more gulpable than Nerello Mascalese, but with that classic, fine, ashy minerality.
There’s so much to love about this bottle, one of the standard-bearing Kabinett Rieslings of the Mosel Valley. Complex and delicious, it opens with white pepper and coriander spice on the nose, along with hints of steely minerality and white florals. Honeydew and lime fruit emerge on the silky, sweet, and smooth palate.
38. Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2012 ($75)
Soft, juicy, and friendly now, this beautiful wine will develop for years to come. It has quite a lot of depth already, with dried and fresh cherries, mushrooms, and leather.
Red-fruited, deep, and savory, this bottles proves that you don’t have to spend a lot to get authentic, delicious Burgundy.
Created by the latest generation in a line of female winemakers, this Rhône blend is impactful and elegant. It’s full-bodied without being overwhelming, with brambly red fruit balanced by rustic earth and soft perfume.
A crowd-pleasing blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon that offers great value and complexity for the price point. Rich black fruit, fresh mint, anise, and bitter chocolate are just a few of the many flavors here.
42. Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2014 ($28)
This exceptionally good Chianti Classico has enough concentration, complexity, and ageability to trick drinkers into thinking it’s Brunello. Buy a bottle for now and one for later. You won’t regret it.
This vintage Champagne has a nearly perfect balance of ripe pear, golden apple, and creamy richness, accented by delicate, persistent floral aromas.
44. Salcheto ‘Obvius’ Toscana 2015 ($19)
A rich, juicy, balanced Sangiovese made by one of the geekiest winemakers in Italy is just the thing for enjoyable, everyday drinking.
This baby Meursault has tons of richness with a fine line of acidity searing through at the end, giving the impression of limestone on the finish.
46. Pietradolce ‘Archineri’ Etna Rosso 2014 ($35)
Crimson in color, this Nerello Mascalese bursts with notes of dried rose petals, tart cherry, and sage. Red fruit flavors on the palate lead into a lingering finish dominated by minerality.
Exotic spices and flowers, including sandalwood, jasmine, sage, and coriander, combine with tart red fruit on top of this velvety, mouth-filling Napa Valley Pinot Noir.
One of our new favorite steak wines, this Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with cassis, blackberry, black pepper, and firm tannins. It’s delicious, complex, and worth decanting.
49. Mas Amiel ‘Origine’ Rouge 2014 ($35)
A Roussillon red that is smoky and meaty, with incredible dark fruit, including plum, fig, and red currant.
50. Stony Hill Gewürztraminer 2012 ($25)
This Napa Valley Gewürztraminer from one of the region’s top wine producers is floral and delicate, with a rich mouthfeel and loads of tropical fruit.