Narrowing down a list of 19 wines you should absolutely have in your stockpile for the remainder of 2020 is no small task. We don’t take the tall order lightly and have spent the better part of the year tasting through a compelling mix of great discoveries and trusty mainstream producers.
For the record, we’re not trying to keep you from making wine at home. It’s a pandemic after all. And what with the holidays approaching, you should probably try your hand at mulled wine or know your bottle sizes when you’re thinking about the gift for your most enthusiastic wino friend. For the purposes of this story, we’re focusing on well-made, uplifting wines that simply won’t disappoint. Something you might dub vital in this wildcard of a 2020 year.
Whatever November and December have in store for us, we know it’ll pair best with some good wine. Here’s a panoramic view of some of the best, spanning the spectrum from white and pink to orange and red—plus a few outliers, just for good measure.
Best Champagne: Krug Grand Cuvée 168ème Édition
It’s not cheap but most good, authentic Champagne isn’t. This option still manages to over-deliver, offering great complexity and tidy biscuit and dried fruit notes.
Read more: The Best Champagne Under $100
Best Pinot Gris: Acrobat 2019 Pinot Gris
A reliable workhorse Pinot Gris from Oregon that’s extremely food-friendly, the Acrobat tends to overachieve at its modest price point.
Best Chardonnay: Gary Farrell 2017 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay
This Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley is all kinds of elegant, showing bright peach, wild honey, and firm acidity.
Best Riesling: Empire Estate 2017 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling
It’s tough not to trust a wine made by a sommelier, like this dry, bracing, and lasting offering from the Finger Lakes appellation of New York.
Best Albariño: Palacio de Fefinanes 2018 Albariño
A Spanish white, Albariño is deserving of your attention, especially this take from its home. Bright and playful and full of energy, it’s a downright enlivening wine.
Read more: The Best Albariño Wines Available
Best Sauvignon Blanc: Maori Moana 2019 Sauvignon Blanc
Sure, there are great French and American Sauv Blancs. But New Zealand may be the new master of the varietal, especially where bargain wines like this one are concerned.
Read more: Best Sauvignon Blancs to Try Now
Best Rosé: Tenuti di Fessina 2018 Erse Rosato
Made from grapes grown in the foothills of Mt. Etna, this volcano wine has much more depth than your typical pink wine, with a kiss of sea salt and pomegranate.
Read more: The Best Rosé Wines to Try Now
Best Orange Wine: Pheasant’s Tears Kakheti
You can’t go wrong with anything coming out of this esteemed producer in the republic of Georgia. Expect texture, tannin, and wonderful slightly oxidized flavors.
Read more: The Best Orange Wines to Try Now
Best Traditional Pinot Noir: McCollum Heritage ’91 2018 Pinot Noir
Most celebrity-backed brands lack heart but this effort from pro hoops star CJ McCollum is both a bona fide side project and a damn good Pinot. Look for an increase in production of this small-batch wine in the vintages to come.
Read more: The Best Pinot Noir Wines to Try Now
Best Alternative Pinot Noir: Root & Rubble 2018 Pinot Noir
This wine is made via carbonic maceration and is expectedly fresh and resonant in the glass, showing plenty of fruit and lots of glimmering brightness.
Best Syrah: Delmas SJR Vineyard 2018 Syrah
Best GSM Blend: Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles 2017 Rogue
This wine behaves like something three to four times its price, with deceptive complexity, inviting approachability, and a clean balance of fruit flavors.
Read more: The Best GSM Blends to Try Now
Best Merlot: Nickel & Nickel Merlot 2016 Harris Vineyard Merlot
Merlot is back and it’s better than ever. This single-vineyard designated wine shows that a bigger red can also have loads of finesse and detail.
Read more: The Best Merlot Wines to Try Now
Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Escudo Rojo 2018 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
This Chilean wine backed by the famous Rothschild winemaking family is a little more soft spoken than your traditional Cab, showing some herbaceous, green pepper qualities in addition to earth and a nice backing of acid.
Best Chianti: Castello de Brolio 2015 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
There’s no shortage of great Chianti but this expression is in a league of its own. Decant it and enjoy the magical places it takes you, preferably with a side of Bolognese.
Read more: The Best Chianti Wines to Try Now
Best Obscure Red: Ashbourne 2018 Pinotage
This South African find is tasty and full of earth, with a detectable wildness that evokes a hike through a wet forest.
Best Red Blend: Macari Vineyards 2015 Bergen Road
There are some fantastic and relatively unheralded wines coming out of the North Fork region of New York, like this seamless red made of several Bordeaux varietals.
Best Sparkling Rosé: Alma Negra Brut Nature
This Argentinian sparkler is made of Pinot Noir and Malbec grown at high elevation, yielding a wine that’s zippy and extremely enjoyable.
Best Sherry: Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Sherry
A decadent offering perfect for the coming winter, this sherry is a smooth and layered creature, with raisin, malt, and roasted nut notes.
Read more: The Best Sherry Wines to Try Now
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