Every service professional has that one item they wish guests would be more open to trying. For some, it’s an obscure cut of beef or a special type of stinky cheese. Among sommeliers, whose job is to tempt their guests away from the familiar grapes and regions, many have a pet region or grape that they spend years convincing guests to try.
This year, make it your goal to be one of the treasured, willing drinkers always excited to go beyond the everyday and try something new. As a starting point, consider this list of wines that sommeliers wish you’d order more.
The Wines You Should Be Ordering More of, According to Sommeliers
- Wines from Washington State
- German Reds
- Large-format wines
- Sparkling wine
- White wine from Mount Etna
- New York State wines
- Spanish whites
- Umbrian wines
- Pinot Blanc
- Sustainable wine
“I’d love to see people get excited about Champagne. It’s such a phenomenal food-pairing wine, but it’s been largely relegated to being used ONLY for celebrations. Let’s be honest, drinking Champagne IS the celebration — so let’s do it all the time!” —Thomas Mizuno-Moore, senior beverage manager, Aba, Antico Posto, Beatrix, Ēma, L. Woods, Chicago
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“I’d love to see people ordering more wines from the smaller AVAs in Washington State. They are producing an incredibly diverse array of grape varieties and styles of wine, and I look forward to seeing what some of my favorite Washington producers release in 2023!” —Francis Kulaga, certified sommelier and beverage director and general manager, Birch & Rye, San Francisco
“Personally, I would love to see people ordering more high-quality Merlot. Due to a damaged reputation, we have seen a lot of winemakers abandon their Merlot vines and replant them with other varietals. For some reason, people assume Merlot isn’t a quality varietal. However some of the world’s most famous and collectable wines, like Masseto and Château Petrus, are 100 percent Merlot. The only way that we will start to see more quality Merlot being produced is if the public is willing to support the development and sale of this incredibly dynamic varietal.” —Scott Taylor, beverage director, Harris’ Restaurant, San Francisco
“I would love to see more people asking for German reds. People often think of whites first with Germany. We carry some beautiful options from Vom Boden and Skurnik. Also, large-format wine! Perfect drink in the backyard with friends.” —Katie Singer, beverage manager, Bacchanal, New Orleans
“I would love to see more people ordering Amarone this year. At Sassetta, we offer Remo Farina Amarone della Valpolicella, which is robust and full-bodied with a velvety finish. It has notes of cassis, cherry, and chocolate, which pair well with duck or red meat, like our beef short ribs or duck bolognese.” —Haydee Hernandez, general manager, Sassetta at The Joule, Dallas
“Barbera! When my love of Italian wine started many years ago, I did not feel as though we were seeing the best examples of Barbera in our market, but I have tasted a few recently that makes me think that we are moving in a different direction. Barbera can be so pretty — it’s light-ish with low tannin and higher acidity. Flavor-wise, it may seem sort of uncomplicated sometimes, with a freshness and tons of berry-cherry flavors combined with an appealing herbaceousness. I especially love it for pairing with food! It is extremely versatile and is a dream for pairing with lighter proteins, and has the ability to maneuver a lot of different flavors. Mushroom dishes, tomato dishes, pizza, cheesy dishes, the list goes on. The bright fruit can help cut through rich brooding flavors and even make a dish seem more interesting. A shining star.” —Liz Martinez, sommelier and general manager, The Apparatus Room, Detroit Foundation Hotel, Detroit
“More sparkling wine — and not just Champagne or Prosecco. So much experimentation is happening in this space right now, producing great bottles of bubbly. From pét-nats to Lambruscos, many winemakers are adding sparkling wine to their portfolio using indigenous grapes and traditional fermentation methods. Right now, we’re loving Lambrusco made in the Champagne method from Cantina della Volta (Emilia Romagna) and Vayja’s sparkling Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir blend using grapes from the Barolo DOCG. There is so much wonderful sparkling wine out there that you can’t possibly save it for a special occasion to drink it!” —Lauren Schaefer, general manager, Giusto, Newport, R.I.
“The red wines of Mount Etna have quickly gained the appreciation of wine lovers from around the world, but people are missing out on a true treasure with the white wines also grown on the active volcanoes slopes. Carricante forms the backbone of the Etna Bianco wines (and is the sole variety of the Etna Bianco Superiore wines) and produces wines of incredible minerality, acidity, and focus. Think young Chablis meets young, bone-dry Vouvray. Delicious young, these wines also have tremendous aging potential.” —Jason Alexander, director of wine, Che Fico & Che Fico Alimentari, San Francisco
“I would love to see more people ordering New York State wines and sparkling ones which have really been impressive lately. The regions here on Long Island, Hudson Valley, and Finger Lakes have found their voice and have some great options.” —Lynnette Marrero, co-founder of Speed Rack, and award-winning bartender, New York
“Beaujolais, baby! It’s a lot more mature, complex, and delicious than anyone gives it credit for. Plus, the wines show a lot of variation from village to village, terroir to terroir; making them a lot of fun for wine nerds. If you’re not trying to nerd out, they are still great, versatile wines that pair with a lot of food or are just downright tasty on their own. Grab a bottle of Yann Bertrand or Chamonard and find out!” —Frank Kinyon, beverage and service director, a.kitchen+bar, Philadelphia
“Txakolina. I am always hoping that the next big thing in the wine world isn’t going to be something that is garnering widespread wine media attention, or going on the cover of a home decor and entertaining magazine, but something that can be a daily part of people’s lives. Txakolina is a light, refreshing, often fizzy wine from the Spanish side of Basque country and really should be thought more of in the paradigm of how we use light beer more than in terms of a 100-point scale wine. These wines are great on their own, with tailgate-style snacks, raw seafood, fried chicken, pizza — the list goes on. If it is informal and fun to eat, this is generally the type of wine direction you want to go. It is generally low in alcohol, which is super useful because of its refreshing character and drinkability.” —John Kelley, chief sommelier, Atlas Restaurant Group, Baltimore
“I would love to see more people ordering more Spanish whites! They are so food-friendly and the breadth of styles, from Palomino Finos like Tio Pepe to the Godellos from Raul Perez and Viura from R. Lopez de Heredia, make Spain a really exciting country to explore!” —Gabriel Corbett, sommelier, JÔNT, Washington, D.C.
“I may be partial, but I would love to see more Umbrian wines on the wine lists. We all know about Tuscany and their Chianti Classico, Super Tuscans, and Brunello — which are amazing — but no one talks about the small gem that neighbors Tuscany: Umbria.” —Camilla Battoni, certified sommelier & general manager, Centrolina and Piccolina, Washington, D.C.
“I really feel like people are sleeping on the versatility of Pinot Blanc. Lovely food-friendly acid, a bit of weight so it’s not overly light, and ultra versatile. My favorite region for Pinot Blanc right now may be Alto Adige. It really shines with the foods from that region, and my goodness is it floral.” —Ian Lokey, sommelier and beverage director, Sushi Note, Los Angeles
“I would love to hear more people asking for wines with a sustainable focus. At Estuary, we feature an array of sustainable wines from all parts of the world that are also perfect examples of regions and varieties. Wines with sustainability include viticulture practices, enology, and human factors. Many wineries around the world have been putting a lot of effort into transforming their practices, and I hope that people reward these efforts.” —Nial Harris Garcia, beverage director, The Conrad, Washington, D.C.