“What’s your favorite wine?” is often heard across circles of wine lovers, and even asked in interviews in the wine industry.
My go-to answer has always been, “whatever’s open.” It’s not meant to be a cop-out. I love wine, and there aren’t many bottles that I snub my nose at. Most of all, I enjoy trying new wines.
In fact, I’ve tried a significant enough number of wines such that I’ve finally gotten to a point where I have a few favorites that I reach for again and again when I buy, like the wines featured in My Red House Wines article.
Below is a list of my favorite wines within four different categories: white, red, bubbly, and dessert. Most Old World oenophiles don’t really think about favorites in terms of grape varietals. My appreciation for wine grew up in the New World, so I do when it comes to whites and reds. (I have a few recommended brands mentioned below but, as with all of my posts on The Marketing Lush, I’m not paid for endorsing them.)
Because I delight in so many wines, in addition to listing my favorite I included the runner up. I also identified ones I need to spend more time with, because, frankly, they haven’t dazzled me at first sip.
White Favorite: Riesling
Riesling has been with me in my wine journey since the beginning. Sure, I was drinking a much sweeter version back then, but I like it because it is a singular wine that is great all over the sweetness spectrum. On the dry-side I often enjoy its crisp, tart flavors of apple, and the sweeter-side is great for pairing with spicy Indian food (another favorite for me). Though I don’t have a go-to brand for Riesling, I probably buy more Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling (Washington state) than anything else – but only because they employ a great distribution network, which makes them available in a plethora of restaurants by the glass. I’ll often look to buy Riesling in the store from Germany or Washington state. Australian versions stand out, too, like this semi-sweet (and inexpensive) Rosemount Traminer Riesling blend.
White Runner Up: Sauvignon Blanc
Another crisp white wine, New Zealand time and time again has the “market of me” cornered when it comes to this varietal. I can’t wait to do a “Sauvignon Blanc only” tasting with my favorite wine lover, my mom, very soon – exclusively documented on The Marketing Lush for you!
White to Revisit: Pinot Grigio / Gris
When I think of this white varietal, I simply think, “Why would I drink that, when I can drink [any other white varietal].” It has been a while since tasting it, and in my memory it just doesn’t offer anything to my pallet. As Wine Folly explains, there are three different styles (not to mention the rosé version), so there’s more to it than my memory supplies. It is one that I need to spend time with, now that my tasting skills are more refined and my wallet is not scared of paying for quality.
Red Favorite: Cabernet Sauvignon
My taste in wine started evolving about five years ago, which brought me into the wonderful world of reds. I think Cabernet Sauvignon got the early ‘go ahead’ because I enjoy medium-rare steak, and a great Cab can do wonders to enhance that dining experience. I delight in fruit-forward styles most. One of my favorite brands is St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon (California), and I recently discovered the Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon (California) which is dangerously yummy (read as: bottle was empty in less than an hour). I’m also a huge fan of blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon is a main ingredient in the mix.
Red Runner Up: Malbec
Earlier this year, a wine industry buff and instructor conducting my WSET 2 class described this wine as “the darling of the wine world”, meaning it has recently become very popular. In my opinion, it deserves the press it’s getting. It has a similar sassy, robust quality of Cabernet Sauvignon, with a few less tannins and a slightly spicy characteristic. My current favorite is Alamos Malbec (Argentina).
Red to Revisit: Pinot Noir
Generally speaking, I find Pinot Noir to taste dusty, and I’m told this is an effect of the terroir. It lacks the bite and body that I’ve become accustomed to in Cabs. But this varietal is so popular that I cannot, in good conscience, write it off. In fact, I’ve already found a few favorites thanks to my friends and a great wine bar in Atlanta called Vino Venue. These picks tend to be fruitier than their standard counterparts, and surprisingly all seem to come from the same family (Wagner). These include Meiomi Pinot Noir (California) and Belle Glos Pinot Noir (California). I have yet to explore Pinot Noir outside the U.S., so I have my work cut out for me.
Bubbly Favorite: Prosecco (Spumante style)
I’m partial to all things bubbly. For a long time, wine with bubbles was my wine of choice whenever I’d go out for tapas or other small plates, because it pairs with everything! It is a great “I survived the week, let’s celebrate” kind of wine. Prosecco quickly became my favorite because it is on wine lists everywhere, and is an inexpensive counterpart to Champagne. It tends to be a tiny bit sweeter than Cava or Champagne, and a tad less complex. As an added bonus, it’s great for sabering, a skill I picked up a few years ago because it was on my goal list.
Bubbly Runner Up: Cava
An excellent substitute for Prosecco when you still want something bubbly (but also want to mix it up a bit). Cava adds authenticity when eating Spanish foods.
Bubbly to Revisit: Champagne
Apparently I’m not made for the finer things in life because I haven’t explored it much. Because of its reputation (and in some cases, scarcity), it is usually on the “just expensive enough that I don’t want to experiment” side of things. Because of the unique fermentation process, the yeastiness in the flavor is interesting and complex… but I’m not sure my palate has caught up yet. I would like to do a side-by-side tasting of Prosecco, Cava, and Champagne one of these days to better appreciate the nuances.
Dessert Favorite: Port-style
Fortified wines sure are the best, aren’t they? You take, for example, a sweet red wine, and then make it ferocious and sassy by adding distilled wine spirit. Bam, delicious port-style wine. Okay, it’s more intricate than that, and there are a lot of different types – vintage, tawny, and more. The ones I like best are complex and not too sweet.
Dessert Runner Up: Cream Sherry-style
Don’t judge me. And no, it’s not just for cooking. Sherry is a pretty unique fortified wine – one that I need to explore more. But for now, I’m satisfied with knowing you can buy a high-quality cream sherry to sip on after-dinner, and open bottles usually keep for a week or two.
Dessert to Revisit: Sauternes and Ice Wine
I’ve only tried each one once, but it was enough to steer me away from both for a while. I find the unique process for making each wine incredibly interesting: with Sauternes the fruit basically molds on the vine, which intensifies the sugars; with Ice Wine the fruit freezes on the vine, and the ice crystals intensify the sugars. Both produce a higher viscosity wine with intense sweetness, which was too much for me at the time. I intend to revisit both someday. If all else fails, I can warm them slightly and pour them over vanilla ice cream for an adult dessert.
About the Author
Megan Vogel is a marketing professional currently living in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri after spending two months touring Europe. She’s also a zany wine enthusiast, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and the founder of The Marketing Lush. For more information, visit www.meganvogel.com.