Sommeliers often put their personal wine preferences aside when making recommendations to guests to ensure they’re getting exactly what they are looking for. Despite this zero-judgment approach during service, sommeliers still keep their fingers on the pulse of an industry that’s always in flux, including the buzzy bottles and classic standbys that seem to be getting too much praise.
With that in mind, we polled experts from Boston to Tijuana to discover the wine trends and styles the pros are just plain tired of. From fashionable natty wines that may have run their course to overhyped grapes and practices, the somms did not hold back, and some of their takes are unquestionably spicy.
The Most Overrated Wines, According to Sommeliers:
- Pale pink rosé
- Big Champagne brands
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Big, bold, over-oaked wine
- Natural wines
- Napa Valley Cabs
- Pinot Grigio
- Wines priced unethically by producers
- Orange wine
“I’m growing tired of seeing pale pink rosé reign supreme. Let’s get some color in the glass and some punch on the palate! A deeper rosé has more versatility and develops better in the glass.” —Bethany Caliaro, partner and beverage director, Gift Horse and Oberlin, Providence, R.I.
“Sancerre, but I blame the grape itself. I feel like it became popular as an ‘at least it’s not California Chardonnay’ option at weddings. Sauvignon Blanc gives you a big — but not that enjoyable — bouquet and only tastes like out-of-season citrus. While it pairs well with food, I’m extremely bored when it’s [served as] a pairing on a tasting menu.” —Drew Delaughter, co-owner, Saint-Germain, New Orleans
“Sancerre is far and away the most overrated wine order that I hear every single night. While there definitely is some good juice coming from the appellation, the majority of farming and wine in general in Sancerre is very poor, and whichever lobbyist or marketing executive is responsible for making it such a ubiquitous order is laughing all the way to the bank. If you want Sauvignon Blanc, you proverbially don’t need to travel that far — stay in the Loire, but just go to Touraine or Pouilly-Fumé instead!” —Cody Pruitt, managing partner & beverage director, Libertine, NYC
“Probably big Champagne houses. If you’re gonna drink bubbles, look for smaller independent Champagne winemakers, or winemakers in Spain within the Corpinnat territory, like Recaredo, that are redefining what Cava is.” —Thibault Dubreuil, sommelier, Eli’s Table, NYC
“When it comes to red wines, one of the most overrated and oversubscribed grapes is Cabernet Sauvignon. Don’t get us wrong, Cabernet Sauvignon is like a beautiful muscle car packing a lot of vroom, so there is no way to go wrong with it! But there are plenty of other zippy, racecar-type red wines that will outmaneuver the muscle of Cabernet Sauvignon at the tight corners. [One is] Grenache, which has a perfume of black cherry compote with sprinkles of anise. Then, there is Gamay, which can smell like hand-crushed summer strawberries with undertones of dried autumn foliage depending on the winemaking method. If you really want to go off the beaten path, you can go closer to Switzerland in the French region of Jura where you will find Trousseau, which has a bouquet similar to violets with hints of smoke.” —Forough Vakili, chef, sommelier and founder, Le Bon Nosh, Atlanta
“Prosecco. It is not that bubbly, not that aromatic, and not that interesting. There are many other reasonably priced sparkling wines that are much better out in the market.” —Benjamin Oram, sommelier, Rochambeau, Boston
“I believe that one of the most overrated styles of wine continues to be the big, bold, over-oaked high-alcohol wines with overripe fruit and intense extraction. They all taste the same and there is nothing interesting about them. I cannot comprehend how people can enjoy these wines at the beach or during hot summer days. I do think that people are still buying this style [from] well-positioned brands. Also, most people are overwhelmed with the many options for wine in the world and they lack guidance. The language of wine can be very exclusive, so people buy based on what they know or recognize.” —Romina Mendoza, sommelier and co-founder, Cavalier Wine Society, Tijuana, Baja California, México
“Natural wine does not equal quality wine! The market has been completely flooded with natural wines that sport cute labels and names but are in fact high-production and commercially made. A natural wine does not need to taste natty to be high-quality — natural wines should express their terroir just as eloquently as non-natural wines.” —Kylie Monagan, sommelier and partner, Amali, Calissa and Juniper at The Vanderbilt, NYC/Water Mill and Westbury, N.Y.
“I feel like I could get yelled at by other somms for this one, [but] I’m happy natural wines have returned to equilibrium — or at least in my world, they have. I think wines should have character, a sense of purpose and place. You can make your wines natural [like] Dutraive, Lapierre, DRC, or Château Le Puy, but those producers have a sense of style and place and understand good winemaking. To make a wine natty just to make it natty was a fun movement, but I’m glad it’s slowed in recent times.” —Matthew Brodbine, beverage director, Pasjoli, Santa Monica, Calif.
“I believe this will become an incredibly pertinent question moving forward, but more in how it relates to our legacy regions adapting to climate change. That being said, I’d similarly reference more of the value that can be found from lesser-known places. Napa Cab is a flag-bearer for a reason, but have you had the Cabernets of Happy Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County or of Paarl in South Africa? If you like that style of wine should we not be talking about the incredible quality of Priorat? The job of the sommelier is to find wine the guest will appreciate the most based on their perspectives and not our own.” —Dan Valerino, managing partner and certified sommelier, Green Acre, and owner, Finca, San Diego
“I’m sure I’ll get some hate for this, but the award has to go to Napa Cabernet. And I’m not saying that all Napa Cab sucks. But the reputation of awe and superiority it has developed and the cost now associated with it has gotten completely out of whack, in my opinion, [and] consumers seem willing to pay those sky-high prices because at least it’s a style they are familiar with. If people want high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon at a fraction of the price, I always recommend Chile for riper, jammier, more New World styles, or for more Old World styles, [look to] Friuli or baby Bordeaux regions like Graves, Médoc, or Côtes de Bourg.” —Kelsey Glasser, owner and sommelier, Arden, Portland, Ore.
“I think some big-brand Champagnes carry too high a price tag for their quality and rely on name recognition. More often than not you can find more delicious, well-made, grower Champagnes for less money and much better overall value!” —Juliette Dottle, sommelier and beverage director, Nōksu, NYC
“This is a tough question because wine consumers have a tendency to generalize varieties and regions, but not all Sauvignon Blancs or Champagnes are created equal. But also in giving those examples, I’ve shown my hand — speaking in broad strokes, I find Sauvignon Blanc often unbalanced and Champagne too focused in the overpriced luxury category. But there are so, so many delicious and thoughtfully made Sauvignon Blancs out there, as well as striking and affordable Champagnes from boutique producers.” —Emmeline Zhao, managing partner and sommelier, Silver Apricot and Figure Eight, NYC
“The most overrated wine would have to be Napa Valley Cabernet. Due to the economics of winemaking in Napa, you’ll find some of the most expensive wines in the world to produce, crafted by some of the highest-paid celebrity winemakers. This can add up to an incredibly pricey bottle. While there are some fantastic wines that come out of Napa, there are also many bottles with ridiculously inflated price tags; brands run by marketing companies creating allure with fake scarcity and shiny reputations.” —Scott Taylor, beverage director, Harris’ Restaurant, San Francisco
“Pinot Grigio. I’ve never understood why it’s been so popular in the U.S. In Italy, we have a huge white grape variety where Pinot Grigio is one of the less meaningful.” —Nicola Paganelli, owner, Epistrophy and Le Fanfare, NYC
“As far as overrated wines go, there will always be great examples of almost any varietal or style. But to me, Italian Pinot Grigio is quite overrated. It’s a wine typically meant to be quite neutral with tamed acidity, muted fruit character, easy, and quaffable — not a style that excites me. What first draws most people to wine is fruit and fruit character, and in a world of many complex and aromatic white wines, go instead for a Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine, a Riesling from Rheingau, or Vermentino from Tuscany. These are still approachable wines in both flavor and price point, but are much more invigorating, thought-provoking, and a blast to pair with food.” —Eric Gallen, sommelier and beverage director, Bardea Steak, Wilmington, Del.
“I have a hard time calling any wine overrated because so much hard work and passion goes into every bottle. With that said, any producer that takes advantage of the consumer by overpricing their wine is overrated to me. I see so many producers who are charging double or triple the price that we saw five to six years ago and the wine has remained the same. It has made certain regions and styles inaccessible to everyday people. These trends are seen everywhere but are especially felt in Burgundy, Napa Valley, and Champagne prestige cuvées. Scarcity and demand drive the business of wine, but I hope prices come back to Earth so true wine lovers, and not just the ultra-wealthy, can enjoy wines from these regions.” —Ben Chesna, beverage director, The Banks Fish House, Boston
“The most overrated wines continue to be Napa cult-style Cabernets. The prices have skyrocketed beyond the best Bordeaux for wines that frankly don’t age well and don’t appreciate in value. When I examine cellars that people are trying to unload, a bulk is usually made up of these wines. They are too bombastic and have strayed too far from their roots to a point where people don’t enjoy drinking them. I personally don’t usually drink Napa wines made after 1994 as the climatic and stylistic changes robbed them of their true potential.” —Zach Kameron, beverage director, Peak, NYC
“Early in my career, I specialized in Japanese sake. Like wine, sake is a beverage category with a wide range of styles and expressions. I found many of our guests clung to Nigori, the cloudy style, like young swimmers to the edge of the pool. It is safe, easily recognizable, and comparatively uncomplicated. I sense some of the same forces at work behind the explosion in popularity of skin-contact and orange wines. When requesting an orange wine, considerations of variety and place largely fall away. Does the casual orange wine drinker really care if it’s Ribolla Gialla from Friuli or Trousseau Gris from Sonoma in their glass? There are standouts and exceptions, but the recent glut of orange wine flooding the market largely tastes very similar, in my opinion. This isn’t to completely knock the style, but to just kindly suggest that, as a category, it might be enjoying outsized success relative to its merits.” —Ryan Kraemer, lead sommelier, Majordomo, Los Angeles
*Image retrieved from No Revisions via Unsplash.com