While enjoying wine is absolutely a communal experience, there are many instances in which it does become quite subjective. For example, some red wine lovers may only swear by big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, Calif., or a bodacious Malbec from Argentina. Or if it’s white wine, an oaky Chardonnay or zippy Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand may be the preferred choice of fermented grapes.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving these wines. In fact, these styles (and others) are often the gateway for many novice wine drinkers, leading them to explore different regions and ways the grapes can be expressed.
According to Nielsen’s 2020 report, “Covid Impact on the Alcohol Industry,” red wine was the most popular style consumed (46.7 percent), with white wine coming in at 45.5 percent and pink wines at 5 percent.
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However, pop culture has also greatly influenced the way in which wine trends come and go. From films like “Sideways” that made Merlot seem like the most basic of red wines, to songs by hip-hop artists like Drake, Lil’ Kim, and Waka Flocka suggesting Moscato is the ideal wine to drink in the club, certain wines become popular (read: overrated) because of their perceived approachability and, let’s face it, affordability.
Whether it be at a wine bar or on the floor of a wine shop, we asked 10 sommeliers to share grape varieties that they hear frequently requested from guests and customers.
The Most Overrated Wine Styles, According to Sommeliers:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Provence-style rosé
- California Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sauvignon Blanc
- California Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Grigio
- Red Blend
“I’m in Miami, and I get requests for Cabernet Sauvignon all the time and maybe it stands out to me because it’s usually a hot day when it happens. And I think to myself, ‘as hot as it is, this person wants a big, juicy, highly extracted, over-tannic, elevated-in-alcohol Cab?’ It is at that moment I encourage the guest to ‘pack their bags’ — we are headed to Italy to explore Valpolicella instead.” —Ray Sholes, Head Sommelier, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, Miami
“When it comes to rosé, the pale pink Provence style is still very much en vogue and highly requested. These rosé wines are made from the typical blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and sometimes a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Ultimately, the guests and clients who follow the ‘rosé all day’ mantra desire fresh acidity on the palate, with various nuances of tart berry notes and a kiss of salinity.” —Charles Springfield, Certified Sommelier, author, wine educator and founder, The Life Stylings of Charles Springfield, New York
“Moscato is popular because it’s a safe choice for many new wine drinkers and honestly, it’s perfect for people that aren’t accustomed to drinking wine. The grape variety we sell is an Italian Moscato made in Piedmont, Italy, by Chateau Elan Winery & Resort. It’s a well-balanced, effervescent, sweet wine with notes of stone fruit like peaches and apricot. Low in alcohol, it’s a dessert wine that I would pair with peach cobbler and recommend to customers who can’t quite handle their wine!” —Aviana Phifer, Sommelier, Atlanta
“I think that California Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the most overrated grape variety out there. It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just leaning heavily towards uniformity. A lot of the wine drinkers I come across start their journeys with Cabernet, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think some consumers could do well to branch out a bit.” —Rick Arline, Wine Director, Los Angeles
“To me, the title for overrated white wine is Sauvignon Blanc. Because there are tons of countries that produce Sauvignon Blanc of great quality, it can be overwhelming for guests to decide. When that happens, I suggest Verdejo or Picpoul. Verdejo is a lean white from Rueda, Spain and tends to have citrus and mineral tones for Sancerre drinkers on a budget. Picpoul can be found in the Rhône or Languedoc regions of France and has a zippy citrus tone with light green herbs. Ipsum Verdejo, specifically, is light and crisp with a budget-friendly price tag. It is steel-aged for freshness, with tons of lemon, chalk, and soft green herb tones.” —Janeen Jason, Buyer, Vinoteca Wine, Decatur, Ga.
“When I’m in most of my accounts, the two most popular grape varieties people ask me about are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. I believe these two varieties are highly sought-after because it’s what a majority of consumers have either ‘heard of’ before or are most familiar with seeing so it’s ‘safe.’ Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Central Coast is frequently purchased by most customers I interact with and could definitely be considered overrated. Velvety tannins with notes of chocolate, black cherry, toast, and a rich mouthfeel make this very approachable and easy to drink. It’s not complex, it’s not trying to be anything other than a simple good bottle of wine for someone to drink. I do want people to push the envelope and buy something safe and scary at the same time if your budget allows because you never know what may surprise you in a good way!” —Vincent Moten, Sales Representative, Annandale, Va.
“I do get a lot of Chardonnay requests from guests — primarily because it’s accessible and easily recognized for most wine drinkers. However, I love turning Chardonnay drinkers onto Rhône whites, especially Marsanne-Roussanne blends. They tend to have similar structures and aromas without all the diacetyl.” —Chelsea Young, sales representative and fine wine specialist, Atlanta
“Across my years rocking the floor, perception and marketing has painted a scenario that has placed popular varieties like Pinot Grigio and Malbec in a very dull spot. Despite Pinot Grigio’s freshness, quite peachy and zesty tones loved by many, [it] falls short frequently and [is] too neutral. Its marketed popularity, sadly overshadowed stellar white varieties in Northern Italy. For me, that experience can be graciously elevated by the aromatic depth and exotic complexity of an Alvarinho from Portugal or the Austrian Gruner Veltliner’s flinty minerality and stellar citrus fruit.” —Bruno Almeida, Sommelier and Wine Educator, New York
“Cabernet Sauvignon or red blend. I think they’re highly sought-after because in California, Cab is king. Red wine is seen as luxurious, and often visually pairs with a fine-dining experience.” —Nadia Pugh, Assistant Editor, The Wine Zine and Founder, Nad Wines, Oakland, Calif.
“Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape variety that I think is overrated because it can be found anywhere, but also, people aren’t aware of how to ask about different varieties or regions. The language surrounding wine is exclusive and not widely accessible. However, I try to have candid conversations with clients and guests about what type of experience they are looking for. If people really want to explore new grape varieties, provide alternatives. Otherwise, I give people what they ask for and what they know they will enjoy.” —Erica Christian, Founder and Executive Director, Empowering the Diner, Washington D.C.