Wine Enthusiast Wine Enthusiast Magazine Tue, 24 Jan 2023 21:55:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Wine Enthusiast 32 32 The 10 Best Wine Bars in New York City Tue, 24 Jan 2023 21:09:39 +0000 A large couch with pillows, individual tables with round ottomans and tall bar stools, under hanging lights with eclectic pieces of art in front of the fully stocked bar of the Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, NYC
Image Courtesy of Francesco Tonelli

New York City is one of the best places in the world to drink wine.

There are retail shops with unparalleled variety and an ever-expanding array of nationally acclaimed wine-centric spaces that blur the lines between wine bar and destination restaurant: Four Horsemen, Claud, Wildair, Place des Fêtes, Vinatería, Clay, Pinch Chinese, June, Chambers and Contento, among many others. Pioneering places like Terroir and Ten Bells are still going strong, and new spots open seemingly every month.

At the same time, the wine-bar-as-restaurant trend means it’s not easy to find a neighborhood spot where you can casually drop in without a reservation and share an eye-opening glass with a friend.  

As Grant Reynolds, co-owner of Parcelle Wine Bar in New York, says, “I dream of sitting at a corner booth in Balthazar, casually sipping a glass of wine and people watching before going to dinner elsewhere, but you just don’t do that.”

However, at these ten places, you can—and while they offer food, wine always takes center stage.

The 10 Best Wine Bars in New York City

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar

Named for the wine director of neighboring restaurant Le Bernardin (and author of Wine Simple) Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is a collaboration between Sohm and chef Eric Ripert. The location offers all the elegance and authority of Le Bernardin without the formality and price tag. The glass list highlights around 40 wines that encourage experimentation. There’s also an unpretentious menu of snacks and shared dishes, such as Angus beef-stuffed red peppers or “The Tower,” which includes ten different charcuterie selections.

“It’s what I think of as a true wine bar—comfortable, thoughtful and challenging all at once,” says Jeremy Noye, president and CEO of Morrell & Company, a wine retailer and auction house. “There’s an ever-changing selection by the glass and bottle that is focused and exciting across regions, styles and price points.”

A large couch with pillows and individual tables with round ottomans in front of the fully stocked bar of the Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, NYC
Inside Bar Jamón / Image Courtesy of Francesco Tonelli

Bar Jamón

Bar Jamón is a convivial tapas bar—the menu is scrawled on a chalkboard—that happens to boast a 600-bottle Spanish wine list (courtesy of its connected sister restaurant, Casa Mono in New York). Look for dishes like bacalao croquetas, which are made with salted cod, or grilled sardines.  

“As much as I love new places that have sprouted up like Sauced, my favorite wine bar in NYC remains Bar Jamón,” says Talitha Whidbee, owner of Vine Wine in Williamsburg, New York. “There’s something magical about the space that makes you feel both in the middle of the city and hidden away. It’s a joy to be able to drink wines from Spain that are familiar as well as brand new to me. Their list of reserve wines by the glass is unparalleled, and don’t get me started on the Sherry situation.”

Be sure to ask about Coravin pours, which are available as half- or full-glasses.


Despite how quickly the wine scene changes, and how many upstarts arise each year, Corkbuzz, which opened in 2011, is still one of the city’s best. Owner, Laura Maniec, has long been an advocate of drinking Champagne (and other sparklers) at any time with any dish. She offers every Champagne at retail price. There are around 50 glass pours, several flight options and Maniec’s focus on education means a very knowledgeable staff.

“I’ve been hooked on Corkbuzz since day one, as a guest, a Champagne provider and Champagne party planner,” says Rita Jammet, writer and chief bubble officer for La Caravelle Wines. “Talented and charismatic sommelier, wunderkind [and] entrepreneur Laura [Maniec] has created one of New York’s most vibrant, smart and most enjoyable wine bars, and oui, this includes delicious and perfectly wine-friendly food.”

Image Courtesy of Della’s


Liz Nicholson, owner of Frankly Wines wine shop (and formerly of NYC restaurants Maialino and Marea), says she modeled this Tribeca spot after her grandmother’s house, and while it looks nothing like an Italian nonna’s living room, it certainly has all the charm and love.

All the wines (except some sparkling) are available by the glass as well as the bottle.

“The list at Della’s is small but super fun and with plenty to get excited about,” says James O’Brien, co-owner of Gus’s Chop House in Brooklyn. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to look outside of my usual wine picks like Champagne, Burgundy and Piemonte, but Liz’s excitement about regions like South Africa and lesser-known parts of Italy always make for an educational and eye-opening experience.”

Gem Wine
Image Courtesy of Aaron Bengochea

Gem Wine

Fret not if you can’t get a table for the restaurant Gem’s 10-course tasting menu. Instead, head to Gem Wine’s walk-ins-only location next door and order some serious small plates like raw scallops with turmeric, sour apples and endive.

“No-reservation spots are increasingly rare in today’s dining culture,” says Julia Schwartz, sommelier at East Village restaurant Claud. “Selecting wine is equally unfussy at Gem’s wine bar since all you have to do is walk up to the shelves and poke around for yourself.”

The wines on offer change often, and, refreshingly, tend to deviate from the producers that seem to show up on every natural-wine list in the city.

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels (LCVS)

LCVS has one of the most impressive wine lists of any restaurant in the country. It also offers tempting fare like pasta alla vodka with spicy ‘nduja (spreadable pork sausage) and stracciatella (a soft cheese), and their locally-renowned French onion grilled cheese stands up against the best. But LCVS has a cozy, chummy vibe that screams “wine bar” more than fine dining.

“Compagnie has long been a soft spot [and] a place where I’ve taken many friends and met countless strangers-turned-friends at that dark-yet-warm bar,” says Miguel de Leon, writer and sommelier. “The wine excels in both sleeper hits and vintage spreads, particularly in Champagne and exciting natural bottles. One day you’re drinking cru Burgundy and the next you’re drinking some co-ferment from Japan. Zaltos and marble tables aside, it’s an easy place to get comfy, but it’s chic from top to bottom.”

Be sure to look out for LCVS’ monthly wine boot camp classes.

Moon flower Bar
Inside Moonflower / Image Courtesy of Erik Bernstein


“Drink Wine and Be Kind” is the motto of this snug West Village hideaway, whose maximalist decor gives the same sense of fun and experimentation as their wine list. Here, small producers from Canada to Slovakia join tasty options like a Swedish apple-pear cider pétillant naturel.

“I have been all over that neighborhood for a decade and know from experience—running the beverage program at Anfora—how tough it can be to nurture and thoughtfully walk consumers through an innovative wine program,” says Tara Hammond of importer Black Lamb Wine. “The food they turn out is outstanding and all in a compact Village space. It’s one of the most exciting things to happen to the area in a minute.”

Image Courtesy of Collin Hughes

Parcelle Wine Bar

Parcelle falls somewhere between a neighborhood wine destination, bottle shop, serious restaurant and a dreamy hotel lobby bar.

The list hovers around 500 labels, with almost every wine available at retail if you want to swing by the next day and pick one up. Not to worry if you can’t remember specific bottles; Parcelle’s staff can check your reservation and see what you ordered.

“There are a lot of things that Parcelle Wine Bar gets right, [like] food [and] drink. But I think the interior design is where they knocked it out of the park,” says André Hueston Mack, sommelier and entrepreneur. “It feels very Parisian to me, with its fairy plush leather sofas and velvet armchairs matched with perfect lighting. It’s very reminiscent of the restaurants I spend time in in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.” 


Georgian wine has reached a tipping point over the last year,” says Patrick Cournot, owner of Ruffian. “Most customers come already familiar with Georgian orange [wines], a broader range of styles and regions are being imported, and I expect this trend to continue for years to come.”

Cournot’s commitment to wines from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, without ignoring other classic and emerging regions, has earned Ruffian a devoted following since opening in 2016.

“Patrick and his team have made Ruffian feel very personal since day one,” says Juliette Pope, portfolio manager at Bowler Wine imports and distribution. “The wine program is one of the most dynamic in town, with its frequent changes, the rare focus on ‘The East’ and the colorful and—even more unusually, helpful—wine descriptions and categories.”

Image Courtesy of LIZ CLAYMAN


There’s a lot to like at Temperance, and by a lot we mean the all by-the-glass wine list with over 100 options at any given time. All of them can be incorporated into a flight of half-glasses; you can let your server pick a flight for you based on your interests. From Tuesday to Thursday, everything is half off during the closing hour—if you let the server pick for you.

“The second you walk into Temperance, it feels more like a playground than a wine bar,” says Erin Ortiz, an account manager for the distributor Wine 4 The World. “The staff is always ready to greet you with a cool new wine at any price point with a warm, authentic conversation and experience. It’s a refreshing deviation from the tired, stuffy old pre-Covid wine bars, and Temperance is setting the trend.”

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The Best Australian Wines to Drink Right Now Tue, 24 Jan 2023 17:40:49 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Vivino

Here in the U.S., there has never been a better time to drink Australian wine. Exports, particularly of premium wines, are at the highest they’ve been in 15 years, meaning there’s increased brand diversity and availability of Aussie wines. And despite a tumultuous couples of years for the industry—a perfect storm that crashed and banged to the tune of a global pandemic, the loss of its largest export market, China, due to trade disputes, and extreme weather events like wildfires and floods—Australian wine shines brighter than ever.

It’s an interesting backdrop to Australia Day, a national holiday that takes place on January 26th. Held on the same day that Great Britain’s First Fleet landed in Sydney in 1788, the nation’s national holiday sees flag-waving, fireworks displays and other patriotic revelries. It is also, however, considered a day of mourning by Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who call it Invasion Day. They point to the 26th of January as the start of European colonization and the destruction of their culture and people. Recent polls show a steep increase in the number of Aussies who believe the date should be moved.

These things and more are in our minds as we consider Australia’s exceptional wine scene. It is a country that is simultaneously staggeringly old and refreshingly new. Its soils are the oldest on earth; its indigenous culture stretches back, continuously, longer than any other. Its vines—the most elderly of which dates back to 1843—are some of the oldest still-producing grapevines on the planet.

A Brief History of Australian Wine

For a population ten times smaller than that of the United States, Australia lays claim to an outsized number of now-indispensable inventions, like the refrigerator (1856), the electronic pacemaker (1926), wi-fi (1992), Google Maps (2003) and, perhaps most life-changing of all, bag-in-box wine.

Invented by winemaker Thomas Angove in 1964, the plastic wine bladder-in-a-box (also known as a “cask” or a “goon bag” Down Under) may be inherently Aussie. There’s even a drinking game, Goon of Fortune, created for it, often played on Australia Day. The nation’s history with the fermented grape stretches back far longer.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples have been fermenting drinks Down Under for millennia. But wine cultivation dates back to that very first ship in 1788, which brought vine cuttings to Sydney Harbor. By the early to mid-1800s, regions like Hunter Valley in New South Wales; Swan Valley in Western Australia; Yarra Valley, Geelong and Rutherglen in Victoria; and McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Barossa, Eden and Clare Valleys in South Australia were established. Australia’s early wines were mostly fortified—much of it shipped back to England, but plenty drunk domestically, too—along with sweet “moselle” (Riesling) in the early 20th century.

Tastes changed in the mid-20th century to dry table wines, particularly American oak-aged reds from varieties like Cabernet and Shiraz. The pendulum swung towards cool climate wines in the ‘80s when drinkers discovered rich, textural Chardonnay and savory, eucalyptus-flecked Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River in Western Australia; bright, lemony, green-edged Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia; traditional method sparklers from Tasmania; elegant, red-fruited Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula in Victoria; and, ever the outlier, inimitable, long-lived Hunter Valley Semillon.

It swung back yet again towards the end of the ‘90s to full-figured, spicy, now-mostly-French-oak-aged Shiraz and muscular GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro) blends from Barossa and McLaren Vale and plump, minty Coonawarra Cabs.

Then came organics, biodynamics and the natural wine movement in the early 21st century. This relatively hands-off—if sometimes overtly faulty—winemaking approach had a particularly big impact on the wine industry, which many previously criticized as veering too technical, thereby producing squeaky clean but soulless, overly tricked-up wines. (The influence of Australia’s wine show system—traditionally run by its agricultural societies and a deeply engrained part of Aussie wine culture—on the nation’s styles cannot be overstated.)

The Modern Australian Wine Scene

Recent years have seen the pendulum, at last, swing towards center. Sure, a sea of cookie cutter commercial wines from large-scale producers still get pumped into the market each year. And natural wine, with all its vagaries, isn’t going anywhere. But many of Australia’s most exciting producers have found that sweet spot in the middle.

They’re armed with the experience and knowledge to know when to utilize modern wine science and technology to help them farm with less chemical inputs and make stable, fault-free wine, but they also know when to sit back and let nature take its course.

It’s why Aussie wine has never been more exciting; why there can be found wines of extraordinary character, site expression and downright deliciousness across all 65 wine regions in Australia from hundreds of different grape varieties. Whether it be for Australia Day or any other occasion, there is an Aussie wine for every palate. Dive in.

The 12 Best Australian Wines

Best Hidden Gem: Lambert 2019 Nebbiolo (Yarra Valley)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Renowned for his seductive Syrah and Chardonnay, artisanal producer Luke Lambert is turning his focus exclusively to Nebbiolo. He has succeeded in producing one of the finest expressions of this notoriously fussy variety outside its native Piedmont. Elegant, pure and complex, there’s an unforced beauty in the fresh wild strawberries and raspberries, florals, white pepper and mineral characters. Fabulously crunchy acidity and powdery, fine tannins structure a silky texture. With a sense of place, varietal character and major food friendliness, this still-young beauty could be drunk now but should cellar gracefully for at least until 2032. Editor’s Choice —Christina Pickard

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Best Wine from an Indigenous-Owned Winery: Mt Yengo 2021 Pinot Gris (Adelaide Hills)

88 Points Wine Enthusiast

With a little trapped CO2 upon pouring, there’s a reductiveness here that takes its time blowing off, but when it does, subtle citrus, pear and stone fruit aromas float to the fore. The palate is light but with a hint of textural weight and lemon-lime acidity. —C.P.

$23 Liquorland

Best Bordeaux Blend from a Biodynamic Rockstar: Cullen 2019 Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot (Margaret River)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

The wines from this iconic, biodynamic estate always sing of their place. 2019 was a cooler-than-average vintage but one that’s winning over this reviewer for the wines’ aromatics and elegance. Layered and highly characterful, the nose is floral, like West Aussie wildflowers, and a bit meaty, like the pan scrapings from a roast. The fruit comes in compote form, like freshly canned rhubarb, plum and currant. There’s an earthy, savory spine like beet juice, olive brine and cedar shavings. A cool eucalyptus edge adds to the vintage charm. Chiseled, sappy tannins are powerful but leave ample room for flavor. Exceptional quality at an attainable price, this drinks well now with decanter and protein at hand, or could cellar beautifully for a decade at least. Editor’s Choice —C.P.


Best Bang for Your Buck: Chambers Rosewood Vineyards NV Muscat (Rutherglen)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Chambers is a benchmark producer of the Rutherglen style and this late-picked Muscat offers a burnt-orange-sunset hue in the glass, with a green rim. Evoking enticing aromas of orange marmalade, honey, medjool dates and almond blossom, the palate continues along similar lines. Unctuous and intensely sweet, there’s just enough acidity keep this from syrup territory. It would benefit enormously from a creamy, salty cheese pairing. #8 Enthusiast 100 2021 —C.P.


Best Way to Taste Australian Wine History: Seppeltsfield 1921 Para Shiraz-Grenache (Barossa Valley)

100 Points Wine Enthusiast

Released every year since 1878, this is thought to be the world’s only single vintage wine with such unbroken lineage. A deep umber hue, it envelops the senses with endless layers of aroma and flavor that conjure snapshots of the past: the dried leather pungency of a tannery; the equal parts polish and dust of cracked-spine books lining glossy mahogany shelves of an old library; smoked chestnuts; dark chocolate, and date cake. Texturally it’s like drinking satin, unctuous but not cloying (it’s astoundingly fresh actually). The alcohol creeps in later but is overwhelmed by richness of flavor and a finish that lasts for full minutes. Picture it gently siphoned from its 100-year slumber in the ancient barrel halls of Seppeltsfield’s Centennial Cellar—which is exactly what happens each time an order is placed. There’s been a hefty price hike recently, but for a once-in-a-lifetime treasure such as this, it’s justified. —C.P.

$3,000 Langton's

Best Aromatic Wine: Stargazer 2019 Tupelo White (Tasmania)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Tasmania is Australia’s coolest climate winegrowing region, and this small-batch label from winemaker Samantha Connew deftly expresses the region’s capacity for elegant and refreshing wines. Tupelo is made of 57% Pinot Gris, 32% Riesling and 11% Gewürztraminer. The blend is a lithe expression of each variety. Delicate notes of rose water, orange and honey-flecked pear are accompanied by a light spritz when first opened, offering a lovely texture and crystalline acidity. This is a thirst-quenching drop that would pair perfectly with a wide range of Southeast Asian cuisine. —C.P.

$34.99 Wine Library

Best Australian Riesling: Frankland Estate 2019 Estate Grown Dry Riesling (Frankland River)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a wonderfully complex and delicious Riesling that’s also an outstanding value. It offers depth of flavor in the form of fresh lemon, scrubby wild lavender, kerosene and crushed gravel. It’s slinky and slippery, with vibrancy, juiciness and a long, lemony finish. An expression of a unique place; all at once accessible and ageworthy. Drink now–2032. Editor’s Choice —C.P.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Best Pet Nat from an Obscure Grape Variety: Delinquente 2021 Tuff Nutt Bianco d’Alessano Sparkling (Riverland)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

This artisanal Riverland producer’s motto, “embrace the weirdness” perfectly suits this cloudy pét-nat. Made from the obscure Puglian variety, Bianco d’Alessano, it opens with a heady combo of aromas like pineapple chunks, honeysuckle and ginger spice. The pithy palate is less zingy than the nose suggests but there’s prickly bubbles, crunchy acidity and a finish of citrus and pineapple rind. It makes for great porch-pounding summer sipping. —C.P.

$29.99 Vivino

Best Grenache from a Historic Producer: Angove 2019 Warboys Vineyard Grenache (McLaren Vale)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

One of this organic-biodynamic producer’s finest wines to date, this is from coastal vineyards over 50 years in age and pressed in an antique wooden basket press. It’s a tightrope of complexity and drinkability. The brambly blueberry fruit is backed by a potpourri dish of florals, dried herbs and spices, and there’s a warm pavement nuance. The palate is elegant and refined with a linear structure. There’s fabulous acidity, particularly for Grenache, and taut, powdery tannins. Drink now and up to around 2037. Editor’s Choice—C.P.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Best Game-Changing, Cool Climate Shiraz: Clonakilla 2019 Shiraz-Viognier (Canberra District)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Clonakilla’s Shiraz-Viognier was one of the first of its kind, ushering in a new era of more delicately aromatic and succulent Shiraz Down Under. It remains a benchmark of the style. The color of cherry juice, it’s beautifully perfumed, with aromas of rose petals and white pepper atop earthier, meatier notes. Warm stone undertones back fresh squeezed raspberry, cherry and cranberry juice. In the mouth there’s a succulence to the brambly fruit that comes like the pop of a fresh red berry in the mouth. Crunchy acidity and the raspy power of sappy, fine tannins add structure and complexity. This is finely crafted and distinctly cool climate Aussie wine that drinks well now but is capable of aging until 2037 at least. #7 Enthusiast 100 2022 —C.P.


Best Bottle to Make You Change Your Mind About Aussie Chardonnay: Bindi 2019 Kostas Rind Chardonnay (Victoria)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Sensitive and highly experienced winegrower Michael Dhillon turns out a Chardonnay of both delicacy and concentration that makes you feel like you’re on vacation. There’s a perfume of honeysuckle and jasmine lacing citrus and stone fruit, and a creamy, flinty underbelly. In the mouth it’s slippery yet linear with purity of fruit and bright acidity. It’s not overly rich nor is it skeletal; neither achingly cool nor old school traditional. It simply expresses the land from which it came, and for that is a complex and beautiful wine. Drink now–2030. —C.P.

$74.20 Vivino

Best Celebratory Bottle: Clover Hill 2015 Cuvée Exceptionnelle Blanc De Blancs Sparkling (Tasmania)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a stellar vintage of Clover’s Blanc de Blancs. It’s pale gold with vigorous, shimmering bubbles. The heady nose conjures an apple orchard late in the season when most of the apples have fallen to the ground, sun-kissed and slightly bruised, flecked with honey and brioche. In the mouth, a big lift of crunchy acidity and a persistent mousse adds to a feeling of both opulence and refreshment. It’s bone dry, with flavors of marmalade and honey and a long, tangy finish. Drink now. —C.P.

$69.99 Vivino

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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Life Is Short, Drink a RumChata Mudslide Mon, 23 Jan 2023 22:13:02 +0000 RumChata Mudslide
Photography by Caitlin Bensel

Some of the best sips in the cocktail canon began as riffs on beloved standbys, and the RumChata Mudslide is no different. In this drink’s case, it’s actually a riff on a riff: Specifically, the Mudslide, which was invented sometime in the 1970s at the Rum Point Club’s Wreck Bar in the Cayman Islands. The milkshake-like concoction, which marries velvety coffee liqueur and Bailey’s Irish cream with vodka, was itself a spin on the White Russian, which swaps out the Mudslide’s Irish cream for heavy cream.

Our RumChata-ified version of the classic Mudslide is all about layers of flavor. A base of vodka makes for a punchy foundation, while RumChata—a cream liqueur made with rum, cream and cinnamon—delivers sweet, spiced, horchata-like flavor. Meanwhile coffee liqueur and Irish cream round everything out. A final garnish of rich chocolate shavings and sticky-sweet chocolate syrup tips this treat into dessert territory.

How to Make a RumChata Mudslide

Recipe by Jacy Topps


  • 1 ½ ounce vodka  
  • 1 ounce RumChata
  • ½ ounce coffee liqueur (Kahlúa preferred) 
  • ½ ounce Irish cream (Baileys preferred)  
  • Chocolate shavings, for garnish  
  • Chocolate syrup, for garnish 


Lightly drizzle chocolate syrup in cocktail glass in decorative swirls. Set aside.

martini glass with chocolate drizzle on the sides
Photography by Caitlin Bensel

Place vodka, RumChata, coffee liqueur and Irish cream in a cocktail shaker. Shake until cold. Then strain into a cocktail glass.

Pouring RumChata into a prepaired glass
Photography by Caitlin Bensel

Garnish with shaved chocolate. 

Finished Rumchata mudslide with garnish
Photography by Caitlin Bensel

What’s a Mudslide Drink Made Of?

A Mudslide is a boozy blend of vodka, coffee liqueur and Irish cream, plus a brandied cherry and grated cinnamon for garnish.

Can I Use RumChata Instead of Baileys?

If you’re not feeling the Baileys in this RumChata Mudslide, go right ahead and substitute it with more RumChata. The resulting drink won’t have any coffee notes, but its rum and cinnamon flavors will be more pronounced.

Do You Drink RumChata Straight Up?

You certainly can, if that floats your boat. But we prefer it as an ingredient in a cocktail, such as the RumChata Mudslide.

What Alcohol Is RumChata?

Rum, of course! Hence the name.

These Eco-Friendly Wineries Are Built Sustainably from the Ground Up Mon, 23 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 Ferrari Trento with a blue print of solar panels
Image Courtesy of Erica Nonni / Ferrari Trento, Getty Images

As the effects of climate change become an increasingly clear and present danger in our day-to-day lives and pose an existential threat to future wine production, many producers and wine lovers are eager to create and support eco-friendly wineries and wines.

However, it’s no small feat. Almost half of a wine’s carbon footprint comes from the production and packaging of wine, according to Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance. But what impact does the actual winery have on the environment? While it might be easy to overlook, a winery’s construction and day-to-day operations are important factors in how “green” a wine actually is.

Here, we share ways winemakers are taking on the challenge to create greener wines—in the vineyard and in the cellar. 

Sourcing Local Eco-Friendly Materials

Building an eco-friendly winery with materials and labor sourced from afar defeats the spirit of the exercise, says Christophe Landry. He sourced as much as he could locally when constructing his winery, Chateau des Graviers, at Clos Dufourg in Bordeaux. According to the International Energy Agency, construction is responsible for 39% of annual greenhouse gasses globally in 2018. Manufacturing building materials contributed to 11% of that. And since some of those emissions come from transportation, sourcing local materials can also help lower one’s carbon footprint.

“The winery is made in part with 600 bales of straw purchased from a farmer about 25 miles from the winery,” says Landry, explaining the straw is then compressed to make a low-carbon wall-building material. “We also used stones, sand and clay sourced locally. For the wood, we took pieces of oak wood that our barrel maker couldn’t use.” These locally sourced materials also provide ideal insulation, explains Landry.

Chateau des Graviers isn’t the only winery constructed with eco-friendly materials sourced close to home. Champagne Palmer in Bezannes, France, was built with more sustainable materials like tile in lieu of plastic, which is produced from petrol. The operation also only partnered with suppliers 30 miles or closer whenever possible, says Remi Vervier, the winery’s CEO and chief winemaker.

Along with sourcing local materials, Chateau des Graviers utilized a workforce of “22 and 30 local people to help us build the winery, with the number fluctuating depending on the day,” explains Landry, adding that many were students. “We fed them three meals, and if they needed lodging, we also provided that.”

Finding Alternatives to Concrete

Remy Wines Finished Floor
Inside Remy Wines / Image Courtesy of Nick Hoogendam

Finding green building materials is no easy task and concrete in particular has a major negative environmental impact. The production of concrete is responsible for an estimated 8% or more of global carbon emissions, according to Nature.

To address the issue, Remy Drabkin, founder and winemaker of Remy Wines, and John Mead, founder of Vesuvian Forge, partnered with Bioforcetech in San Francisco and Lafarge Labs in Seattle to create a carbon-neutral concrete dubbed the Drabkin-Mead Formulation.

The carbon-neutral formula substitutes biochar, a substance made from carbonized organic waste (including manure and wood chips), for the non-eco-friendly black pigment and sand commonly found in concrete.

In August, Drabkin and Mead supervised the pouring of the foundation using their Drabkin-Mead concrete for Remy Wines’ new 5,000-square-foot facility in Dayton, Oregon. They are also going to make the formula available to others, in a bid to create greener construction projects across all industries.

“Because of concrete’s broad usage, any efforts to reduce its embodied footprint is beneficial,” says Abena Darden, a senior associate at Thronton Thomasetti, an engineering consulting firm focusing on sustainable construction and building projects around the world. “Reduction efforts can create a ripple effect, and when manufacturers lower the carbon footprint of their concrete, reductions can happen at scale.”

Concrete is the most universally consumed material in the world, second only to water, according to an academic appraisal and analysis published in Science Direct. It’s used two times more than any other construction material combined, so finding a more environmentally sound way to produce it could potentially have wide-ranging impacts well beyond wine, according to Darden.

“My ultimate goal is to help municipalities adapt design codes for greener construction,” says Drabkin, who also happens to be McMinnville, Oregon’s mayor. “Our process for creating the biochar is part of a closed-loop system as well. We accounted for carbon emissions during the production process and the impact of using trucks to transport the concrete. We are not just neutralizing the carbon, we are actively sequestering it.” In addition to using carbon-neutral concrete, Drabkin is utilizing upcycled and recycled materials. 

Utilizing Solar Energy

Abadía Retuerta estate solar panels
Abadía Retuerta’s solar panels / Image Courtesy of Abadía Retuerta Estate

At Cantina Endrizzi in Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige, the cellar was constructed in the 19th century. When it was time for a facelift in 2000, CEO Paolo Endici and Managing Partner Christine Endrici opted to do it with sustainability in mind, says Lisa Maria Enrici, the winery’s export manager.

“We made sure that everything was below ground level to maintain a constant temperature, we installed a grass roof on the new portion of the cellar to naturally insulate it and we installed solar panels to take care of our energy,” says Endrici. They have 86 panels, covering the vast majority of the winery’s energy. In 2023, they will expand their solar array to ensure all the energy they consume is produced at the winery.

Other wineries are aiming to harness solar power as well. “Our next step is installing solar panels so that we can supply all of our own energy,” says Vervier, adding that they hope to begin that project in 2023.

But how does solar power help reduce a winery’s carbon footprint?

“Using solar power at a winery enables them to not only lower their carbon footprint significantly but also export clean green electricity to the grid and offset carbon and pollution from other emitters, like fossil fuel plants,” says Joshua M. Pearce, Ph.D., a professor in materials engineering at Western University in Canada. “This is a growing movement in India, Europe and the U.S., and can not only benefit the environment but improve the economic value of farms. Once implemented, solar is the lowest cost source of electricity in most places in the world.”

Wineries are also looking beyond solar panels to harness the sun’s energy.

For instance, Chateau des Graviers is constructed in a way to avoid relying on outside cooling and heating options. Instead, the architects placed the windows in such a way as to optimize where the sun is in the sky given the season. So, in the winter, more sun shines into the winery for warmth, and vice versa in the summer. 

Ferrari Trento also aims to utilize the sun, with its new energy-efficient addition to the winery that’s currently under construction.

“It is adjacent to our current winery, and we are building it underground to eliminate outside warehousing and reduce energy consumption through transportation, and because it is underground, that will also naturally reduce energy use during production,” says Camilla Lunelli, head of communications and sustainability at Ferrari. “The facades of the buildings are isolated from the sun’s rays which keeps it cool during the summer but allows heat to penetrate indoors during the winter.”

Wineries Tapping Earth’s Other Inherent Resources

Ferrari Trento
Outside Ferrari Trento / Image Courtesy of Erica Nonni / Ferrari Trento

Winemakers are dependent on Mother Nature in the field, so it makes sense that many are finding ways to use the rhythms of the earth to their advantage in their production facilities, too.

Wineries like Abadía Retuerta in Valladolid, Spain, are not just utilizing the energy of the sun to fuel their operations, but gravity, as well. Constructed in 1996, “the plan was always to create a sustainable winery,” says Managing Director Enrique Valero. “We built it underground to keep the temperatures down, used a gravity-powered system that didn’t require electric pumps and put in solar panels so that a third of the energy used is clean.”

Along with gravity, wineries are also finding new ways to harness available resources.

“When we designed our new winery, everything was constructed with the goal of leveraging the earth’s natural slope and light to our advantage,” says Vervier. In addition, water is recycled and purified through plant roots to remove contaminants. The winery was opened in 2019 and received The High Environmental Quality certification, or Haute Valeur Environmentale, which is regulated by the French Ministry of Agriculture and encourages eco-friendly practices at vineyards.

“Wineries are energy-intensive buildings, once you factor in all of the processes loads from crush through fermentation, through barrel storage and conditioning,” says Darden. “At each step, wineries are consuming energy.”

Going green comes in many shades and forms in the wine industry, and it’s time we start thinking beyond the content of the glass.

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How to Find a Great Bourbon Under $100 Fri, 20 Jan 2023 21:00:28 +0000 3 bottles of bourbon on a designed background

One of the holy grails of a well-stocked home bar is a stellar bourbon that doesn’t break the bank. A bottle that’s not too precious to mix into cocktails, but can hold its own served neat. Some may argue that the $40 to $50 range is where “bargain” bourbons start, but those under $100 can still offer excellent value. Here, we share the best bourbons under $100 to try this year.

What Makes a Good Budget Bourbon?

The short answer is: the same things that make a great bourbon at any price range. Much of that is subjective, of course. The aroma and flavor should be pleasing, perhaps with some sweetness from the corn or baking spice on the finish. The oak should be well-integrated (the tannic “sucking-on-a-wood-stave” quality is a giveaway of a too-young or poorly-made whiskey). And, it should be versatile enough to sip or mix.

“A good budget-priced bourbon has all the characteristics of any good bourbon,” notes Adam Polonski, co-founder and head of whiskey sourcing for independent bottler Lost Lantern. “Budget-conscious drinkers do not have to skimp on quality. Budget-priced bourbons aren’t necessarily younger or made less carefully than expensive ones. They just aren’t as rare and sought-after.”

And while opulent bottles might look nice displayed on your bar cart, your bourbon budget might go further without fancy packaging. “I don’t want to pay for a pretty bottle,” protests Samara Davis, CEO and executive director of the Black Bourbon Society. “I want to pay for a good whiskey. If it’s a $20 whiskey in a $200 bottle, just throw out that bottle and give me the whiskey.”

So, whether you’re looking for a budget option to add to the best bourbon cocktails (like this Mississippi Bourbon Punch) or simply the best bourbon for sipping, try these best bottles.

The Best Bourbons Under $100

The Best Bourbons for Cocktails

Freeland Spirits Bourbon

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Finished in Pinot Noir barrels from Oregon’s Elk Cove, this bourbon shimmers with dark fruit and spice. Vanilla and caramel are layered with dark cherry, dried fig and fruit leather, finishing long with clove and black pepper. —Kara Newman

$49.99 Mash&Grape

Hotel Tango Reserve Bourbon

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

A warming whiskey that’s like wrapping up in a big blanket—vanilla, oak and cocoa lead into a nutty, palatecoating finish laced with leather, cigar wrapper and just a hint of butterscotch and warming spice. —K.N.


Still Austin The Musician Straight Bourbon

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is for those who prefer a sweeter-style bourbon. Vanilla and brown sugar aromas lead into a velvety palate that echoes those notes, braced by a black pepper tingle. Made with Texas-grown grains. —K.N.

$39.99 Total Wine & More

The Wiseman Bourbon

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

The sweet vanilla aroma is echoed on the palate, where it’s accompanied by perky pops of allspice, ginger and clove heat, gliding into a smooth finish tinged with almond. This is a blend of bourbons aged between three and six years. —K.N.


Five & 20 Spirits Straight Bourbon

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

The first sips offer oak, toffee and clove, accented with a hint of dark fruit. Adding water brings out lighter, nuttier flavors, pleasantly suggesting peanut brittle, brown butter, caramel corn and maple. —K.N.

$37.99 Caskers

The Best Bourbons for Sipping

Barrell Bourbon Batch 031 Cask Strength

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Nuanced vanilla and tropical fruit aromas introduce this blend of straight bourbons, aged from 6–16 years. The palate opens with brown sugar and mouthwateringly savory spices, cayenne and clove. Adding water dials in an espresso note, while a fleeting hint of pineapple emerges on the exhale. —K.N.

$88.99 Total Wine & More

Hinterhaus Calaveras Cask Finish Bourbon

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

The concept: a blend of bourbons finished in four California wine barrels, intended to replicate a popular wine blend. The result: allspice, cola and sarsaparilla aromas, leading into a bracing palate with burnt almond and oak. It finishes with a big, drying exhale of cinnamon and burnt orange peel. —K.N.

$45 Hinterhaus Distilling

Watershed Distillery Aged 4 Years Finished in Apple Brandy Barrels

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Vanilla and caramel aromas are echoed on the palate, leading to additional flavors of cinnamon, clove and black pepper, plus a hint of lemon peel. This pleasant sipper is a blend of apple brandy-finished bourbon and straight bourbon whiskey. —K.N.

$39.98 Woods Wholesale Wines

Case Study Tennessee Straight Bourbon

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

A smooth ribbon of vanilla studded with baking spice leads into a brisk, black peppery finish. Adding water brings out a gentle nutty tone, plus a lemon peel hint. —K.N.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Monk’s Road Fifth District Series Cold Spring Distillery Bourbon

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bold vanilla and oak aromas introduce this single-barrel, six-year-old bourbon. Spice is the leading characteristic; a splash of water helps mellow the big alcohol bite, letting cinnamon and baking spice wind into a long vanilla finish paired with a hint of sherry-like golden raisin. —K.N.

$76.99 Total Wine & More

The Best Overall Bourbons

Wild Turkey

96 Points Wine Entuhsiast

Lively, complex and deeply aromatic, with hits of Christmas spice, orange blossom and vanilla. It’s spicy on the tongue, with lots of woodsy vanilla and orange. Medium body, this would rock a Bourbon-based Sazerac. —K.N.

$56.99 Total Wine & More

Four Roses Small Batch

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Created by master distiller Brent Elliott to mark the distillery’s grand reopening, this Bourbon is the first permanent addition to the portfolio since 2006. This is a concentrated sip—even with plenty of water—showing warm, toasty vanilla, sugar cookies and buttery brioche, finishing extra-long and drying, accented by plenty of baking spice. It’s a real lip-smacker. —K.N.

$62.99 Total Wine & More

Buffalo Trace

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

A good workhorse for all manner of cocktails, this bright amber Bourbon has a butterscotch aroma and oaky, relatively dry flavors that elongate into a rich caramel finish. Best Buy —K.N.

$49.99 Caskers


Does Good Bourbon Need to Be Expensive?

Absolutely not, and the pros agree.

“Bourbon doesn’t have to be expensive,” declares Davis definitely. “It’s corn and water and time and yeast. It’s made out of very basic ingredients that are—minus supply chain issues—plentiful and bountiful in our country.”

A good bourbon “doesn’t have to be the most expensive or the rarest,” adds Darron Foy, bar manager at The Flatiron Room, a whiskey-focused NYC bar. “The versatility of the spirit is a good indicator of its worth.” In other words, it’s about finding a bourbon that works well to drink neat or on the rocks, or that mixes easily into cocktails. And that can extend to a range of reasonably priced bottles.

What’s the Difference Between Expensive Bourbon and Bargain Bourbon?

Spoiler alert: the difference between a “luxury” bourbon and value-priced bourbon often has little to do with the liquid itself.

“Ingredient costs, essentially the cost of the bourbon itself, are usually not the primary driving factor,” explains Marianne Eaves, who has made bourbon for Castle & Key and Brown-Forman, among others. “However, it could be other materials, glass, the closure, etc. that force the hand of some producers to ensure they make their target margin.”

It’s also worth noting that bourbon has become more expensive in recent years, points out Polonski. (In part, you can blame the Pappy’s phenomenon.)

Even just five years ago, there were relatively few bourbons priced above $100,” Polonski says. “Those that were generally had clear and obvious marks of distinction–often a very high age statement (15-plus years) or coming from a very well-known and highly regarded brand.”

While there’s no aging minimum for bourbon, it needs to age at least four years to qualify as bottled-in-bond, and most pros suggest bourbon peaks after five to 12 years of barrel time.

“Age is one of the most significant factors when it comes to price point,” says Murphy Quint, head distiller for Iowa distillery Cedar Ridge. From a distillery’s point of view, “the longer a barrel of bourbon has been aged, the more bourbon has evaporated out of the barrel, and therefore the distillery will need to sell the remaining liquid at a higher price in order to cover the evaporated loss.” In other words, you’re paying for the angel’s share—the bourbon that evaporated during the aging process.

In general, “there is not inherently a huge difference in flavor or quality between a budget-priced bourbon and an expensive one,” Polonski notes. “Bottles over $100 usually command that price for some specific reason.” This is often because they are scarce, have a high age statement or have a long history of strong reviews for that brand. Additionally, some brands use luxury packaging or celebrity partnerships to elevate perception—and price. That said, “There are great whiskies, and bad whiskies, at all price points.”

What Is the Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon?

Whiskey is a category of distilled spirit. Bourbon is a type of whiskey that contains 51% corn and is aged in charred new oak barrels. If the bourbon is distilled in the state of Kentucky, it can be referred to as Kentucky bourbon. For a refresher on which whiskeys are considered bourbon, see our Ultimate Guide to Bourbon.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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The Best Ways to Use Anise Spirits, According to Drinks Pros Fri, 20 Jan 2023 17:30:22 +0000 Star Anise in a rocks glass
Getty Images

There’s a long list of flavors that people seem to either love or hate. Along with cilantro and blue cheese, many have strong opinions about anise, which has a taste profile resembling black licorice.

Licorice is just a polarizing flavor,” says Anthony Caporale, director of spirits education at the Institute of Culinary Education, who loves the flavor of anise. “My take is that it’s a slightly unsettling mix of sweet and bitter. It has just a little bit too much of both, and not everyone can process that at the same time.”

Anise has been used for centuries as a flavoring for distilled spirits in many different countries. Growing up in an Italian-American family, Caporale’s grandparents often drank Anisette, an anise-flavored liqueur, with coffee. “That was always passed around after meals,” he says.

But even if you don’t love the flavor, there are several ways to drink anise spirits. Here, experts share everything you need to know about enjoying them.

What Is Anise?

The anise flavor and aroma may resemble licorice, but the two aren’t from the same plant. Licorice comes from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. In comparison, anise is derived from the seeds of the Pimpinella anisum, one of the oldest spice plants that have been grown in the Middle East and Mediterranean for generations.

“Many of us equate anise and licorice because of their similarities, and anise is often used as a flavor in licorice candies, but I think of anise as sharper, spicier and slightly sweeter,” says Danny Ronen, founder of DC Spirits and spirits educator at Shaker & Spoon.

Anise liqueurs feature “very strong medicinal flavored plant extracts,” says Caporale. It was traditionally used for healing purposes but today is enjoyed across the globe as a flavoring for cooked dishes and baked goods.

How Anise Spirits Are Made

There are dozens of anise-flavored spirits, and they’re all made a little bit differently. From Lebanon’s arak and Greece’s mastika, to raki from Turkey and aguardiente from Spain and Portugal, each has its own unique origins, qualities and tastes. But, each anise spirit is similar in that they have a distilled spirit base and an alcohol by volume (abv) of around 35%–50%, according to Caporale.

Ouzo is a spirit from Greece that is made from wine grapes that are distilled to a high purity to remove the grape flavor. “So, you end up with a very clean, neutrally-flavored base spirit and then they flavor it with the anise,” says Caporale.

Another example is sambuca, which originated in Italy. Anise must be its main ingredient, but it often features other flavors and tends to be on the sweeter side. While French pastis is a spirit made by mixing a neutral alcohol base with anise. It was created as a replacement for absinthe, which is also anise-flavored.  

How to Use Anise

Anise’s potency can be overwhelming for some people who aren’t crazy about the flavor, according to Gregory Bonath, a chef instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin. “It can take trial and error to find particular applications or quantities of the flavor you enjoy.”

But you may be surprised by how much you like the right combination. Give these anise liqueur ideas a try, straight from bar experts.

Pair It With Coffee

Sambuca is classically served “with the fly,” meaning neat with three coffee beans floating on the top to represent prosperity, health and happiness. Caporale recommends mixing it (or another anise spirit) into an Espresso Martini or with a shot of espresso

“Anise goes very well with coffee,” says Bonath, who also suggests using anise in coffee-flavored cocktails, like a White Russian.

Add the Essence to Cocktails

Some drinks only require a subtle flavor of anise. Absinthe, which has seen a resurgence in recent years, is traditionally used to coat the glass when making a Sazerac, a rye whiskey-based cocktail including bitters and sugar. It is then discarded before completing the drink. But, some recipes use other anise liqueurs instead, such as Herbsaint, which is made in New Orleans.

Besides a Sazerac, Ronen recommends putting anise liqueur in an atomizer and spritzing it over the top of just about any gin cocktail to brighten it up.

Dilute With Water

Emanuele Balestra, bars director at Hotel Barriere’s Le Majestic and Le Gray d’Albion in Cannes, France, says he feels anise is too strong to use in cocktails. He prefers to mix anise liqueur, like Pernod, with water to make a Pastis drink, which is popular in France.

Milos Zica, partner and beverage director of Fandi Mata in New York City, grew up in the Adriatic coastal region and says mastiha (or mastika) is his favorite anise liqueur. He enjoys it with water and ice and says it also works well in vodka, gin or white rum cocktails. “It’s light in body with a honey-like sweetness,” says Zica.

Sip With Citrus

Bonath enjoys the combination of anise and citrus. He suggests adding anise to an orange or grapefruit crush, which is a popular drink that originated in Maryland. It’s made with orange juice, vodka, triple sec and soda.

Additionally, Caporale recommends making a Harvey Wallbanger, which he describes as an “old-school throwback drink.” It’s made with vodka, orange juice and Galliano, an Italian vanilla-anise liqueur. “If you’re not a huge fan of the anise flavor, Galliano is often a nice stepping-stone because the vanilla mellows it out a lot,” he says.

Izzy Tulloch, head bartender at Milady’s in New York City, says aguardiente is her favorite anise spirit, and she loves drinking it “simple with lots of lime and soda.”

Pour It Neat

“The best way to find a favorite and appreciate the flavor is to drink it neat,” says Bonath.

Any anise-flavored spirit can be sipped on as an after-dinner drink, or digestif, either neat, chilled or over ice.

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With Citrus Hard Seltzer, Real Fruit Delivers Cocktail-Like Flavor Fri, 20 Jan 2023 17:02:27 +0000 3 seltzer cans on a designed background
Images Courtesy of the Merchants

Talk to drink makers who follow trends and they’ll be quick to tell you that citrus sells. This is nothing new, of course, but as hard seltzer continues to innovate with ingredients, there are still classic flavors that delight in the glass.

For single-citrus hard seltzers, makers stick to the familiar, with lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit getting the most attention. But not all are sliced the same.

Some seltzer makers focus on “natural flavorings” that can mimic real fruit, but also run the risk of smelling like a car air freshener or a cleaning product. These also usually finish quickly flavor-wise on the palate, setting up the tastebuds for a fresh hit on the next sip.

In contrast, the seltzers that make a point of using real fruit or juice often deliver bolder flavor and have a cocktail-like essence. From the peel and the pith to the flesh and zest, different parts of the fruit bring varied flavors and dimensions to the finished product.

Juice added to a seltzer typically results in a cloudier or colored beverage, a departure from the crystal-clear bubbly water that most look for. Haze is a feature here and fits into the changing nature of hard seltzers, which sees producers stressing authenticity. The visual component plays a part of that, although many consumers still drink directly from the can and may not immediately note it.

Smaller operations might zest or squeeze hundreds of pounds of citrus themselves before adding to a seltzer, while others might utilize purees or juices from orchards or other fruit companies. The addition of real fruit typically lends to longer-lasting flavor, and citric acid also helps tamp down sugar flavors—artificial or otherwise.

Citrus is what helped usher in flavored hard seltzers several years ago, and while the industry has evolved into exotic fruits and surprising combinations, the humble workhorse continues on bringing refreshment to each sip.

The 8 Best Citrus Seltzers

H2Roads Grapefruit (Hard Seltzer; Two Roads Brewing, CT)

89 Points Wine Enthusiast

Dusty orangepink in color with slight cloudiness and vigorous carbonation, this has a lot of the tart funky flavors associated with grapefruit with undertones of pith. Applause for its lowsugar content that lets the citrus shine. 110 calories.

$19.49/12oz Variety Pack Total Wine & More

Truly Lime (Hard Seltzer; Boston Beer Co., MA)

86 Points Wine Enthusiast

Enjoyable aromas and flavors of key lime with a subtle sweetness that grows with each sip but does not become cloying. A refreshing bit of warm citrus best served super chilled. 100 calories.

$ Varies Instacart

H2Roads Meyer Lemon (Hard Seltzer; Two Roads Brewing, CT)

85 Points Wine Enthusiast

This looks the part of lemonade in the glass with a hazy milky yellow hue. Small-citrus-fruit aroma with a pop of lemon on the first sip that morphs into pressed peel mid palate and on the finish. 100 calories.

$19.49/12oz Variety Pack Total Wine & More

Truly Grapefruit (Hard Seltzer; Boston Beer Co., MA)

85 Points Wine Enthusiast

The tart aroma is lovely with dried grapefruit and freshsqueezed peel. The body is thin and the citrus takes a back seat to the sugary punch that arrives with the first sip. 100 calories.

$ Varies Instacart

Truly Lemon (Hard Seltzer; Boston Beer Co., MA)

86 Points Wine Enthusiast

A bright candiedlemon aroma with a flavor to match. Clear, with strong carbonation, the lemon flavor tastes processed at times with an artificial sugar sweetness that peeks through at the finish. 100 calories.

$ Varies Instacart

Reuben’s Fruitfizz Grapefruit (Hard Seltzer; Reuben’s Brews, WA)

84 Points Wine Enthusiast

Light on the overall citrus this benefits from a mineral water base that adds some intrigue and earthiness to the sup. This is a good palate cleanser or break from heavier rounds. 100 calories.

$17.99/12oz Variety Pack Total Wine & More

Reuben’s Fruitfizz Orange Zest (Hard Seltzer; Reuben’s Brews, WA)

84 Points Wine Enthusiast

Effervescent carbonation showcases a mineral-water quality from the first sip that builds a nice base for the light orange flavor. The citrus is muted, giving this a spawater-like presentation. 100 calories.

$17.99/12oz Variety Pack Total Wine & More

Wormtown Orange Zest (Hard Seltzer; Wormtown Brewing, MA)

83 Points Wine Enthusiast

Plastic orange aromas arrive early and stay until the finish. Artificial citrus aromas have a slight mineral flatness on the finish. Crystal clear with robust carbonation. 100 calories.

$15.99/12oz Variety Pack Total Wine & More

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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The Best Red Blends to Drink Right Now Fri, 20 Jan 2023 15:29:15 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of The Merchants

Red blends have been around since the origins of winemaking. From casual table wines to prominent bottles like the original wine blend Bordeaux, winemakers have been blending wines for centuries. But red blend wines, in particular, have increased in popularity over the year for their complexity and great variability. 

In fact, red blend wines are now the second most popular red wine in the U.S. after Cabernet Sauvignon and continue to dominate its own sector of wine markets across the globe, according to the Silicon Valley Bank State of the U.S. Wine Industry 2023 report.

But with so many bottles to choose from and somewhat ambiguous labels, red blends can be tricky to navigate. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about red blend wines. Plus, a rundown of the best smooth-sipping bottles to spearhead your tasting journey.

What Is a Red Blend Wine?

The term “red blend” refers to red wine made from more than one grape varietal. Red blends are produced around the world and vary tremendously based on what types of grapes are used and where they are grown.

Common grape combinations used to make red blend wine include Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Merlot-Malbec and Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedré (typically shortened as G-S-M). Others involve more complex formulas. For instance, Bordeaux-style red blends are traditionally made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, but can also incorporate Malbec, Carménère and Petit Verdot.

“It can mean a lot of different things,” says Jim Gordon, Wine Enthusiast’s senior tasting editor.  And with various possible combinations, understanding red blend wine labels can be tricky.

Generally, red blends are either labeled based on where they come from, like Bordeaux, or simply labeled as a red blend. This labeling, more often than not, helps differentiate between Old World and New World blends, according to Gordon.

New World red blends are the bottles you’ll find in the “red blend” section of a grocery store or wine shop. They tend to carry labels like G-S-M, red blend or red wine. This is to bypass naming wines by grape variety but can be rather ambiguous to the layperson.

On the other hand, Old World red blends like Chianti Classico and Rioja, are labeled by where they come from. “Those are all red blends because they’re not labeled by a single grape variety,” says Gordon. “But nobody really ever calls them red blends.” Chateau Margaux, Côtes du Rhône and Super Tuscans are other examples of Old World blends that fall into this category.

So yes, something like Chianti (made predominately from Sangiovese, plus a small amount of other black grapes) is indeed often a red blend wine. But you’ll likely not find a bottle of Chianti in the red blend section of a grocery store.

Additionally, many major growing regions have rules in place for what constitutes a blend based on the ratio of grapes present. For instance, California law requires that single-varietal wines be made with at least 75% of the named grape type. This means that a bottle labeled Cabernet Sauvignon must be made with at least 75% of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. But the bottle can very well contain 10% Merlot grapes which technically makes it a blend, even if it isn’t labeled as such.

Ready to start exploring the varying flavor profiles of red blend wine? Here, the Wine Enthusiast Tasting Department share their bottle picks from all around the world.

The 8 Best Red Blends

Top California Rhône-Style Blend: Margerum 2018 M5 Reserve Red (Santa Barbara County)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

Doug Margerum and winemaker Michael Miroballi are hitting their stride on this annual blend, which in this vintage includes 47% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre, 2% Counoise and 2% Cinsault from eight vineyards. Rich aromas of backed boysenberry, purple flower, turned earth and star anise lead into a palate that slides from lavender to elderberry with ease, as white pepper and dried thyme elevate the complexity. —M.K.


Runner Up: Stolpman 2021 G-S-M (Ballard Canyon)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Rugged aromas of wild boysenberry, dark plum and brown spice make for an intense nose on this blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah. The palate is hearty, offering roasted berry, marjoram and curry-leaf flavors, as tension rises on the finish. —Matt Kettman

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Top Spanish Red Blend For $30: Miguel Torres 2019 Familia Torres Secret Del Priorat Red (Priorat)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Dark garnet to the eye, this wine offers aromas of blackberry, raspberry and vanilla. A network of delicate tannins supports flavors of pomegranate, raspberry, menthol and cocoa powder. Notes of candied orange peel and violet arrive on the finish. —Mike DeSimone

$32.09 Vivino

Top French Red Under $20: Château Eugénie 2020 Tsar Pierre le Grand (Cahors)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

The wine, named after Peter the Great the 18th century Russian emperor, has solid tannins to go alongside the black fruits. Still young, of course, it has a fine richness and power. Drink from 2026. —Roger Voss

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Top Traditional Tuscan Blend: Frescobaldi 2019 Tenuta Perano (Chianti Classico)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Graphite, leather, blue flower and wild berry aromas waft out of the glass. Elegant and delicious, the fresh, supple palate doles out ripe black plum, cassis, mint and licorice alongside fine-grained tannins. Drink through 2027. —Kerin O’Keefe

$24.95 Vivino

Top Spanish Red Blend Over $50: Mas Igneus 2019 M Red (Priorat)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This deep violet colored wine has a bouquet of black currant, cocoa powder and coffee bean. It is savory on the palate, with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, braised fennel, roasted tomato and bittersweet chocolate. Deep-set tannins are uplifted by a bright fruit note that persists into the drawn-out finish. —M.D.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Best Austrian Red Blend: Gut Oggau 2020 Joschuari (Rot) Red (Austria)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This flows like satin, with a slightly firm feel to the pomegranate, plum and chalky shavings that add a mineral feel. A tangy floral edge emerges on the midpalate and hangs on to the acidity that streaks through so gracefully, giving this the spine together with fine-grained tannins that melt on the palate. Beautiful now, so no need to cellar unless you want tertiary notes. —Aleks Zecevic

$90.99 Vivino

Best Middle Eastern Red Blend: Ana Beirut 2018 Grande Réserve Mount Lebanon Red (Bekaa Valley)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Inky garnet in the glass, this wine has aromas of raspberry, cassis and roasted nuts that are joined on the palate by flavors of black cherry, blackberry, aniseed, roasted fennel bulb and juniper berry. Deep-set tannins recede into a violet scented finish. —M.D.

$25.99 Total Wine & More


What Makes a Good Red Blend Wine?

Red blends can take on a wild array of colors, aromas, flavors, structures and ageability. Therefore, when it comes to what makes a good red blend wine, there’s no simple answer.

“It’s really hard to say because they’re so different from place to place,” says Gordon. For example, a Chianti Classico made predominately from Sangiovese grapes grown in Italy will taste nothing like a typical California blend of Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel.

Generally, a good red blend will be made from quality grapes in a combination that balances the five most important components of wine—sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol and body.

For the curious drinker, red blends can also provide a means to move beyond predictable bottles and explore a product that is not simply the sum of its parts.

“Blending is a good way to get more complexity into a wine,” says Gordon. “They’re often smoother in texture and more interesting when you taste them.”

Gordon believes that red blends are also a great way to experience a certain region’s terroir. “You get nuances in a red blend that you can’t get in a single-varietal,” he says. “When you have a blend, it mutes the character of the individual varieties so you get an overall sense of what wine for that place tastes like.”

How Are Red Blends Made?

The grapes used to make a red blend wine are grown, harvested and fermented separately. This is different from field blends, which are made from a mélange of different grapes grown side-by-side in the vineyard and are co-fermented together.

After fermentation, the resulting single-varietal wines are combined to create red blend wine. To learn more about how red blends are made, check out our article on the why, when and how of blending.

Is Red Blend Wine Sweet?

The sweetness of a red blend wine depends on the grapes and sugars either leftover from fermentation or added during the process. Check out our definitive guide to sweet wines to learn more about the role of sugar in wines.

Do You Chill Red Blend Wine?

The ideal serving temperature for red blends is similar to other red wines—just below room temperature (55°F–65°F). For more guidance, check out our guide on the do’s and don’ts of chilling wine.

How Do You Pair Red Blend Wines?

Red blends tend to be bold on the palate, though some are more full-bodied than others. For this reason, red blends can be difficult to pair. But as a good rule of thumb, red blends tend to go well with rich meat dishes like our Easy Oven Baby Backed Ribs or vegetarian meals like Pizza Napoletana

Another approach is to pair red blends with traditional dishes from the region which they come from. “If you’re having a Super Tuscan or Chianti, you can have Bistecca Fiorentina,” suggests Gordon. “Or if you’re having a red Bordeaux, something like a grilled lamb chop is hard to beat.”

Pairing a red blend wine with regional dishes is a way to elevate its terroir, as well as enhance a culture’s flavors in a way that can transport you to another place.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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The Different Styles of Vermouth, Explained Thu, 19 Jan 2023 20:37:13 +0000 vintage sweet and dry vermouth logo with a martini overlaid
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Vermouth is a key ingredient in a number of classic cocktails, like a martini, Negroni or Manhattan. But for decades, vermouth took a backseat to the other elements of these drinks like gin, bourbon and whiskey. But vermouth is having a moment, and understanding the different vermouth styles is key to shaking (or mixing) up a delicious cocktail.

Major brands like Martini & Rossi, Carpano Classico, Cinzano, Noilly Prat and Dolin still shine. But, smaller craft producers, including Distefano Winery Poppi Dry Vermouth and Method Spirits Sweet Vermouth, are creating unique flavors and gaining a following.

Here’s a look at the different vermouth styles and how they can be incorporated into many different cocktails.

What Is Vermouth?  

Vermouth has been around for centuries and was originally created for medicinal purposes, says Anthony Caporale, director of spirits education at the Institute of Culinary Education. It’s a fortified wine, which means distilled alcohol (like brandy or a neutral spirit) is added to increase the alcohol content and stop the fermentation process, explains Gregory Bonath, a chef instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

The fortified wine must then be infused with botanicals to be considered vermouth. Some common infusions include wormwood, orange peel, juniper, star anise and angelica root. Many brands keep their exact ingredients top secret, though. This is why the flavor profile of the final product varies depending on the region and producer.

Generally, vermouth comes in sweet or dry varieties. According to the European Union, the product must contain 75% wine to be considered vermouth. Vermouth’s alcohol by volume (abv) ranges from 16%–18%, slightly higher than unfortified wine’s 9%–14% abv. It’s still considered lower-proof than most spirits.

Vermouth Styles to Try

Sweet Vermouth

Sweet vermouth traditionally comes from Italy, and usually contains 130 grams or more of sugar per liter. This vermouth style can be red or white. They vary slightly in flavor, but both red and white vermouth can be used interchangeably in cocktails calling for sweet vermouth, says Caporale.

“Sweet red vermouth could be described as the flavor of warming spices, such as clove, cinnamon [or] nutmeg. Think of fall and wintertime spices,” says Bonath. “Sweet white vermouth will have the flavor profiles of vanilla, citrus and spiciness.”

Sweet red vermouth, also known as rosso, is classically used in a Negroni or Manhattan. Other cocktail options include a vermouth spritz, an Americano cocktail or simply drinking this fortified wine on its own.

Try it with “a little bit of ice and add orange or lemon zest,” suggests Izzy Tulloch, head bartender at Milady’s in New York City.

She also loves using sweet red vermouth in sangria. “It adds a really beautiful texture and complexity,” says Tulloch. “The herbal and bitter root flavors just play really nicely with red wine and fresh fruits.”

“Adding aromatic, earthy and spiced bitter components [to vermouth] will round up the cocktail and add complexity to it,” adds Milos Zica, partner and beverage director of Fandi Mata in New York City.

If you find yourself with white vermouth on hand, Emanuele Balestra, bars director at Hotel Barriere’s Le Majestic and Le Gray d’Albion in Cannes, France, says he prefers it in cocktails like his Chamomile Negroni cocktail, since it’s not quite as sweet.

“This allows me to use the floral flavors and elegant plant aromas I make my cocktails with,” he says.

Dry Vermouth

Dry vermouth originated in France and was traditionally made with wormwood, a key ingredient in absinthe. It’s light in color and more herbaceous, floral and citrusy, compared to sweet vermouth, Bonath explains. It typically contains less than 50 grams of sugar per liter, adds Caporale.

Dry vermouth also contains “oxidated flavors,” says Balestra, “so when I mix it with gin, for example, it adds a saline twist which stimulates the tongue and causes it to salivate.”

The classic use for dry vermouth is a martini. Zica says one of his favorites is a 50/50 Martini with equal parts gin and dry vermouth, garnished with both an olive and lemon zest. He describes the drink as “light-bodied, nutty [and] mineral,” adding that the dry vermouth softens and freshens up the gin’s botanical and juniper notes.

“It’s very popular among industry people and is to-die-for, stirred, yet not [an] overly boozy aperitif,” says Zica.

This type of vermouth also pairs well with dark spirits, says Tulloch. “I think we often forget that whiskey can have these really delicate floral notes that dry vermouth can shine a spotlight on.”

Extra-Dry Vermouth

Extra-dry vermouth is even less sweet than dry varieties, with less than 30 grams of sugar per liter. It has lemon, orange and herbaceous notes, Bonath says. It tends to go well with sharp, acidic flavors.

“If you’re looking to add botanicals to a drink without increasing the sugar content, then extra-dry vermouth is a great way to go,” adds Caporale. It’s also commonly used in a martini.

Amber Vermouth

Amber vermouth is an in-between of red vermouth and dry vermouth, explains Caporale. Depending on how you look at it, it’s semi-dry or semi-sweet and tends to be fruity and floral.

“If you want a martini on the sweeter side, amber is a step up from dry vermouth,” he says. “If you want your Manhattan on the drier side, amber vermouth does it.”

Caporale says he also enjoys amber vermouth with sparkling water, while Bonath adds it pairs well with sparkling wine. No matter how you mix it, vermouth is a great option to have on hand to elevate your DIY cocktails.

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When It Comes to Terroir, Is Nature or Nurture More Important? Thu, 19 Jan 2023 15:00:00 +0000 two bottles of wine with different vineyards inside
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From a vineyard’s soil composition and surface, to the region’s climate and sun exposure, many wine professionals think quality wine will show characteristics of its place of origin. The French sum up this concept in the word terroir.

But another thought is that other factors, such as farming methods and winemaking techniques, are equally responsible for a wine’s defining characteristics. This leads some to believe that two wines produced in a similar area can taste wildly different. But, can both the “nature” of how the wine grows and the “nurture” of the winemaker be the true expression of terroir?

The Impact of Nature

Some believe terroir accounts for the natural environment of any viticultural site including the soil, topography, macroclimate, mesoclimate, microclimate and more. In this theory, these environmental factors should influence wine taste to such a degree that reproduction is not possible elsewhere, regardless of viticulture and winemaking methods, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine.

“In Alto Adige, if you taste the water from the side of the mountain from mica-schist, it has this refreshing acidity, while the water that comes from the other side of the Dolomites picks up more chalk and the taste is more astringent,” explains Dominic Würth, winemaker and proprietor of GraWü winery in Italy’s Alto Adige. 

Indeed, it would appear that the nature surrounding the vineyards impacts the taste of grapes and, thus, the wine.  

Another example is Anjou in France, where the difference in soil has a direct impact on the berries themselves. The region is famous for Chenin Blanc, with some vines grown on schist soils and others on limestone. The schist soil doesn’t retain water as well as limestone, so the vines experience hydraulic stress, causing the production of smaller berries with thicker skins. Thus, Anjou Chenin Blanc from schist often has more intensity and crunch than its limestone counterparts.

Additionally, winemakers who want the terroir to impart the most character to the wine let the environment do the work. “To express terroir, you must avoid using pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals,” says Raphael Bennour, manager at Domaine du Gringet in Savoie, France. “Vineyards should be at least [certified] organic, and the vinification approach in the cellar should be minimalistic.” 

This is because harmful chemicals would destroy the flora and fauna of a place, and oenological additives in the cellar would alter the taste of the grapes. However, even in this case, the degree to which terroir affects the taste of wine is contentious.

The Impact of Winemaking

Some experts would say that different winemaking techniques disguise the terroir and can impact the flavors of the wine just as much as the environment.

Most blind wine-tasting exams (including the Court of Sommeliers and WSET) use “typical” examples of wines from select vineyard sites or wine regions. Hence, the examinees can have an educated guess on what the wine is. But “typical” has very little meaning when winemakers make deliberate changes.

“What I’ve learned in school is what certain vineyard sites are supposed to taste like,” says Jesse Becker, Master Sommelier. “If you’re in Musigny [France] and you obliterate the wine with new oak, you’re missing the point.”

So, the winemaking techniques used can have a major impact on what a “typical” wine will taste like. One example is how the winemaker chooses to ferment the grapes to impart changes in the wine. Becker considers practicing skin fermentation for white wines (resulting in orange wine), as not a true expression of renowned terroirs.

He is not alone, but this is when the topic becomes a bit more philosophical. Why is it normal to produce red wines with skins but not whites? Supposedly, the skins act the same in both red and white grapes. After all, white wines, as we know them, are a more recent invention. In ancient times, all wines were made with skin fermentation.

Also, in areas where a significant number of winemakers produce amber wines, like in Italy’s Collio, many would argue that this is the true expression of that region, rather than the pale white wines consumers are used to seeing on shelves.

So, if uniformity of style is also a part of terroir, does it account for the winemaker’s style, too?

“We are a big influence on terroir, as we decide how we prune, remove the leaves, etc.,” says Franz Weninger of the eponymous winery in Burgenland, Austria.

By this theory, vine tending, the farming approach and the timing of the harvest all influence the taste of the grape and, thus, the wine. As can the winemaking style and choices made in the cellar.

“If you remove the leaves and expose Friulano [grapes] to the sunlight, its aromas will dissipate,” explains Nikolas Juretic, pruning expert for Simonit & Sirch and proprietor and winemaker at his namesake winery in Collio, Italy. “It is the same with Riesling,” he adds.

Alwin Jurtschitsch of Weingut Jurtschitsch, Weninger’s colleague from Kamptal in Austria, agrees. “Terroir is not stopping at the border of your vineyards. It’s always the relationship with the winemaker, too,” he says.

A Nature vs. Nurture Experiment

Jurtschitsch did a “terroir experiment” with his wife Stefanie Jurtschitsch, her brother Johannes Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch in Rheinhessen, Germany, Theresa Breuer of Weingut Breuer in Rheingau, Germany and Max von Kunow of Weingut von Hövel in Germany’s Saar Valley.

The project was called Wurzelwerk, which means work of the roots, and it was their attempt to understand the influence of their terroirs versus the winemaking, or nature versus nurture.

“Starting in 2012, we all exchanged grapes with each other from our top vineyards sites, and each of us vinified all of them in the same way,” says Jurtschitsch. This included spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel, without the addition of sulfur until bottling. The bottles were then aged together in von Hövel’s cellar.

After bottling and giving the wines some time, the group blind-tasted them, attempting to recognize the different terroirs. The result was quite shocking. Though the grapes had grown in different places, several wines tasted so similar that they all thought they must have come from the same vineyard.

“They were actually all from different sites but from von Hövel’s cellar,” says Jurtschitsch. “Max [von Kunow’s] cellar is unique. It is two meters [six feet] below ground. In winter, temperatures drop, significantly slowing down the fermentation process and creating something like natural bâtonnage.” (Bâtonnage is a French term for stirring the lees in wine, which some attribute to improving mouthfeel and complexity).

So, the experiment concluded that nurture had a strong impact on the wine’s final flavor. Though, Alwin did say that after several years of aging, the terroir similarities of a particular vineyard site started to come through, regardless of the cellar.

The Bottom Line

Terroir serves as the basis for defining many famous wine appellations. In that regard, the brand that stands behind a given appellation needs consistency. If a customer orders a Sancerre, for example, they will most likely expect a fresh, citrusy wine. But what happens when someone makes Sancerre with botrytized grapes and its profile changes completely? If botrytis is common in Sancerre, wouldn’t excluding it mean that you’re not truly showing the terroir?

“Terroir is an important part of wine, but it has been this reductionist expression,” says Justin Chearno, wine director and partner at the Four Horsemen, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Brooklyn, New York that recently won a James Beard Award for the outstanding wine program. “Is the sameness part of terroir and what is typical [of a certain terroir] to someone who has mainly had unsulfured wines?”

To be able to tell, one must taste two wines that have been farmed and vinified in the same way. Only then can you attribute that the distinction in taste truly comes from differences in terroir. With the emergence of natural wine and the alternative expression of terroir, standardization is broken.

“True expression of terroir” continues to drive the debate, and this is where personal experience surfaces. How often is the winemaking technique confused with specific terroirs? More importantly, how often do our individual experiences impact how a wine from a region should taste?

Whether you believe the terroir or the winemaking technique has the most impact, the important part is that the result should be good.

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For Lunar New Year, These Wines Pair Perfectly Wed, 18 Jan 2023 19:45:11 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Vivino

Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year for many countries within East and Southeast Asia and in the United States. The holiday is considered a time when immediate and extended family members come together to welcome prosperity and abundance into the coming year of the lunisolar calendar. And though many families share large feasts with traditional Lunar New Year recipes as part of the celebration, some have more recently chosen to pour celebratory wines to embrace the coming year. So, we tapped experts and our Wine Enthusiast Tasting Department to share their picks for the best Lunar New Year wine.

What Is the Lunar New Year?

The celebration, also known as the Spring Festival, is observed over 15 days beginning with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ending on the first full moon. It is marked by many customs passed down from generations prior. These traditions may vary by culture but commonly include large feasts, cleaning rituals to rid the previous years’ bad luck, bright red envelopes that contain money (also known as hong bao or lai) for good fortune and ends with an illuminating Lantern Festival full of dancing and fireworks to commemorate the first full moon.

Between lion dances and colorful lights, perhaps the most anticipated part of it all is a highly symbolic and thoughtfully prepared feast.

“In Chinese culture, people eat dishes that carry out auspicious meaning, especially during Lunar New Year,” shares Joyce Lin, certified sommelier and founder of 酒意思, Sip with Joyce. According to Lin, this meaning is often tied to homophones in Mandarin related to a food’s name, color or shape. For example, the Mandarin word for fish (鱼, pronounced yu) sounds like surplus and abundance. 

Is Wine Part of the Lunar New Year Celebration?

For a meal heavily steeped in tradition and eating together, the drinks tend to be less important. “We don’t have a tradition to drink any kind of beverage or liquor,” says Lin of her family’s Lunar New Year feast.

But this varies between families. According to the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, food traditions are the center of the Lunar New Year, but wine is occasionally used as part of rituals for the holiday and celebrations. For example, though many families, like Lin’s, don’t have a specific beverage, other families choose to drink the customary drink of the Spring Festival, nianjiu (年酒), a type of wine that translates to “year’s alcohol.”

And many families are beginning to explore wine during the Lunar New Year like never before. “The wine market in Asia is booming at the moment,” shares Lin, who hopes to introduce her family to wine pairings and plans to bring a few bottles home to Taiwan for this year’s celebration. “There’s a lot of wine fare happening in Taiwan and China, as well as a natural wine trend coming about.”

Even though it may not be the most traditional, with timeless dishes that pair this well, there is certainly room for wine on the table. If wine is something you’d like to pour at your Lunar New Year celebration, try these bottles that are sure to enhance the flavors and rich meaning behind each of these traditional Chinese dishes.

The Best Wine for Steamed Whole Fish: Ingrid Groiss 2020 Ried Pankraz Reserve Grüner Veltliner (Niederösterreich)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Steamed Whole Fish is a must at any Lunar New Year celebration. The Mandarin word for fish (鱼, pronounced ) sounds like surplus, and having the whole fish (head and tail included) is thought to symbolize abundance or leftovers to spare for the coming year. To pair, Lin suggests a Grüner Veltliner for its white peppery notes that will compliment the cilantro, scallions and ginger used to prepare the fish.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Whole Smoked Chicken: Blade & Talon 2021 Calleri Vineyard Falanghina (San Benito)

91 Points wine Enthusiast

“We will always have chicken on the dinner table,” shares Lin. Chicken in Mandarin (鸡, pronounced ) sounds like home, symbolizing family reunion—an essential part of the celebration. Though preparation varies, a dish similar to this Five Spice Whole Chicken goes perfectly with Falanghina, a white wine from Campania. According to Lin, its bright acidity, sliding pine scents and stone fruit notes complement the flavors of sweet honey and savory spice in this recipe.

$40 Folktale Winery

The Best Wine for Pork Chinese Dumplings: Peter Zemmer 2019 Giatl Reserva Pinot Grigio (Alto Adige)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

People once used dumplings to wrap up their wishes by placing auspicious foods, like sugar cubes for smooth relationships and peanuts for longevity, in the stuffing. “By eating those dumplings, it’s a wish for all of your dreams or wishes to come true in the coming year,” says Lin. Dumplings like these Pork and Cabbage Potstickers are also shaped like the small metal ingots of ancient Chinese currency, making the dish a wish in itself for good fortune and wealth. Serve them alongside something moderate like Pinot Grigio or an unoaked Chardonnay with hints of citrus and stone fruits to bring out the pork’s sweetness and complement the garlic, ginger and sesame in the sauce.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Lion’s Head Meatballs: Château La Nerthe 2021 Les Cassagnes Rosé (Côtes du Rhône)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Lion’s Head Meatballs is a classic dish of giant pork meatballs served with vegetables. Also known as “Four Happiness Meatballs,” they symbolize good luck, wealth, longevity and happiness. “It’s a classic dish to have in my family,” says Lin. To pair, she suggests a Pinot Noir or Côtes du Rhône to balance the savory and earthy flavors of the meatball with a bit of fruitiness.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Longevity Noodles: Château du Coudray Montpensier 2018 Gaudéamus Cuvée d’Excellence (Chinon)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Longevity Noodles (or 伊面, pronounced yī miàn) are a hallmark of many celebrations in Asian households, including the Lunar New Year. The long noodles symbolize longevity and the dish as a whole represents a life long of happiness. To complement the savory shiitake mushrooms and vegetal chive used in this dish, Lin recommends Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc from Loire Valley. “It won’t overpower noodles and has a good amount of fruit to support the dish.”

$15 Vivino

The Best Wine for Spring Rolls: Gosset 2015 Grand Millésime Brut (Champagne)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Though technically observed in later winter, Lunar New Year is often referred to as the Spring Festival. Some choose to welcome the season with crisp Chinese Spring Rolls meant to symbolize bars of gold for wealth in the coming year. Serve with something refreshing that provides great acidity like a Sparkling Rosé. “Those bubbles will serve as a palate cleanser for the next bite and a new awakening, clearing for a new season,” says Lin.

$94.94 Vivino

The Best Wine for Turnip Cake: Domaine du Clos du Fief 2020 Les Capitans (Saint-Amour)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Turnip Cake is a savory dish that uses radishes and plain rice flour rather than Western-style turnips. Its auspicious meaning plays on the word for “cake,” which sounds like the word for “high” (高, pronounced gōu). “It means climbing step by step, rising steadily in your career path,” says Lin of the cake’s offering of good luck in the year ahead. Serve with a light red like Schiava from Alto Adige or Beaujolais to balance this dish’s umami profile.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Tangerines: Moulin Touchais 1996 Chenin Blanc (Coteaux du Layon)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

“We will always have an abundance of different kinds of fruits for the New Year,” says Lin. Tangerines, oranges, kumquats and apples are typical offerings due to their round shape (representing family reunion) and their golden color that implies fortune and wealth. Now, pairing wine and fruit is challenging. Sweet foods tend to go well with wines of similar notes, so something fruity with citrus notes like an off-dry Chenin Blanc should do the trick.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

The Best Wine for Tang Yuan: Domaine des Baumard 2018 Quarts de Chaume

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Tang Yuan is a sweet soup of glutinous rice balls, typically eaten as dessert on the last day of the Lantern Festival as well as other celebrations. Its pronunciation is similar to the Chinese word for reunion (团圆, pronounced tuányuán) and implies togetherness and a sense of completeness. To bring the dish full circle, we suggest something delicate but not overly sweet, like an off-dry Riseling.

$299.99 Vivino

The Best Wine for Nian Gao: Mure 2018 Clos Saint Landelin Grand Cru Pinot Gris (Alsace)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Also known as the Chinese New Year Cake, Nian Gao is a steamed rice cake made with glutinous rice cake and brown sugar. Like Turnip Cake, this dish implies higher achievement and prosperity for the coming year. “This auspicious meaning is not only for adults, but also for children too,” shares Lin. “It wishes children would grow taller and receive higher scores in school.” For climbing aspirations, we opt for a Pinot Gris from the mountainous region of Alsace. Its elevated acidity can wash off the stickiness and density of the Nian Gao and pairs nicely with the cake’s ginger and coconut flavors.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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Warm Up with the Original Irish Coffee Recipe on a Cold Night Wed, 18 Jan 2023 17:05:12 +0000 Irish Coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

Tourists and locals flock to San Francisco’s famous Buena Vista Café year-round to order the spot’s acclaimed Irish coffee, and the hot, sweet and boozy concoction is famous for good reason. The blend of sugar, hot coffee, Irish whiskey and cold whipped cream makes for a tantalizing delight.

Whether you’re a Buena Vista Café superfan or merely a lover of boozy, caffeinated cocktails, here’s the best Irish coffee recipe to DIY from the comfort of your own home.

What Is Irish Coffee?

Irish coffee was likely created in Foynes, a small town in Ireland. Here’s how it happened: According to the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, for a short time in the the late 1930s and early 1940s, Foynes was the center of the aviation world. Why? Pan Am’s luxury flying boat, dubbed the “Yankee Clipper” landed at Foynes July 9th, 1939, becoming the first direct commercial passenger flight from the U.S. to Europe. In 1943, local restaurateur Brendan O’Regan opened an eatery and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal building and hired a chef named Joe Sheridan.

That winter, a late-night departing flight caught in bad weather was forced to return to Foynes. “When Joe was asked to prepare something warm for the passengers, he decided to put some good Irish whiskey into their coffees,” writes Richard Foss in Food in the Air and Space. “One of the passengers approached the chef and thank him for the wonderful coffee. He asked Joe did he use Brazilian coffee? Joe jokingly answer, ‘No that was Irish coffee!'”

Still, many people associate Irish coffee with the San Francisco restaurant and bar Buena Vista Café, and it’s likely because they claim to have brought the drink to America. According to CBS Sunday Morning. in 1952, the then-owner and a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle joined forces to replicate the Irish coffee drink made famous in Foynes. After much trial and error, a trip to the airport and even consulting a dairy owner, the Irish coffee recipe was introduced to Americans, who quickly embraced the stuff.

The original Irish coffee served at the café includes two sugar cubes, hot coffee, just over an ounce of Irish whiskey and a layer of heavy cold cream that has been aged for 48 hours and whipped. This is poured into a 6-ounce goblet.

Of course, precious few cocktail origin stories are undisputed. According to the San Francisco news station KQED, there are other competing stories that place the drink’s birth at a 1940s pub in Dublin. Another theory is traced to a 1948 New York Tribune article, which includes a recipe that looks strikingly familiar to modern Irish coffee recipes.

But no matter where it came from, the drink nearly always includes a combination of sugar, coffee, Irish whiskey and whipped cream. Consumers can now find it served at bars and restaurants across the country. We’ll cheers to that!

What Whiskey Is in Irish Coffee?

The Buena Vista Café uses a unique blend of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, but any smooth Irish whiskey will do. We think one of the best Irish whiskey options for beginners is Jameson, which packs aromas of dried apricot and a vanilla-forward palate with hints of smoke and clove.

What Kind of Coffee Do You Use for Irish Coffee?

The Buena Vista Café uses Peerless Coffee, but any coffee you enjoy will suffice. For the most authentic flavor, choose a smooth coffee without any added flavors or syrups.

Irish Coffee Variations

True Irish coffee uses unsweetened heavy cream to maintain the sweetness from the drink’s sugar contents, but when making a DIY cocktail, you can mix it up however you like. Try a vegan Irish coffee option, or add different flavorings to your coffee or cream mixture to best suit your tastes.

How to Make Irish Coffee

Recipe by Jacy Topps


  • 6 ounces hot, freshly brewed coffee 
  • 1 ½ ounces Irish whiskey (preferably Jameson)  
  • 2 tsp brown sugar 
  • 2 ounces unsweetened heavy whipping cream, slightly whipped* 


Preheat a heatproof glass mug by pouring hot water into it to take the chill off. Wait just a couple of minutes to fully heat your mug. Remove hot water from the glass.

warming a glass mug with boiling water
Photography by Ali Redmond

Fill the warmed mug about ¾ full of coffee.

pouring an irish coffee into a glass mug
Photography by Ali Redmond

Add brown sugar and stir until fully dissolved.

stirring an irish coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

Add the whiskey and stir to incorporate.

pouring whiskey into a irish coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

Float the whipped cream by slowly pouring it over a warm spoon onto the coffee, being careful not to break the coffee’s surface. Drink while hot.

adding whipped cream to an irish coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

*To whip the cream: Make sure that your heavy whipping cream is as cold as possible. You can either use a cocktail shaker to shake for a couple of minutes to whip the cream or whip in a bowl with a whisk for two minutes.

Overhead shot of making whipped cream
Photography by Ali Redmond
California’s Devastating Floods May Actually Benefit Winemakers—Here’s Why Wed, 18 Jan 2023 16:08:35 +0000 rain drop with a vineyard inside on a yellow background
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California’s recent rainfalls have been catastrophic for many. But some wine industry experts say there may be an unexpected silver lining: Heavy rains seem to have not only recharged drought-thirsty aquifers and water tables, but also flushed away, or leached, toxic vineyard salt deposits.

This is no small thing. Salts in soil contain important micronutrients, but some—like sodium, chloride and boron—carry a toxic punch if left to accumulate, a problem exacerbated by California’s recent droughts. It’s a spot of good news in an otherwise dreary California news cycle.

Growing Condition Impacts

Without leaching, toxic salt deposits infiltrate vines and their root systems. This directly impacts growing conditions and vineyard productivity. “Our harvest 2022 was off by between 20% to 30%,” says Jeff Newton, president and CEO of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates. The organization farms about 4,000 acres throughout Santa Barbara County. “One of the main reasons is that we just haven’t had the leaching that we’ve needed over the last several years.”

Salt-poisoned plants dehydrate, desiccate and even die. Leaves “burn,” or turn brown. Grape quality also suffers. “We have been in a very real drought these past few years, and with that, you get an accumulation of salt in the soils, which can impact the quality of the grapes,” says winemaker Ryan Prichard of Sonoma’s Three Sticks Wines. “These heavy rains help flush these salts out, and renew some of the life force in the soils.”

Not a Drop to Drink

Ironically, surface salt build-up can also contaminate ground and well water, resulting in salty irrigation water. “As our wells have been drawn down due to drought, we do end up irrigating with less quality water,” says Craig Ledbetter, vice president and partner at Vino Farms in Lodi. “Salt intrusion on the west side of Lodi is highly possible due to its location to the Delta, and its influence on ground water.”

Naturally salty irrigation systems play a part, too. Josh Beckett, the managing partner and director of operations for Peachy Canyon Winery on California’s Central Coast, oversees five estate vineyards sprawled throughout western Paso Robles. “The irrigated vineyard water is naturally salty,” he says. “When you’re only irrigating enough just to benefit the plant itself, salt tends to build up. These big rains are flushing out those salts, cleaning up the soils.”

Salt of the Earth

Arid regions tend to build up greater salty soil deposits. “Most regions that have salt problems in the soil are arid regions, which typically don’t get very much rain,” says Mark Greenspan, president, owner and viticulturist at Advanced Viticulture in Windsor, Calif. “So in Paso Robles, where I’m most familiar with significant, severe salt issues, their annual rainfall is usually eight to 10 inches.”

Brackish Central Valley’s Lodi and Delta regions also suffer from salt deposits. “During droughts, salts become a problem—more so in the Delta versus Lodi,” adds Ledbetter. “We definitely have salt (boron) build in the ground, because we have not had the rain to flush the soil in the Delta. I have not seen much of that in Lodi.”

Additionally, certain soil series hold salty deposits, such as Santa Barbara. “The underlying geology, soils, rocks—they’re all sedimentary and formed under the ocean, so salt is in the original geology,” says Newton.

Location, Location, Location

Further north, salt deposits remain an exception, not the norm. “North Coast, we get a lot of rainfall, we don’t have salinity problems, except for isolated areas in Carneros, where it’s close to San Pablo Bay, and there some saltwater intrusion problems,” says Greenspan.

“If you look at Southern California and Santa Barbara-area soils, they don’t have the rainfall, the growth, and the soil development that we do here in the north,” says Stu Smith, veteran wine grower/owner of Smith-Madrone on Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain. ”And so our soils are able to absorb most of this rain with little impact.”

“It’s interesting to me,” observes Newton. “Because in Napa, for instance, we know growers who, when you talk to them about the salt issue, their eyes glaze over—because they have so much rainfall, so salts are leached. They may have a lower salt load for their own geology, too. But in Santa Barbara County, for the nearly 40 years that I’ve been farming here, we’ve always been concerned about salts.”

Uncertain Future

The recent floods may have washed away salty vineyard soil deposits, but they left behind a residue of uncertainty. Climate change’s troika of fires, droughts and floods leave wine growers tap-dancing rapidly each harvest.

Moreover, flood soils prevent vine tenders from pruning and spraying for spore and vines disease mitigation. Wetter, warmer soils also threaten early bud break, resulting in possible spring frost damage, uneven ripening or higher yields.

And yet, most wine growers prefer to look on the positive side of California’s recent floods. “With all this rain, it almost looks like Ireland around Paso now,” concludes Beckett, a Paso native. “I haven’t seen rain like this since I was a kid. It’s exciting.”

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The 6 Best Pinot Noir Bottles Under $30 Tue, 17 Jan 2023 21:38:43 +0000 3 bottles of Pinot Noir on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Vivino and The Pinot Project

From Burgundy to Oregon, just about any wine region in the world is growing Pinot Noir. This might be surprising considering the grapes are difficult to grow, are sensitive to temperature and are prone to disease. But when treated right, this red grape can produce beautiful bottles that are sought after around the world and command hundreds of dollars.

Thankfully, you don’t need to break the bank to explore exceptional Pinot Noir. Here, our Wine Enthusiast Tasting Department breaks down the bottles that all made our Best Buys list and come in under $30.

The Best Under $30 Pinot Noir Bottles

Best Rosé Pinot Noir: Ryder Estate 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir (California)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

This light, delicate and well-balanced wine offers fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors, a nice touch of crisp acidity and a lingering, fruity finish. —Jim Gordon

$18.19 Vivino

Most Sustainable Pinot Noir: McManis 2021 Certified Sustainable Estate Grown Pinot Noir (Lodi)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

This warm, generous and rounded wine has a relaxed, broad texture embracing mulled plums, cherries and subtle vanilla and cinnamon notes. Full in body and light in tannins, it’s easy to drink. —J.G.

$12.99 Vivino

Most Consistent-Quality Pinot Noir: The Pinot Project 2020 Pinot Noir (California)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

Beautiful, fresh fruit flavors light up this no-nonsense wine, delivering the varietal’s classic red and black cherries, along with light cinnamon nuances and a good, lightly tannic texture. It’s easy to quaff and interesting, too. —J.G.

$11.99 Vivino

Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Pinot Noir: Burgozone 2020 Côte du Danube Pinot Noir (Danube Plain)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

This light cherry red Bulgarian Pinot Noir has aromas of black cherry and red raspberry with top notes of tobacco and saddle leather. It is soft on entry with flavors of cherry vanilla, tobacco leaf and a bright splash of ripe macerated cherries on the finish. —Jeff Jenssen

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Most Juicy Pinot Noir: Barton & Guestier 2021 Bistro Pinot Noir (Vin de France)

89 Points Wine Enthusiast

Juicy raspberries and cherries with a touch of spice are featured on the nose of this wine. Ripe cherry, raspberry and cassis bounce off the palate. There is crisp acidity and good structure. Enjoy now. —Jacy Topps

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Best Boxed Pinot Noir: Sokol Blosser 2020 Evolution Pinot Noir (Oregon)

89 Points Wine Enthusiast

In an eco-friendly box wine format that holds the equivalent of two regular bottles, this brings the price down to about as low as you will find for any vintage-dated Oregon Pinot Noir. The quality is exceptional given the cost and the troubled vintage. It tastes like true, unadorned Oregon Pinot, with tart berries, cranberries and cherries. The tannins are ripe and balanced, and the finish clean and persistent. —Paul Gregutt

$25.99 Total Wine & More


Is Pinot Noir Red or White?

This variety is a red grape that produces red wine or rosé. However, the white grapes Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc are mutations of the red Pinot Noir grape and produce white wine. It is also often blended with Chardonnay and other white grapes to produce the sparkling wine Champagne.

Is Pinot Noir Sweet?

Pinot Noir is a dry wine, so it is not sweet. It has medium-to-high acidity and medium tannins. However, this grape lends itself to a whole host of expressions, ranging from powerful and fruity (think raspberry and cherry) to earthy (think black pepper or deep sappy red cherry notes).

Should Pinot Noir Be Chilled?

Typically, you’ll want to serve this red between 54–60°F. This is the perfect temperature for all of the wine’s aromas to really pop. Be sure to serve it in a Burgundy glass too.

What Food Pairs Well with Pinot Noir?

Naturally, this red wine goes well with garlic and onion so sauces, stews and braises are excellent pairings. You can also serve a glass with grilled mushrooms or meats like chicken or steak.

If you think the dish can benefit from Pinot’s crushed black pepper notes, give it a try! But at the end of the day, it’s all about your wine and food pairing preferences.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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A Beginner’s Guide to All Things Ice Wine Mon, 16 Jan 2023 15:00:00 +0000

If you are looking to fully embrace the cold this season, or simply want to pour yourself something new and interesting, then reach for a bottle of ice wine. These bottles tell a unique viticultural story, full of struggle, innovation and triumph. They can be hard to find and expensive (more on that later), but here we share some of our favorite bottles worth seeking out, plus a basic guide to understanding ice wine.

What Is Ice Wine? 

Ice wine, called eiswein in Austria and Germany or icewine (one word) in Canada, is a type of wine made with grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine. This is done by preferably freezing and thawing several times throughout the growing season. The grapes are then harvested in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures from December to late February so that they are still frozen.

By allowing the grapes to freeze, the sugars separate from much of the grape’s water content, resulting in highly concentrated and sweet juices. Additionally, this can be done with other fruits to create a delicious variation, and some producers even make ice beer and ice cider.

Want to try a sip of this delicious drink? Here are five of our favorites to get you started.

Our Favorite Ice Wines to Try

1. Peller Estate Cabernet Franc Ice Wine

This ice wine offers notes of wild strawberry jam, ripe rhubarb, candied cherries and fresh pomegranate. While this wine is naturally sweet, its fresh acidity gives it great balance and a silky texture. This pairs beautifully with braised meats, roasted vegetables and bittersweet chocolate desserts.” Anna-Christina Cabrales, Tasting Director at Wine Enthusiast 

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

2. Red Newt Riesling Ice Wine

“My favorite ice wine has to be the Red Newt Riesling from their Tango Oaks Vineyard. Granted, the first time I tasted it was at the vineyard overlooking Seneca Lake, which certainly adds to the experiential dynamic. But it is truly a complex and dynamic late harvest effort with supremely intense green, tropical, stone and citrus fruits layered over the luscious honey suckle and molasses core. The acidity keeps it lifted and focused, with a finish that goes on for minutes after sipping.” Marshall Tilden III, Chief Revenue and Education Officer at Wine Enthusiast 

$20 Total Wine & More

3. Eden’s Heirloom Blend Ice Cider

“I grew up in Vermont, and I’ve traveled the Vermont Cider Trail. The ice cider is a fantastic finish to any meal. It’s made from 15 heirloom Vermont apple varieties, but I’m drawn to the Mcintosh notes that remind me of apple picking as a child. I love it paired with a slice of tangy goat cheesecake as the weather starts turning crisp.”—Carrie Honaker, Freelance Drinks Writer 

$32 Drizly

4. 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine, Y Knot Vineyard

“At the tail end of the long 2020 growing season in the West Texas High Plains, one allotment of Bending Branch Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon from Y Knot Vineyard froze on the vine for three days. Owner and winemaker Dr. Bob Young decided to try creating an ice wine for the first time. Made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this bottle strikes an enticing balance between sweeter notes and citrus, both restorative (maybe even warming?) for long winter months.” Amy Beth Wright, Freelance Drinks Writer  

$50 Bending Branch Winery

5. Inniskillin Vidal Icewine

“Inniskillin has been making ice wine since 1975. I’m not terribly fond of overly sweet drinks, but this bottle’s sweetness is perfectly balanced with its peach and citrus notes, making it the perfect wine to crack open with dessert.” Kristen Richard, Digital Editor at Wine Enthusiast

Total Wine & More


What Grapes Are Used to Make Ice Wine?

The most common grapes are highly aromatic varietals like Gewürztraminer, Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon

How Is Ice Wine Made? 

Producing these bottles presents challenges not seen in standard winemaking, and these roadblocks can vary greatly from region to region or even winery to winery. So, production methods are going to vary depending on where you are.  

When it comes to producing these wines, time is of the essence. Otherwise, the grapes will begin to thaw and the juices will become less concentrated.  

After the grapes are harvested, the grapes are quickly pressed. But, even pressing the fruit presents unique challenges. One winemaker in the Midwest likened it to trying to squeeze the juice out of gummy bears. When the winemakers have extracted all the juice that they can, the skins and seeds are separated and fermentation begins.

Why Is Ice Wine so Expensive?  

Leaving grapes on the vines so long that they freeze and thaw over and over makes them more susceptible to birds and other grape-loving critters. So, there’s a good chance producers could lose their crop, making it a financial investment.

Additionally, the harvest must be done in the winter, at night in freezing temperatures. For instance, by law it must be below 20˚F in Germany and Canada to harvest. Plus, the harvest needs to move fast so nothing thaws, making it very labor-intensive, and thus, expensive.  

Lastly, the grapes themselves don’t produce very much juice, so yields are low. Ice wine is an important pillar for many wineries. But with climate change, many producers are struggling to continue to make these unique bottles.  

How Do You Drink Ice Wine? 

Ice wines are considered sweet wines, and they are excellent for an after-meal digestif or dessert pairing. They also go very well with foie gras, cheeses and other fatty foods. You’ll want to serve it at around 40–50°F. 

So, if you can get your hands on one of our favorite ice wine bottles, we think you’ll really enjoy the unique sip.

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What’s the Difference Between Liquor and Liqueur? Mon, 16 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 a hand holding a shot of whiskey and another hand holding a sprits on a two tone background
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As with many drinks terms and names, it can get a bit confusing when determining the difference between liquor vs. liqueur. While they may sound similar, there are important differences to know when opening a bottle.

So, we broke down the important distinctions between liquor vs. liqueur terms, plus everything else you should know about this expansive category of spirits.

What’s the Difference Between Liquor vs. Liqueur?

In the same way that Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, all liqueur is liquor, but not all liquor is a liqueur.

The difference between liquor vs. liqueur can understandably get confusing, especially because the words are so similar. Liquors (pronounced li-kr) areunsweetened spirits whose flavors are determined solely by their base ingredients during the distillation and aging process,” according to The Gourmet’s Guide to Cooking with Liquor and Spirits. These are classic ingredients you’d stock your bar cart with and mix up in a basic cocktail, like whiskey and gin.

In comparison, liqueurs (pronounced lih-cure), sometimes called cordials, have additional sweetness or spiciness added to their base alcohol. Liqueurs are grouped by flavor profile rather than spirit type. In terms of liqueur, think herbal Amaro and coffee-like Kahlúa.

What Are the Different Types of Liquor?

Though there are more classic liquors than we could ever compile into a list, here are a few common ones that you’ll likely see on menus.


Whiskey is an umbrella term for distilled spirits made with water, yeast and grains like corn, rye or barley malt. It’s spelled whisky if it’s made in Japan, Scotland or Canada, and also includes different subgroups like Scotch and Bourbon.

How to Drink Whiskey: Enjoy it straight or try it in the classic Old Fashioned or whiskey sour.


“Gin can be distilled from any raw material,” previously wrote Kara Newman, spirits reviewer and Wine Enthusiast writer at large. The only required botanical flavoring is juniper, but you’ll also find rose, lavender, citrus peels and more.

How to Drink Gin: Enjoy it straight, try a classic gin martini or mix up a gin and tonic, a timeless classic.


Vodka is clear without much aroma or flavor. It varies based on the brand because it can be made anywhere in the world from just about any ingredient—seriously, even fog.

How to Drink Vodka: You can sip it straight, but its neutral flavor profile lends itself to a whole host of cocktails like the Cosmo, the Vesper Martini and more.


This sugarcane-based spirit has a whole host of styles ranging from silver rums, which are filtered to remove color, to dark rums, which are blended with molasses or caramel.

How to Drink Rum: You can enjoy this spirit straight, but rum’s wide flavor profile lends it to a whole host of cocktails like the Hurricane and mojito, among others.


Brandy is one of the broadest categories of spirits, which means it can get a tad confusing. But “the vast majority of brandies are distilled either from grapes (Cognac, Armagnac, grappa or pisco) or apples (Calvados, applejack or apple brandy),” Newman previously wrote for Wine Enthusiast.

How to Drink Brandy: Enjoy it as is or mix it into the Brandy Alexander or Almond Orchard cocktails.


The agave-based spirit lends itself beautifully to a whole host of cocktails. And while the plant can be found around the world, tequila is made specifically from Blue Weber Agave grown in Jalisco, Mexico, as well as municipalities Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.

How to Drink Tequila: Sip it straight or mix it up in a margarita or Ranch Water cocktail.

What Are the Different Types of Liqueur?

There are multiple types of liqueurs that range from coffee and fruit-flavored options, like orange-flavored brands Triple Sec or Cointreau, to herbal, cream, or nut-flavored liqueurs, so there’s a style for every palate. Though significantly more liqueurs than we’ve compiled exist, here are a few of our favorite options to get started.

Herbal Liqueur

Cynar is an herbal liqueur flavored with artichokes along with other spices and first came about in Italy in 1952.   For another herbal option, try Chartreuse, a green liqueur that has been made since the 18th century.

How to Drink Herbal Liqueur: Cynar adds a great twist to the classic Manhattan and mixes well with tonic. You can also drink it straight as an aperitif or digestif. Drink Chartreuse straight or mix it into hot chocolate or the Last Word cocktail.

Orange Liqueur

Orange-flavored Triple Sec originated in France but is now produced around the world. You can also try Curaçao, which refers to a type of bitter orange that grows on the spirit’s namesake Caribbean island. You can use it interchangeably with other orange-flavored liqueurs like Grand Mariner or Cointreau, which has a crisp and smooth flavor profile.

How to Drink Orange Liqueur: Triple Sec tends to be citrusy and lends itself well to a margarita or sangria. You’ll find Cointreau in drinks like the Sidecar or Cosmopolitan.

Nut-Flavored Liqueur

Amaretto is a sweetened spirit that gets its flavor from “steeped almonds, apricot pits (which have a distinct almond flavor), peach stones, or a mix of the three,” Courtney Iseman previously wrote for Wine Enthusiast. There are a few origin stories surrounding Amaretto, but people have been drinking it since the 1500s.  For another nutty liqueur reach for  Nocino. This Italian spirit is often made with “green walnuts. It’s a deep-hued, nutty sipper with a tinge of natural bitterness,” Newman previously wrote for Wine Enthusiast.

How to Drink Nut-Flavored Liqueur: Drink Amaretto straight as a digestif or mix up a classic Amaretto sour. Try Amaretto in the Ghost Story Cocktail.

Cream Liqueur

Newman previously described cream liqueurs in Wine Enthusiast as, “cozy, slightly indulgent and a treat to enjoy when you need a little lift.” The category tends to run lower in alcohol than others and though the base alcohol varies, it is often more approachable for consumers due to its creamy texture and luscious flavor. Some popular varieties include Irish cream, made from Irish whiskey, or coffee cream, often made with rum or other spirits.

How to Drink Cream Liqueur: Add a splash of your favorite cream liqueur to coffee, tea or hot chocolate, or shake it up in a creamy cocktail, like the It’s a Wonderful Life.


What Does Top-Shelf Liquor Mean?

Much like other aspects of the drinks world, there are no hard rules. But typically, these liquors are on the highest shelf in a bar setting and will often retail for $50 per bottle or more. Mid-shelf spirits are a step down and typically fall in the $25-$50 range.

Does Liquor Ever Go Bad?

Liquor that’s unopened and not “fortified with sugar, like plain vodka, gin, whiskey, Scotch, tequila and so on, have a nearly indefinite shelf life,” Wine Enthusiast previously reported. And while your liquor won’t go bad per se after it’s opened, it will slowly oxidize and lose its quality over time. Typically, whiskey can stay good for at least a year, if not longer, after opening. Gin, on the other hand, should be consumed within a year of opening.

Does Liqueur Ever Go Bad?

The shelf life of liqueur can vary greatly from bottle to bottle. As a good rule of thumb, the higher the proof, the longer the shelf life.

“For a loose, unscientific guide, aim to replace liqueurs under 35% abv every three to four months, those from 35–44% every six months, and those 45% or above every 12 months,” Dylan Garret previously wrote for Wine Enthusiast.

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Natural Wine Labels Are Famously Opaque—and Winemakers Are Angry About It Fri, 13 Jan 2023 18:21:58 +0000 close up on a bottle of wine with a disqualified sticker
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Heartbroken proprietor and winemaker Roland Velich crossed out the labels of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages of Weingut Moric Sankt Georgen Grüner Veltliner. Starting in 2016, Velich’s labels instead read: “Serious wine from a gorgeous place that we are not allowed to mention on this label because this wine was disqualified by Austrian officials as being oxidized, reductive, faulty and atypical for the grape variety.”

Authorities had barred Velich from writing the name of the place from which the wine hailed. As a new wave of artisanal wine producers around the world face similar disqualification, the industry begs to answer the question: Where does natural wine production fit in with current winemaking laws?

The Disparity Between Natural and Modern Wine Making

Many natural wines are prohibited from stating the regional designation, not to mention the specific vineyard, in which the wine is produced. This is often because the wines are designated “atypical” for the region based on a variety of reasons.

For example, France’s Vin de France, Austria’s Wein aus Österreich, Italy’s Vino di Tavola and others. In best cases, the label can mention a larger geographical area, like, Weinland in Austria. But these areas tend to encompass so many distinctive wine regions that their appearance on wine bottles says little to the consumer.

Bottles disqualified based on being “atypical” are often made with century-old wine production methods. They hail mostly from organically-farmed vineyards, are handcrafted and may have minuscule traces of sulfur added before bottling. In comparison, the industry standard is dominated by heavily-processed wines, fruits with exposure to synthetic sprays and additives and the use of technologies detrimental to the environment. So, while these natural wines are being called “atypical,” current “typical” varieties process wine in multiple ways that are fairly new to the industry.

“How is it possible that someone who uses all the tricks in the book to make wine with all the additives, machines and manipulations, gets to write their specific vineyard on the label, but we who only work with grapes, don’t,” wonders Hannes Schuster of Rosi Schuster in Burgenland, Austria. His wine was disqualified for having “too much” sulfur dioxide. Meanwhile, the lab analysis of that wine shows a total of 26 milligrams per liter. For scale, an average bottle of wine contains about 100 milligrams per liter, while the maximum legal limit in the United States is 350 milligrams per liter.

Schuster suggests this problem is a consequence of industrial revolution. With the development of machines and chemicals, the wine industry changed, making large-scale winemaking easier. Suddenly, adding water to wine wasn’t the biggest crime in the cellar. Tannin powder and oak chips became popular in the 1990s, used to give wine an oaky flavor and tannin structure instead of aging it in barrels.

Industrial revolution led to a sad reality, making natural wine seem foreign to consumers and processed wine became the norm. Only 100 years ago, most of the tricks, additives and chemicals of modern winemaking did not exist. Humans have made wine without additives, except for sulfur, for nearly 8,000 years, but in the last 50 years, foreign lawmakers have made it impossible.

Nowadays, in some cases, winemaking mirrors a chemistry experiment with industrial yeast, thiamine hydrochloride, tartaric acid, silica gel, pectinase, copper sulfate, gypsum, activated carbon and acetaldehyde, to name a few. The list is longer than you would think, and wine consumers are often unaware because no law requires that this information appears on wine labels.

A newcomer natural winemaker from Serbia, Bojan Baša, experienced this firsthand. “The inspector came to look at my cellar and said I cannot produce wine here because I don’t have a separate room for oenological agents,” Baša says. “When I told her I don’t use any, she asked how I make wine in the first place.”

The paradox goes further because of the inconsistencies in judging. For wines to “pass the test,” they must not be cloudy. “[However], many unfiltered and unfined reds do pass the test, simply because it is harder to see than in a white wine,” says Alwin Jurtschitsch of his experience at his eponymous estate in Kamptal. Jurtschitsch is one of the bigger wineries fighting to change this, alongside his neighbor Fred Loimer and Styrian colleague Armin Tement.

Looking Toward Change

It’s not all so bleak for natural wine growers. People are taking notice, and individuals with some authority who can provoke change are starting to voice their concerns. For example, the French created the label “Vin Méthode Nature” to identify natural wines made by winemakers who practice organic or biodynamic viticulture. To do this, they can rely on only indigenous yeasts, and they cannot adjust acidity or sugar levels. They eschew common additives like enzymes and yeast nutrients, and the grapes must be handpicked.

In Austria, this conversation is just starting. Chris Yorke, the CEO and managing director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, is in talks with lawmakers to lump natural wines under the Qualitätswein (quality wine) designation. Earlier this year, Yorke gave a presentation to the Austrian National Wine Committee, the highest authority for wine, appointed by the Minister of Agriculture.

“I have noticed how well made our natural wines are and how well they are perceived in our export markets,” explains Yorke. In terms of export, the issue is that if a wine doesn’t get qualified as a “quality wine,” it doesn’t get to display the Austrian flag. “I showed the numbers [proving this notion] to the committee, and I hope that this great marketing tool will stay relevant.”

But Sepp Muster, one of the original natural winemakers in Austria, says that he doesn’t even try to get wine qualification. Stephanie and Eduard Tscheppe-Eselböck of Gut Oggau in Burgenland share that sentiment. Without their support, many natural wine pioneers worry that their calls to change label labels will go unheard.

What will be the outcome of this debate? Unfortunately, legal adjustments don’t happen overnight, and it will be at least two years before any major changes are made. Only time will tell if we’ll see a change to natural wine labeling across the globe.

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The Making of a 100-Point IPA Fri, 13 Jan 2023 17:58:08 +0000 100 point Beer trophie
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Two out of hundreds of beers tasted in Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 blind tastings received a perfect score. Both of these 100-point beers were in the American India pale ale (IPA) category, and while the beers hail from different coasts and are uniquely their own, they surprisingly have a lot in common. We chatted with the brewers to reveal the similarities in history, process and ingredients that make up a 100-point IPA.

The two beers that received the elusive score are Power Tools from Industrial Arts Brewing Co. in Beacon, New York and Volatile Substance from Von Ebert Brewing in Portland, Oregon. But, what makes these brews so special?

The Evolution of the IPA

First, it’s important to understand that the nature of IPAs has changed dramatically over the last decade, ultimately bringing us these two 100-point sips.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, the traditional hop varieties were added during the boiling process and would impart aromas of pine needles and grapefruit peel. The resulting ales would be clear as a bell, ranging in color from light gold, bronze and even amber. The malts would have pleasant flavors of biscuit, cereal and oftentimes light citrus fruitiness from yeast fermentation.

The style of IPA was mainly known for being assertively hop-forward, and drinkers focused on the bitter sensation left by the hops instead of the vibrant flavors or aromas.

Over the last decade, newer hop varieties have taken center stage, like Citra and Mosaic, that have challenged what an IPA can be. Additionally, many breweries have taken to adding hops during fermentation instead of during boiling, a process known as dry hopping. This drastically cuts down on bitterness leaving a juicy flavor and pleasant aromas. These beers are often called New England-style IPA and tend to be cloudy or hazy with a heavier mouthfeel.

The Making of Volatile Substance

Von Ebert Volatile Substance
Image Courtesy of Von Ebert Brewing

Head brewer Sam Pecoraro, says he carried the concept for Volatile Substance with him through a few different breweries before getting the chance to brew it at Von Ebert.

“I wanted to do it back when I worked at Burnside Brewing in the early 2010s, just something that was very, very forward with pine resin but still balanced,” he says.

Pecoraro recalls that when Volatile Substance was introduced it “did not sell very well. In our first six months, I think it barely cracked the top ten in sales. I’m not quite sure why that was other than just being in a new company and right in the middle of the hazy IPA era.”

But the brewery tweaked the recipe and the IPA won gold at the 2019 North American Beer Awards, finally gaining some momentum.

Pecoraro has changed the recipe over the years due to the availability of seasonal hop crops and other raw materials, while also adjusting based on what the brewing team felt worked best in the brewhouse. The recipe typically maintains 80% premium pilsner malt and 20% Weyermann Vienna malt.

“It really gets along well with hops and doesn’t interfere,” he says, “it’s just a nice base.”

Additionally, Simcoe and Columbus hops are added toward the end of the boil and have become key to the beer’s flavor impact. This is followed by a pound per barrel of Mosaic hops, and then the beer is dry-hopped with more Mosaic and Simcoe.

Mosaic is widely known as a hop variety that imparts tropical aromas and flavors, but Pecoraro says that the brewery seeks out harvested lots that impart berry, including candied blueberry, flavors. This is something that the hop was known for earlier but can be difficult to find. Paired with a pine-forward Simcoe hop, Pecoraro believes the 6.9%-alcohol-by-volume (abv) IPA has struck the right hop balance.

The Making of Power Tools

Industrial Arts Power Tools
Image Courtesy of Industrial Arts Brewing

“Power Tools is the culmination of my life’s journey,” says Jeff O’Neil, the founder and brewer at Industrial Arts Brewing Co.

And it’s quickly gaining critical acclaim. Power Tools has received top honors, including three years in a row at the New York State Craft Beer Competition. O’Neil says the beer has also made it into the final round at the annual Great American Beer Festival but has been knocked for not being bitter enough.

“Some people think that’s a big, important part of it,” he says. “I like a lot of the other expressions of hops beyond the bitterness, and I think that has changed for me over time.”

Power Tools uses Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe, Citra, T-45, T-90, CO2 extract hops and cryo hops through the various parts of the brewing process.

“We’re pushing about five pounds a barrel of hops, so it’s a generous usage. But it’s not over usage. It’s judicious usage,” he says. “That heavy-handedness does not result in a very bitter beer.”

The 7.1%-abv IPA uses 92% pilsner malt and 8% Munich malt. It is fermented with Chico yeast, a classic strain that is well-suited to hoppy beers. It has aromas of peach and pine, grapefruit and pineapple and a little dankness.

The Bottom Line

These two beers represent the time, ingenuity and commitment to a process that makes American beer great and well respected. Each evolves in the glass and surprises and delights the palate.

“Process is really the critical thing,” says O’Neil. “You don’t wake up one morning knowing how to do this. You have to fail at it. You have to make some bad beers, you have to make some bad decisions [and] you have to lose a punch. You can make great beer at home in a plastic bucket if your process is tight.”

Ultimately, the 100-point beers embrace traditional IPA roots but use modern processes and ingredients to achieve perfect balance and showcase nuance. We’ll drink to that!

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Tom Hanks Mixed Diet Coke with Champagne and We Have Feelings Fri, 13 Jan 2023 16:55:45 +0000 The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Tom Hanks during Monday’s January 9, 2023 show. Photo: Scott Kowalchyk/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Image Courtesy of Scott Kowalchyk / CBS

Actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks can do just about anything, and he recently added making a viral cocktail to his list of accomplishments. While chatting with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the actor revealed that he had accidentally invented a new cocktail: a concoction of Diet Coke and Champagne, which he named “Diet Cokagne.” And though we love him for trying, Wine Enthusiast staff have some thoughts about this new cocktail.

And by thoughts, we mean strong stances. Some wondered if this was a questionable play on Pepsi’s holiday campaign around “Pilk”—that’s a mixture of milk and Pepsi—while others were simply dumbfounded by the combination. Some were not-so-slightly heartbroken by Hanks’s unconventional use of a pricey bottle.

“You have Diet Coke, and then you’re introducing something that has sugar and effervescence in it, so what are you really chasing here?” says Wine Enthusiast Tasting Director Anna-Christina Cabrales. She also takes issue with the (mis)use of such a nice bottle of bubbly.

“You’re taking something completely dry and pairing it with artificial sweeteners and then adding a product that required years to be made,” Cabrales continues. “With Champagne, I give it so much respect simply because it takes years to produce.”

“You want to enjoy the nuances of Champagne,” she adds. “Why kill them?”

Next time, Cabrales suggests that Hanks pair his go-to Diet Coke with a bottle of Prosecco or a domestic sparkling wine instead.

“If it’s just a fancy feeling you’re going for and that brings you joy, go for it,” Cabrales says. “But there are other sparkling wines out there that are more affordable, can do something similar, may not be nearly as nuanced and can do the same thing for you.”

Where Did Diet Cokagne Come From?

During the interview with Colbert, the talk show host asked Hanks to elaborate on his new “Hanks family tradition.” Hanks explained that the drink’s invention took place at The Café Carlyle Jazz Restaurant in New York City. Hanks and his crew “had a celebratory bottle of Champagne brought by,” although Hanks clarified that he isn’t typically a “big drinker” and usually opts for a Diet Coke.  

But, as the servers walked around pouring Champagne flutes for his family, Hanks said, “Oh, give me a shot of Champagne in there for fun.” Everybody around him told him he was “insane,” but he wanted to celebrate with his family. “Stephen, it was delicious,” Hanks said as the audience erupted in laughter. 

“We have a Tom Collins. We have a Tom Hanks,” Colbert said in reply. But Hanks rejected the name, saying that he’d already dubbed the combo “Diet Cokagne.” And thus, a legendary new drink was born.

How Do You Make a Diet Cokagne?

Colbert and Hanks sampled the concoction live on television together. Hanks noted that he opts for Diet Coke because he’s type-2 diabetic. “What better for type-2 diabetes than a little shot of Champagne in your Diet Coke?” he joked.

Hanks explained how to make the drink: Fill your glass with about one-third of the Diet Coke can, or “any Cola product.” Then, top the rest of the glass with Champagne.

“It’s like an American Aperol Spritz,” Colbert jabbed.

How Does a Diet Cokagne Taste?

Champagne and Coke
Image Courtesy of Rachel Tepper Paley

According to Hanks, the combo is delicious. Even Colbert seemed surprised to report that it wasn’t awful. After mouthing “Wow,” to Hanks, the actor responded, “How about that? Everyone at the table tried it and said, ‘Ooh, you know what Dad? That’s pretty good.'”

Colbert agreed. “It’s strangely, strikingly, shamefully good, because it’s so refreshing,” he said.

If that wasn’t enough, TODAY With Hoda and Jenna co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager took on the drink, too. The two less than enthusiastically poured their own glasses to see how it would taste.

“It’s kind of good,” Kotb said, looking surprised. Hager agreed, adding, “Wait a minute. It’s like a Coke float.” The two said though they wouldn’t make the drink again, it tastes “not as sweet” as classic Coke.  Finally, Hager joked, “Tom Hanks can do anything.”

After all that hype, Wine Enthusiast Digital Managing Editor Rachel Tepper Paley decided to put the combo to the test. “I struggle with a somewhat shameful Diet Coke habit, and I had a split of cava knocking around, so I figured why not?” She reports that the drink was especially fizzy at first pour, but seemed to lose effervescence rather quickly. It did look rather nice in a long Tom Collins glass, though.

“For a second, I thought Hanks might be onto something,” she says. Then she took a sip. “Look, I’m not trying to yuck anyone’s yum here, but it’s giving Red Bull and Coke. More power to you if that’s your jam, but I’ll drink my Diet Coke and sparkling wine separately from here on out, thanks very much.”

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A Wine Lover’s Guide to Bosnia Thu, 12 Jan 2023 22:02:26 +0000 vineyard in Bosnia

Waterfalls, mountainsides, rivers and one of the only remaining primeval forests in Europe make up Bosnia. Though officially named Bosnia and Herzegovina (with Bosnia in the north and Herzegovina in the south), this country is one of the continent’s most underrated adventure gems.

But many don’t know it’s a wine lover’s paradise and there’s great opportunity to enjoy Bosnia wine. Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to a several thousand-year-old winemaking culture, two wine-producing regions, a few dozen commercial wineries and plenty of eateries that boast stand-out drinks lists.

Today, many of the region’s wineries grow indigenous grapes like the white Žilavka and red varieties of Blatina. Additionally, they grow Vranac, a varietal believed to be indigenous to Macedonia but popular across the Balkan Peninsula. Ready to get exploring?


Begin your journey in the capital, Sarajevo. Here, you’ll sample the country’s range of Bosnia wine through its restaurants and wine bars. From there, it’s easy to get to Bosnia’s wine country.


Just to the north of the city center, you’ll find Sarajevo’s only vineyard. Owner Arman Galicic planted it in 2008 to prove vines could grow on Sarajevo’s northern slopes. When he saw the success of the vineyard, he named it Inat, or “in spite.”

Along with the vineyards, you can also explore the fine-dining restaurant, Hedona, and the reservation-only wine club and dining event. Hedona’s wine list specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Pair these bottles with Galicic’s daughter’s “slow-cooked” and Bosnian-focused dishes such as sous vide lamb, creamy local cheeses, cured sheep sausage and pistachio and cream cheese ravioli.

Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.

Dekanter Wine Bar

Along with elegant decor and comfortable seating, this wine bar has one of the larger selections in the city center. Many of Sarajevo’s restaurants serve wine in single-serve bottles. But Dekanter offers a wide range of traditional bottles and pours by the glass from over 180 international and domestic labels like Château Cissac in France, Edi Simčič in Slovenia and Carska in Bosnia.

La Cava

Right next to Baščaršija, the Turkish-style market and medieval neighborhood where this Ottoman empire city started, is La Cava. This spot serves bottles from domestic wineries like Vukoje and Nuić and red varietals from southern Italy like Negroamaro and Nero d’Avola. La Cava bartenders are also known for their cocktails, and, while the mojito is a stand-out, they will custom-make drinks on request.

Sarajevo Brewing

On the southern side of the Miljacka river that divides the city, Sarajevo Brewing is a beacon for beer lovers. The brewery serves up malt-forward beers and its own soft drinks in an opera house-like setting. Along with the range of lagers and a Radler, the brewery offers a robust, unfiltered beer on-site. The restaurant serves up pasta and steak dishes.


When you’re ready to move from the city to the wine regions, consider the two-and-a-half-hour train ride from Sarajevo to Mostar in Herzegovina. Named one of Europe’s top 10 most beautiful train journeys, the route hugs mountains and clings to cliffs on the way to the wine region. From there, it’s best to explore Mostar by car and four of the area’s wineries are less than an hour’s drive.

Vino Brkic

Brkic Winery family
Image Courtesy of Brkic Winery

Vino Brkic is the first winery in Herzegovina that produces wines organically and biodynamically. This third-generation winery’s first completely organic wine, Moonwalker, was created around the moon’s phases. Owner Josip Brkic also encourages visitors to try their different styles of Žilavka and Blatina, aged in Bosnian oak.

Vinarija Marijanović

Vineyard Marijanovic
Image Courtesy of Irfan Redzovic

Down the road, Vinarija Marijanović is a fourth-generation family winery. Josip Marijanović grew up in the vineyard with his grandfather and father before studying winemaking. “It’s just in our blood,” he says. Guests can enjoy their Žilavka, a dry white wine, but Marijanović says not to miss their 33 Barrique, an equal parts blend of Blatina, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. They have an onsite hotel scheduled to open later in 2023.


Just a ten-minute drive from Vinarija Marijanović is Rubis, a winery owned by three childhood friends. They focus on producing both domestic Blatina and Žilavka as well as international varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Co-owner Oliver Mandarić praises the mild Mediterranean climate, particularly in the drier vineyards where Žilavka shines.

Vino Milas

Vino Milas is less than an hour’s drive from Mostar. The Milas family first planted grapes in 1892 and used traditional methods until the move to mechanized planting in 2004. “Every bottle that goes out there is a little part of us,” says owner Tomislav Milas. The winery focuses on Žilavka, Blatina and Merlot.


In the limestone karst hills of the country’s southernmost corner is Trebinje, a two-hour drive from Mostar and less than an hour from Dubrovnik, Croatia.


Vukoje winery is a must-visit in the region. The winery is home to historic acreage that the Austro-Hungarian monarchy chose for the imperial vineyards in 1894. Look out over the vineyards while enjoying locally-sourced cheeses, fish and pasta as you sip their signature Žilavka, Vranac Reserve or Merlot that owner and winemaker Radovan Vukoje pours regularly.

Tvrdoš Monastery

A 15th-century Orthodox church with 4th-century foundations, Tvrdoš Monastery has been making wine on site for centuries. Visitors can view vivid murals in the cathedral before trying the eight varietals made by monks in its cellars, including the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Vranac.

Anđelić Wine Cellar

The Anđelić family has produced wine and brandy in the region for over a century. Two miles from the Trebinje city center, Anđelić Wine Cellar offers Žilavka, Vranac, Lira, Žirado, Tribun and Mičevac varieties. The family is currently restoring their historic vineyards that used to have over 26,000 vines.

How to Get Around Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s Wine Country

Beyond the scenic train from Sarajevo to Mostar, driving is the easiest way to get around.

Car rentals are an excellent option. Mostar’s airport has a large supply of rental cars, but Enterprise and others are available throughout the city. Sarajevo also has a range of rental car choices. Driving is on the same side of the road and U.S.

Herzegovina has several tours for the region’s wine route, starting in Sarajevo, Mostar, or even Dubrovnik, Croatia. Funky Tours hosts a day of wine tasting around Mostar, visiting Vino Brkic and Marijanović, among others. Hit Booker day tour stops at three Herzegovina wineries and the Kravica waterfalls.

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Three Wineries Ushering In a New Era of Armenian Winemaking Thu, 12 Jan 2023 17:27:25 +0000 Voskeni Wines
Image Courtesy of Voskeni Wines

While Armenia might be considered a young wine region, the country has some of the oldest winemaking traditions.

Findings in the Areni Cave, located in southwestern Armenia, suggest that the country’s winemaking industry may be more than 6,000 years old. Excavations in Karmir Blur, also known as Red Hill, in the capital of Yerevan reveal carbonized grape seeds and vessels for storing wine called pithoi-karases that date back to 7th century B.C.E. Today, the Erebuni Historical and Archaeological Museum continues to excavate and shed light on Armenia’s winemaking past.

But the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the formation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia in 1922 interrupted the culture’s longstanding winemaking tradition. During the 70 years under Soviet rule, 95% of grapes grown in Armenia were used for fortified wines and brandy, according to Viticulture and Winemaking in Armenia by Avag Harutyunyan.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and Armenia gained its independence in 1991, many of the country’s winemakers started to look for their roots and take steps toward reestablishing the country’s wine industry. Here’s a look at three wineries that are pioneering a new history of Armenian winemaking both at home and abroad.

Maran Winery

Vayots Dzor, Armenia

Maran Winery in Artabuynq
Image Courtesy of Maran Winery

According to the family, Maran Winery started in 1828 with the repatriation of founders, Sargis and Maran Harutyunyan, to Armenia from Persia—where their ancestors were forcefully relocated by the order of King Shah Abbas in the 1600s.

They planted a vineyard in Artabuynq, a village hidden in the mountains of Vayots Dzor province in southern Armenia. Later, in 1860 their son Harutyun established the first semi-industrial wine press in the country and expanded what his parents started into a full-fledged winery, naming it Maran as a tribute to his mother.

But in the 1920s as part of the USSR collectivization, Maran became part of the state. The family stopped all operations.

Several decades later, Avag Harutunian, an heir of the Maran family, decided to restore his family’s legacy. And in 1992, he produced the first wine of the reestablished Maran Winery—Noravank, using Armenia’s indigenous Areni grape. Four years later, Maran Winery joined efforts with French-Armenian investors and exported a small quantity of Noravank to France and other countries.

“Maran was the first one promoting the significance of aboriginal varieties as a cornerstone of Armenia’s terroir-based winemaking future,” says Frunz Harutunian, who oversees winemaking operations.

Avag Harutunian is still finding new ways to shine the spotlight on Armenia’s indigenous grapes. For instance, its Malahi wines—so-called after an old name of the indigenous grape Areni—blend some of Armenia’s grapes with more common varieties like Malbec and Aligoté. And in 2021, the Harutunian family was able to obtain part of their ancestor’s original vineyard in Artabuynq. They plan on harvesting grapes from it in the coming years.

The winery is also looking to the future and experimenting with growing grapes between 6,725 and 6,791 feet-above sea level to explore growing opportunities in an industry contending with climate change. They say they won’t be using any herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in an effort to move towards green agriculture and biodynamic farming

Voskeni Wines 

Ararat Valley, Armenia

Voskeni Winery
Image Courtesy of Voskeni Winery

Smbat Matevosyan started growing grapes in the Ararat Valley after immigrating from Boston to Armenia after World War I.

But in the 1920s, after the Russian revolution and the reign of Bolsheviks, Matevosyan was arrested. He was an active member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and when Soviet authorities searched his house they found a photograph of him wearing an ARF pin on his chest. He was taken away and later killed.

But decades later, his heirs discovered documents among his possessions that showed where he had bought the land all those years ago. The Mkrtchyan family—changed from the original Matevosyan, to avoid further persecution—visited the village in 2009 and found Smbat’s original 54-acre vineyard. The family was able to buy some land back and establish a winery. The name, Voskeni, is a combination of Armenia’s indigenous varietals: Voskehat and Areni.

Today, Voskeni Wines produces 150,000 bottles per year, with eight types of wines being exported to Baltic countries, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, the U.S. and Russia.

“When we first started to cultivate vineyards here, 95% of the valley was focused on growing grapes for brandy production,” says Ararat Mkrtchyan, co-founder of Voskeni Wines. “Now all the surrounding villages are actively switching to winemaking instead of distilling. Moreover, Voskeni is a local educational center where young and talented people are being introduced to winemaking.”

Every year, students aged 16 and older from the nearby villages can start working in the vineyard and are introduced to winery operations. At the end of the program, one or two students are offered a full-time job.

Today, you can recognize Voskeni Wines by the label—the last-known picture of Smbat.

Agajanian Vineyards and Wine Company

Napa Valley

Some 7,000 miles from Armenia, winemaker Ardash Agajanian started his own vine-growing legacy in California in 1914. After escaping the genocide, Ardash Agajanian was hired to work at Mission Bell Winery, an Armenian-owned operation in Madera, California.

Eight years later, he bought his own land, planting 40 acres of wine grapes, raisin grapes, fruits and walnuts. His grandson, Gary Agajanian, later bought another plot and continued the family’s legacy by growing grapes to make wine at Agajanian Vineyards and Wine Company.

In his first vineyard, the younger Agajanian planted a Zinfandel block—which he named Moush Zinfandel, after the city in Armenia—and produced his first wine in 1998. The label featured his father’s painting of a sailing ship, representing the family’s journey and hardship. The bottle scored 88 points from Wine Enthusiast, convincing him to expand the family business. 

Today, Agajanian and his team are eager to contribute to the Armenian winemaking conversation and shed a spotlight on the culture’s winemaking heritage. To that end, they’re currently experimenting with growing native Armenian varieties such as Tozot, Khndoghni, Haghtanak and Voskehat, among others. They plan on presenting wines made with these grapes to the U.S. market in the upcoming years.

“The wisdom passed down from my grandfather, through my father, is a legacy of honoring our creator and family,” explains Agajanian. Through it all, he’s reminded of three things that he believes define Armenian winemaking. “Strong work ethic, traditions and innovation,” he says.

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The Unexpected Story Behind the First American Single Malt Wed, 11 Jan 2023 20:05:25 +0000 Single_Malt_Scotch_Pour_GettyImages-1250586743_1920x1280

Distiller Steve McCarthy, who died January 2, just five days before his 80th birthday, was well-known as the founder of Portland, Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery. He was one of the early pioneers of the modern craft distillery movement.

Specifically, McCarthy is known for his work making fruit brandies in the style of Europe’s eau de vie, from a fully American-made version of pear-in-the-bottle Poire Williams to a bracing Douglas Fir brandy beloved by bartenders.

Yet, what many may not realize was McCarthy’s key role in paving the way for American single-malt whiskey.

“There is no shortage of seminal figures in the rise of American single malt, but few would argue that Steve McCarthy was its true godfather,” says Steve Hawley, president of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission. “We simply wouldn’t be where we are today as a category if he hadn’t laid the groundwork.”

McCarthy didn’t set out to be a distiller. He graduated from NYU Law School, then returned to Oregon to work in government and public service. Later, he took over his father’s manufacturing business, which frequently brought him to Europe. Fortuitously, that was where he learned about the fruit brandies known as schnapps or eau de vie.

He launched Clear Creek in 1985, as a way to rescue his family’s Hood River orchards, turning the Barlett pears grown there into American brandy. Acquiring a still from Germany and learning distillation techniques with the help of then-St. George distiller Jörg Rupf, McCarthy melded European traditions with American ingredients.

A decade later, he would do the same with another European spirit: Scotch single-malt whisky.

The project began in Ireland, says Joe O’Sullivan, Master Distiller for Clear Creek and Hood River Distillers, who worked with McCarthy for over a decade. There, a rainy night provided an excuse to spend time with a friend and their extensive Scotch collection, leading to an epiphany: “He said, what if I made a version of this using Oregon ingredients?”

The end result was McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt, which debuted in 1996, the first known American single malt.

Steve McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery, Portland, Oregon.
Image Courtesy of Clear Creek Distillery

Peated Scotch provided the inspiration; in a 2011 interview with Wine Enthusiast, McCarthy specifically cited Lagavulin 16 year. As someone who liked to unravel complex problems and “support the underdog,” O’Sullivan says, he was well-positioned to take on the challenge of building an American single malt, step by step.

At first, he imported peated malt from Scotland, distilling and aging it in Oregon. Later, he worked with Portland’s Widmer Brewing to make a smoky beer to distill into whiskey and contacted Oregon coopers to make barrels from local garryana oak, another local input.

“He didn’t understand he was launching a category,” O’Sullivan continues. “At that time, he was just making a whiskey he liked and hoped other people would appreciate it. He wasn’t trying to disrupt the category. He just had a passion about it.”

He did, however, inspire many others to create American single malts.

“In the 1990s, McCarthy [created an] Oregon single-malt whiskey before any other American producer had done so, and I truly believe that Steve’s vision created one of the foundational brands of American whiskey,” says Rebecca Harris, president of American Craft Spirits Association and president and head distiller of Virginia craft distillery Catoctin Creek.

“Back when Scott [Harris] and I started Catoctin Creek in 2009, there were not as many role models for a new distillery. Steve McCarthy’s vision, both in his work creating Clear Creek brandies and McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt was really influential on us, and on hundreds of other distilleries over the past 25 years.” He “laid the foundation” for American single malt, she adds.

In 2014, McCarthy sold Clear Creek to Hood River Distillers and moved on to other pursuits. However, his legacy as one of the originators of American craft distilling—and American single malt in particular— lives on today.

What would McCarthy say of his considerable contribution to the American single-malt category? O’Sullivan suggests that “he would downplay it,” in his typical modest and soft-spoken fashion, but might show a measure of “end-stage fatherly pride,” aware of what he had created.

“It’s not that he shepherded the category as a whole, but being the beginning of it is very special,” O’Sullivan says. “Steve would look at American single malt now and realize it was living a larger life than he ever allowed himself.”

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Wineries, Breweries and Beyond: A Drinker’s Guide to Nelson County, Virginia Wed, 11 Jan 2023 16:37:59 +0000 Hazy Mountain Vineyards
Tasting Room and Villa / Image Courtesy of Hazy Mountain Vineyards

While heading from I-64 to Route 29 in Virginia or visiting one of the state’s ski resorts (yes, Virginia has ski resorts!), you may encounter bustling Virginia State Route 151, which runs through a small portion of Nelson County, Virginia. Though once a rural passthrough, it’s now home to one of Virginia’s best-kept secrets for drink lovers.

Nelson County’s wine-soaked ascension arguably began in 2001, when Veritas Winery produced its first vintage. Within a decade, breweries, cideries and other drinks spots started popping up. And today, the area dubbed the Nelson 151 is home to seven wineries, four breweries, three cideries and three distilleries, making it an exceptional stop for those looking for a weekend getaway off bustling Virginia State Route 151.

Ready to get explore? From places to eat and drink to places to stay, here’s everything to experience when visiting the Nelson 151 trail.

WIld Mnad Dan Brewery
Image Courtesy of Wild Man Dan Brewery

Beer and Cider Stops

WildMadDan Brewery

Afton, Virginia

Although the location is tiny, WildManDan Brewery offers big flavor. Husband and wife team Dan and Terri Tatarka draw inspiration from brews they enjoy during their travels, then use local ingredients to recreate their own version back home, which they brew in 10-gallon batches. Look for the Chai Laxin (a tongue-in-cheek way to say “chillaxin’”), an English brown ale with flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and ginger. The offering is meant to evoke teatime in London.

A seat at the bar, housed in a former 1900s feed store, showcases an upright piano turned kegerator, which Dan Tatarka—a former fiber optic engineer—constructed himself. The farmhouse, built in 1870, also serves as a bed and breakfast; an overnight stay includes a beer tasting.

Bold Rock Cider Barn 

Nellysford, Virginia

In 2010, John Washburn, a Virginia farmer, and Brian Shanks, a New Zealand cidermaker, joined forces to begin producing hard cider. Today, the operation produces craft beverages using locally-sourced apples. With outposts at both ends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the flagship Bold Rock location on the Nelson 151 route features a distillery that makes spirits with flavors of spiced peach and cinnamon apple. Also on offer? Easy-drinking canned cocktails that are not to be missed.

Blue Toad Hard Cider

Roseland, Virginia

Blue Toad Hard Cider sources a blend of apple varieties from Nelson County and Western New York. Look for their Barrel Aged Series of small-batch, exclusive ciders and their award-winning dry cider, Granny Smith.

In addition, unlike many other locations on the route, their property is flat, which enables a panoramic view of the mountains from every vantage point.

Bold Rock Cider Barn
Image Courtesy of Bold Rock Cider Barn

Distillery Stops

Silverback Distillery

Afton, Virginia

Helmed by a mother-and-daughter duo, Silverback Distillery aims to create flavorful spirits using mountain water and locally-sourced grain. Consistent favorites are their 4-Grain Straight Bourbon, Blackback Honey Rye and Strange Monkey Gin, which they claim puts the “gin” in Virginia.

Stop by to taste their cocktail flights or sit at the bar to drink a whiskey served neat.

Verias Wines
Image Courtesy of Vertas Wines

Winery Stops

Veritas Winery

Afton, Virginia

After falling in love with the area, Andrew and Patricia Hodson decided to buy a small farm in 1998. That  purchase quickly turned into a passion project for the entire family. With their daughter Emily Hodson serving as lead winemaker, Veritas Winery produced its first vintage in 2001. Due to the beautiful landscape, visitors tend to linger at the winery and vineyards, sipping wine and sampling Veritas-made charcuterie.

A cottage and farmhouse rooms are available for those wishing to stay overnight.

Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery

Afton, Virginia

Looking for a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to go alongside your wine or beer? Hazy Mountain truly delivers. One of the newer stops on the Nelson 151 route, this location opened in 2019.

Sip varietals such as the operation’s 2018 Dry Riesling and 2019 Petit Verdot, via a flight or a guided wine tasting. If you prefer hoppy beverages, sample its take on Hefeweizen or select a seasonal brew, such as Spiced Ale. Feeling peckish? Hazy Mountain has a curated selection of light bites should you arrive hungry.

Flying Fox Vineyard and Winery

Afton, Virginia

Perhaps the most Instagrammable location on the route, Flying Fox Vineyard and Winery is easily recognized by its large outdoor mural that beckons visitors from Route 151. Although the winery started in 2001, Emily Hodson—also the lead winemaker and co-owner at Veritas—came on board in 2006 and now co-owns Flying Fox. Try their experimental Sly Fox sub-label, which focuses on vermouth, orange wine and bourbon barrel-aged wine.

Flying Fox Vineyards
Image Courtesy of Flying Fox Vineyards

Restaurants With Outstanding Beverage Lists

Devils Backbone Brewing Company

Roseland, Virginia

Named after a local mountain ridge, Devils Backbone was initially inspired by a beer that founders Steve and Heidi Crandall tasted on a trip to the Alps. The brewpub in 2008.

Today, the Devils Backbone property includes multiple on-site eateries, a cigar bar and a distillery lounge, where you can sample house-made gin, rum, bourbon and whiskey. Menus include classic brewpub apps, such as a wood-fired pretzel, plus infused options, like the macaroni with Vienna lager beer cheese and a burger topped with hop-brined pickles.

Besides Devils Backbone’s craft beverages, they also offer other locally-made options from Potter’s Craft Cider in nearby Charlottesville and a vast lineup of California wines.

Blue Mountain Brewery
Image Courtesy of Tom Daly

Blue Mountain Brewery

Afton, Virginia

Blue Mountain Brewery, opened in 2007, offers a hearty selection of dishes. With an emphasis on casual fare that pairs well with the operation’s housemade beers, the items include beer-boiled local bratwurst, paninis stuffed with fried green tomatoes and burgers anointed with sticky-sweet bourbon bacon jam. In addition, the brewery offers eight to 10 of their brews on tap, plus wine, cider and kombucha produced in Afton and Charlottesville, Virginia. 

If you are in town on a Wednesday, stop in for happy hour from 5 to 9 p.m. The brewery also has live music every Friday night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Depending on the weather, you can enjoy your drinks indoors, out on the patio, or cozied up by the outdoor fire pit.

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The Top American Wines for $25 or Less Wed, 11 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 3 Bottles of wine on a designed background
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Sometimes a pricey wine is worth the investment. After all, a more expensive pick often means a better-quality pour. But when you want to open a bottle on a more casual evening, or don’t want to spend the cash, there are still some very good options out on the market that won’t break the bank.

There are, of course, great options from abroad, like fantastic wallet-conscious Spanish Tempranillo or Burgundy wines on a budget. But there are also some great picks hailing from right here in the U.S. Below, our experts share their top 10 picks for the best U.S. wines for $25 or less, so you can stock up on budget bottles to balance out your wine collection.

The Best U.S. Wines for $25 or Less

Top Up-and-Coming White Under $25: Joyce 2021 Albariño (Arroyo Seco)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Much of this year’s bottling comes from Russell Joyce’s recently acquired vineyard, and it bodes well for the future. Aromas of honeysuckle, wet cement and lime blossom pop on the nose, while a very grippy tension carries flavors of broad lime, rainy sidewalk and soda-water flavors. It’s stony and acidic. —Matt Kettmann


Best White Under $25: Trig Point 2020 Signpost Chardonnay (Russian River Valley)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Luxurious in texture and ripe in flavor, this well-oaked and nicely buttery wine from winemaker Nick Goldschmidt exudes richness from the first whiff of caramel to the flavors of poached pear to a lingering finish. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine went through full malolactic to soften and enhance the butter, and then aged in oak barrels for nine months. —Jim Gordon


Most Reliable Under $25: Kendall-Jackson 2020 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay (California)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

This medium-bodied, barrel-fermented wine offers light, toasted oak aromas, attractive baked apple flavors and accents of butter and vanilla. Good balance keeps it going sip after sip, revealing spice and almond nuances. —J.G.


Best Sweet Wine Under $25: Hermann J. Wiemer 2020 Late Harvest Riesling (Seneca Lake)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

Sourced from a blend of estate sites, this late-harvest Riesling offers aromas of pithy grapefruit, pineapple and peach on the nose. The rounded palate displays bright tropical and stone fruit flavors matched by lemon and honey. It ends bright, lifted and juicy thank to refreshing acidity. —Alexander Peartree

$29.99 Vivino

Best Red Under $25: Sebastiani 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Dark fruits and a silky texture combine elegantly in this full-bodied but sleek wine. Ripe black cherries and plump blueberries are lightly accented by mint and cocoa as mild tannins keep it smooth through the finish. —J.G.

$13.86 Vivino

Best Napa Chardonnay Under $25: Jax 2021 Y3 Chardonnay (Napa Valley)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Fermented in concrete and then aged in neutral oak, this value-minded white is impressive. Bright and fresh in good acidity, it has light layers of lemon and pineapple that deliver plenty of flavor in an elegant package. —Virginie Boone

$26.64 Vivino

Best Up-and-Coming Red Under $25: Tooth Nail 2019 Squad Series Tempranillo (Paso Robles)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

This bottling shows deep concentration. Aromas of mesquite-smoked black cherry gain pepper and tar accents on the nose. There is ample tension to the thick palate, where leathery tannins surround dark fruit and roasted oak flavors. —M.K.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Best Oregon Wine Under $25: King Estate 2021 Sauvignon Blanc (Oregon)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a delightful offering. Light aromas of melon, fresh herb, lemon and candied ginger lead to broad-feeling, fleshy flavors. Tart acidity ties it all together. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had. —Sean P. Sullivan

$20 Vivino

Top California Sauvignon Blanc Under $25: Tribute 2021 Sauvignon Blanc (California)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

A full body and rich texture carry ripe, fruity and savory flavors from honeydew melon to golden apple and hints of straw and almond. It’s a big, smooth and concentrated wine. —J.G.

$13.99 Vivino

Top New York Chardonnay Under $25: Heron Hill 2018 Reserve Macri Vineyard Oaked Chardonnay (Finger Lakes)

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

Ripe pear and yellow apple meet juicy lemon and gentle warm spice on the nose. Broad and textured on the palate, it melds ripe fruit tones with easy toast and butter elements, yielding a cohesive outcome that will please many. —A.P.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher


Can a Budget Wine Still Be Good?

Absolutely! “Twenty-five dollars is a high enough price point that you’ve got lots of options. You can kind find some really good wines at $25 and under,” says Jim Gordon, senior tasting editor at Wine Enthusiast. “They’re not cheap wines, they can be pretty good wines.”

How Do You Choose a Great Budget Wine?

Choose a bottle that features lesser-known varieties, suggests Gordon. This is because some of the more popular varieties tend to be low quality when purchased at a low price. For whites, this often means varieties like Albariño, Grüner Veltliner or Riesling. Some great red options include Grenache, Merlot or Syrah, he adds.

“If there’s not that good of a demand for them, the price tends to be lower,” he says.

Additionally, if you have a brand or winemaker you know you already enjoy, look at their other varieties of wine available at lower price points. Chances are, they’ll make a similar quality wine across the board—and you’ll probably like it, Gordon says.

“Avoid gimmicky packaging and trendy-sounding names. Those are marketing efforts to suck in the consumer, get your attention and convince you to buy it. It’s no guarantee the wine is going to be excellent,” Gordon warns.

But if you want to stick to some of your favorite grapes, like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, opt for a bottle produced in a lesser-known wine region. “Try places where the local economics or lack of global demand is working in the favor of the consumer,” Gordon suggests. These may include Lodi or Monterey in California, New York State, Virginia or Columbia Valley in Washington and Oregon.

Finally, Gordon suggests checking online ratings, asking friends for suggestions or chatting with the staff at a good wine shop for additional ideas.

Why Should You Trust Us?

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Actor and Winery Owner Sam Neill Has Strong Feelings About New Zealand Pinot Wed, 11 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 Episode 131 - Actor and Winery Owner Sam Neill Talks New Zealand Wine
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Celebrity wine labels have become increasingly popular throughout the years, but Sir Sam Neill was ahead of the curve. When the award-winning actor isn’t fighting dinosaurs on the silver screen, he’s overseeing his New Zealand winery.

Writer at Large Christina Pickard sits down with the renowned actor to talk about his award-winning wine label, Two Paddocks.

Sourced from four estate vineyards in New Zealand’s Central Otago wine region, Two Paddocks specializes in organic and biodynamic Pinot Noir and Riesling.

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How Low Yields Are Spurring Texas Winemakers’ Creativity Tue, 10 Jan 2023 19:25:18 +0000 A cut of of texas with a vineyard inside being covered by a heatwave
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“Towards the beginning of the year, we were extremely optimistic,” says Akhil Reddy, CEO of Reddy Vineyards in the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), of 2022. “But it’s been another roller coaster.”

Eighty-five percent of Texas wine grapes are grown in the state’s High Plains AVA. However, 2022’s harvest presented multiple challenges, including relentless heat, drought, high winds and other cumulative environmental factors, to name a few. For many growers, yields are down—and for some it’s as much as 60%.

Reddy Family - Akhil Reddy, Subada Reddy, and Dr. Vijay Reddy
Images Courtesy of Reddy Vineyards

Reddy explains that when yields are low, costs aren’t covered, which means it’s difficult to turn a profit. For smaller vineyards, economic consequences can be significant. “Even with insurance, it’s more to get you to break even,” says Reddy.

But wine producers are choosing to focus on the grapes they did manage to harvest. And Randy Hester, owner and winemaker of C.L. Butaud Wines in Austin, predicts the bottles to come from the 2022 harvest will be “hedonistically pleasurable.”

Here’s a look at some of the many factors that impacted Texas’ grapes and how winemakers are getting creative with what they have.

Relentless Heat and Drought

In mid-June and July, average temperatures in Lubbock in the Texas High Plains exceeded 100°F for more than thirty days, reports the National Weather Service, topping a record dating from 1940 for July. The National Weather Service describes Texas as “at the epicenter of the heat for July 2022,” while other regions in the South and West also saw “some of their warmest/hottest Julys.”

The initial June heat wave shocked the vines, explains Nikhila Narra Davis, co-owner of Narra Vineyards in the High Plains and Kalasi Cellars in Fredericksburg. As high temperatures persisted, vines concentrated their energy on supporting the existing crop load, instead of pushing out new growth.

Additionally, a majority of locations off of the Caprock escarpment, which separates the High Plains from lower elevation areas to the east, received less than two inches of rain. This prolonged a drought that began in October of 2021, says Dr. Ed Hellman, professor of Viticulture and Enology at Texas Tech University in Fredericksburg. Reddy explains that dehydration had a particular impact on the volume of later bud breakers for grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Montepulciano, which are typically harvested in late September.

Vines also require moisture during winter dormancy. If root volume is depleted during winter due to lack of water, explains Dr. Hellman, vines can dry out, and that can delay bud break in the spring, which can lead to unpredictable ripening times later.

“We already focus on keeping yields low,” says Narra Davis, adding that with a few exceptions, she and co-owner Greg Davis typically try to cap at three tons per acre, dropping fruit prior to veraison to lower yields and improve flavor concentration. “But the drought made it to where it was rare that an acre produced more than one ton.”

The Dicamba Drift

Another critical factor impacting High Plains grapes is dicamba, an herbicide spray used by cotton producers.

Cotton is Texas’ largest crop, and the largest production area is in the High Plains. As reported in Texas Monthly, a 2016 iteration of dicamba promised to reduce the chemical’s ability to disperse, or volatize, in the air. However, dicamba drift is still causing stunted canopies, weakened vines and the death of younger vines, says Narra Davis.

According to Chris Brundrett, co-founder of William Chris Wine Co. in the Texas Hill Country AVA, dicamba weakens grapevines’ vascular systems.

Harvest Problems Beyond the High Plains

Yields in other parts of the state correlate with the diminished numbers in the High Plains. In North Texas, winemaker Chris McIntosh grows Albariño, Grenache and Tempranillo on the estate at Edge of the Lake Vineyard and Winery. In 2022, scant moisture and extreme heat led to variable ripening times, and McIntosh harvested six different times, twice for each varietal, depending on the age of the block.

“This has never happened before. We’ve always been able to ripen everything evenly,” says McIntosh.

The Fort Davis AVA in far west Texas is roughly a mile high, more than 1,000 feet higher than the Texas High Plains. Adam White, a grape grower and winemaker at Château Wright in Fort Davis, echoes Dr. Hellman’s concerns about irrigation during winter, noting yields have decreased by as much as 50% in 2022.

Exceptional Grapes Born Out of Difficult Circumstances

Dan and Maura Sharp checking on newly planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines at the couple’s mountainside vineyard
Image Courtesy of Manda Levy

Despite reduced yields, winemakers are poised for creative expansion as the grapes they were able to harvest are exceptional.

“Quality has been phenomenal because of small berry size, higher concentration and surprisingly mature seeds,” says Roxanne Myers, president of Lost Oak Winery and past president of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association.

“We have full phenolic ripening at lower Brix’s unmatched in my nine harvests in Texas. It’s exactly what we look for from a winemaking standpoint,” says Hester.

Ron Yates of C.L. Butaud Wines
Randy Hester of C.L. Butaud Wines predicts the bottles to come from the 2022 harvest will be “hedonistically pleasurable.” / Image Courtesy of C.L. Butaud Wines

“’The harvest was small, but great quality’ feels like a cliché,” says Maura Sharp, co-owner of Sharp Family Vineyards in Fort Davis.  “But what we did get was tannic, bright on sugar and maintained acidity beautifully, owing to our elevation… The skins are thick, berries are deep and rich in color.”

Ron Yates, co-owner and president of Ron Yates Wines and Spicewood Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country AVA, echos this sentiment, calling it “a tale of two harvests,” as “later-picked lots will produce some of the best wines we’ve ever made.”

Dan Gatlin, owner of Inwood Estates Vineyards in Fredericksburg, describes 2022’s Tempranillo as “outrageous,” having come in at .25 tons per acre.

“What there is of 2022 will be of a very high quality, with really high concentrations of flavor. The flip side is we’d love to have more of it,” says Gatlin.

New Challenges Mean New Rewards

Unlike previous years, sparkling wines and European-style field blends will have more prominence than usual in 2022’s vintages, according to Jason Centanni, winemaker of Llano Estacado Winery in the Texas High Plains. And Centanni is not alone.

For the first time ever, Hester is also making sparkling Grenache with grapes from Desert Willow Vineyard, where he typically sources Grenache and Mourvèdre for single-vineyard bottlings.

Both Hester and Yates note that keeping grapes on the vine for as long as possible to push for ripeness did not compromise acidity levels. Following a similar lead as Hester, Lood Kotze, winemaker for Reddy Vineyards, closely monitored ripening and harvest dates to ensure desirable acidity for the winery’s first estate sparkling wines using Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, both picked in the first days of harvest. Kotze notes that both are traditional Champagne varieties and so work well for this style.

William Chris is working on a sparkling Blanc Du Bois, and its forthcoming Uplift series will lean into Italian varieties like Aglianico, Sangiovese and Montepulciano—varieties that proved hardy in 2022.

Wineries are also taking new approaches to flagship bottles.

At Edge of the Lake, McIntosh harvested Grenache from three different sections of his estate vineyard, as extreme heat caused ripening to occur at different times. So, in addition to a flagship estate Grenache, it’ll be producing a brand-new wine called Youngblood, from younger vines. Younger Grenache will also offer McIntosh’s rosé more color and structure. 

For Yates, blending trials will include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

While this past year has been particularly difficult, Texas winemakers are accustomed to facing challenges.

“People in the industry want to raise the bar to make the best wines they can,” says Dr. Hellman. “And they spur each other on.”

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There’s More to Vineyard Pruning Contests Than Winning Tue, 10 Jan 2023 19:05:34 +0000 pruning shears snipping a grape vine
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Wine is, essentially, fermented grape juice. The actual journey from vine to fine wine, however, is not as straightforward. It entails countless steps, and while winemakers tend to get much of the credit, a large share of the work is often carried out by a skilled vineyard workforce.

Pruning, in particular, is a key step in the process. It’s a grueling job involving long hours of back-breaking cutting and tying down canes to ensure the desired quality and quantity of yields, as well as the plant’s wellbeing in years to come.

Pruning competitions are a worldwide phenomenon. But what are they exactly? Usually aimed at professional agricultural workers, they come in a diverse range of formats. Generally, these competitions entail a number of timed challenges undertaken by solo competitors or teams, with accuracy playing a key part in the final score. Glory and honor aside, winners may be rewarded with prizes such as professional tools, cash or other perks.

Providing vineyard workers with recognition is the principal purpose of these events. But the contests also shed light on an aspect of wine production often perceived as unglamorous in the hopes of inspiring a new generation of agricultural workers.

Here is a look at a diverse range of pruning contests around the world and their impact on the wine industry.​

The Human Factor

The South Australian State Pruning Championships has been around so long, people aren’t exactly sure when it started.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the exact starting year, but it was early in the 20th century,” says ​​​​Malcolm Parish, whose family has been involved in the championships since its inception. “It started as a competition to find the best pruners in the individual regions. Initially it covered fruit trees and vines, but now it’s only about vines.” ​​While the competition didn’t take place during either of the World Wars, it “came back in the late ‘40s and really gained popularity between the ‘50s and the ‘70s,” Parish says.

​​​​​The competition lost momentum in the following decades, as machine pruning became a more financially viable option. But a renewed interest i​n a ​more human approach to vineyard work prompted its return in 2012​ thanks to Parish himself, after a hiatus of nearly 30 years​.

pruning competition australia
Image Courtesy of Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association

Today, the Clare and the Barossa Valleys alternate each other as hosts. “This year’s winner is Laura McEwen, a Barossa pruning contractor originally from New Zealand,” says Parish, hailing the result as a highly meaningful event, as the pruning sector has been historically a male-dominated business.

One can also find pruning contests in California. They include the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, established in 2001, which aims to promote the area’s vineyard workers through education and professional development. One way the organization does this is through its annual pruning competition, which, while competitive, allows the region’s farming community to come together and celebrate their skills and expertise. The winner takes home a cash prize, vineyard tools and a large belt buckle.

The neighboring Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation has similar goals but a somewhat different approach. Its recognition program encourages employers to nominate their best vineyard workers. Awards are issued regularly throughout the year to acknowledge pruning excellence and several other skills.

“We have seen that these awards have an incredible impact on the vineyard workers” ​​​​says Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. “For many it may be the first time they are receiving formal recognition in front of their peers and families. Employers comment that it has helped their employees feel empowered and continue to take on additional leadership roles and opportunities.”

Shaping the Pruners of Tomorrow

The Saralee McClelland Kunde Memorial Sonoma County Youth Pruning Contest and Viticulture Challenge benefits the local industry by involving budding viticulturalists in California.

​​​​​Open to the region’s youth aged nine to 18, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau has run it for some 17 years. Depending on their age, participants prune three to five vines and are judged according to qualitative and chronological criteria. The contest also involves a Jeopardy-like challenge wherein kids answer questions on viticulture and on the local wine industry.

“Usually we have about 35 to 40 [contestants],” says Mia Stornetta, chair and former participant of the Farm Bureau. “Most youth that take part hear about the event through 4-H, FFA, school or family and friends that are in the wine business. Wine growing is such a key part of our local community so it’s great to get kids involved at a young age and when they’re interested in learning.”

By raising awareness within the younger generations, the competition aims to ensure the future viability of Sonoma’s vinegrowing sector. “These students are likely to continue their education and come back to the county to work within the industry. At this time, one in three jobs is related to the wine industry [here],” says Stornetta.

Indeed, not only are these contests a response to winegrowing’s fundamental role within their own respective regions’ economy, they document the wine industry’s global struggle to inspire new generations of agricultural workers.

“The industry is definitely lacking fresh legs and new interest,” says Joel Jorgensen, viticulturist at consultancy firm Vinescapes and judge for the U.K. Vine Pruning Championship. He cites that “there is only one college in the U.K. that teaches [wine] skills and more than half of its students go off to become winemakers and much less get into viticulture.”

Jorgensen argues that these competitions can help glamorize the viticultural aspect of wine production as well as ensure that current and future vineyard workers know that their work is respected and recognized.

“It’s to show a bit of appreciation for the people who do the pruning, and all those hard weeks of work in the coldest spells,” he says.

“In the depths of winter, come rain or shine, they do very incredibly hard manual labor and technical work,” Jorgensen continues. “That dictates not only next year’s yield, but also how long the vineyard is going to last and thrive. Pruning is probably the most important job of the year.”

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Drink This Now: Wine Vintages That Hit Their Peak This Year Mon, 09 Jan 2023 22:35:39 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
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It’s 2023, which means that deep in your cellar is a bottle just bursting with flavor, ready to finally be enjoyed this year. But don’t go into this experience unprepared. Opening a vintage wine after it has spent some much-needed time in storage is a very special experience; our wine experts are here to break down everything you need to know about choosing the best vintage to enjoy this year.

Of course, wines don’t really “peak” as much as they simply reach a point when they’re ready to be poured. “Very few wines have just a peak,” explains Jim Gordon, Senior Tasting Editor at Wine Enthusiast. “There’s not one month, one year you have to drink them. It’s more that they plateau.”

These wines “gain the complexity and nuances of age gradually and get to a point where the wine is in a balance between the complex nuances of age and still has some youthful fruitiness and freshness,” he continues.

With that in mind, here are 10 bottles that reach their potential in 2023. Are you ready to break into these vintages?

The Best Wine Vintages to Drink Now

Taittinger 2008 Comtes de Champagne Grands Crus Blanc de Blancs Brut Chardonnay (Champagne)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Coming entirely from Grand Cru vineyards in the Côte des Blancs, the new release of this famous Champagne is from a top vintage year. The wine is at perfect maturity, poised between crisp, taut minerality and wonderful toastiness. It is intense, beautifully clear and limpid, a great Champagne. It is ready to drink now and for many years to come. Cellar Selection Roger Voss

$229.99 Vivino

Produttori del Barbaresco 2013 Montefico Riserva (Barbaresco)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Still young but already boasting extraordinary pedigree, this fantastic wine opens with hallmark scents of wild berry, new leather, chopped herb, tilled soil and a whiff of violet. The polished, full-bodied palate delivers juicy wild cherry, crushed raspberry, white pepper and licorice while youthfully assertive, noble tannins and bright acidity provide age-worthy structure. A pipe tobacco note lingers on the finish. Drink 2023–2038. Cellar Selection —Kerin O’Keefe

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

CVNE 2011 Imperial Gran Reserva (Rioja)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a fabulous gran reserva from a very good but lightly heralded vintage. Aromas of spiced plum, black olive, fig, tobacco and cassis come together like a puzzle. A deep, pure palate shows near-perfect balance, while this tastes of plum, berry fruits and earthy spice. Smooth, elegant and chocolaty on the finish, this delivers all one can ask for from Rioja. Drink through 2035. #5 Enthusiast 100 2019. Cellar Selection —Michael Schachner


Yangarra 2015 Ironheart Shiraz (McLaren Vale)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

The Yangarra vineyards are just next door to Hickinbotham’s, yet the Shiraz here, grown in sandy, ironstone soils, is an entirely different beast. High-toned red currant, raspberry and plum fruit is wound with peppery spice and warm pavement nuances. Tannins are firm and powerful but tightly focused, supporting rather than overpowering the tangy red fruit. One for the cellar. Drink 2021–2034. Cellar Selection —Christina Pickard

$109.99 Total Wine & More

Nikolaihof 2002 Vinothek Riesling (Wachau)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

A teasing, flinty whiff of reduction beckons from the glass before the taut, fresh, poised but juicy palate hits you. The flavor is reminiscent both of baked and fresh apple, with a smooth lanolin tone. This is not only and elixir but a whole fountain of youth, a full-flavored jewel of a wine. Still slender, still vivid and like balm for the soul. If only we could age so gracefully. Editor’s Choice —Anne Krebiehl MW


Freemark Abbey 2005 Bosché Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Drier and earthier than many Napa Cabs these days, this wine has subtle sage and sweet licorice that grounds its fruitier flavors of blackberries, cherries and raspberries. Very beautiful are the tannins, which are rich and pure, suggesting perfect ripeness. The small Bosché bottling has been a premier one for the winery for many years, and this ’05 is one of the best in memory. Should age effortlessly for at least a dozen years. Cellar Selection.


Heitz 2012 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

This tremendous 100% varietal wine hails from Oakville and was aged over three years in oak. Juicy red-cherry fruit and a compelling hint of caramel greet the palate, framed by elegant, fine tannins and a subtle minty tone in the background. Balanced and rewarding from start to finish, it has years ahead of it to develop further nuance. Enjoy 2022–2030. Cellar Selection —Virginie Boone

$274.99 Vivino

Kistler 2015 Cuvée Cathleen Kistler Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Valley)

98 Points Wine Enthusiast

Made from a block within the producer’s vineyard, which has a different soil series and clonal selection than the rest of the site, this is a stellar, memorable wine that’s intensely layered and textured, with lasting, lingering acidity. Bright and inviting in fennel and dried apricot, the broken shale within the soil shows itself in stony, mineral components of oyster shell and white flower, with a fresh yet complex finish. Enjoy 2021–2025. #9 Top Cellar Selections 2018 —V.B.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Cayuse 2010 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah (Walla Walla Valley (WA))

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

As usual, the Cailloux is co-fermented with Viognier. The oldest of the Cayuse vineyards, it’s really coming into maturity, delivering a tour de force performance in this new vintage. Aromatically explosive, it opens with floral and citrus—notably orange peel—then fills out with a lush palate bursting with cherry fruit, and the winery’s characteristic, savory, umami flavors. The finish seems unending. Cellar Selection —Paul Gregutt

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Archery Summit 2009 Arcus Estate Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Spicy, fruity and extremely youthful, this complex wine brings black cherry and cassis flavors with subtle notes of cola, licorice, allspice, sandalwood and pine needle. Still quite tight and primary, it has been beautifully sculpted into a focused wine with a long life ahead. Cellar Selection —P.G.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher


How Do You Determine What Vintage Peaks in 2023?

Consult a wine vintage chart or ask a wine seller when purchasing an age-worthy wine for their recommendation. A lot is dependent on the grape varietal and region from which the wine hails, Gordon explains. For example, red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo tend to age very well, whereas Zinfandel and Grenache tend not to, he says.

What Makes a Wine Age-Worthy?

An age-worthy wine has a good balance of acid, alcohol, tannins and sometimes sugar, Gordon says. “All of those things in the right amount tend to help a wine age,” he notes.

For example, a crisp Chablis from France can age a long time due to its high acid content, a high-tannin Tempranillo can gain more balance by aging and a fortified wine like Port can benefit from aging due to its high alcohol content.

“Many wines are made to age, and if you don’t let it age and try some older wines, then you don’t ever taste the whole wine. You can’t really appreciate what it can do,” Gordon says.

How Do You Store Vintage Wines?

Learn how to store wine for the best chance of letting wines reach their full potential. Gordon recommends storing bottles in a cool, dry place that is out of direct light and sunlight.

Additionally, Gordon notes many wine shops or other reputable wine sellers will take good care of storing older bottles and put them out for sale at a discounted price once they’ve hit their peak. “They tend to be more expensive, so it’s a value, too,” he says.

Why Should You Trust Us?

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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In the Shadow of Rome, 3 Ancient Grape Varieties Stage a Comeback Mon, 09 Jan 2023 19:44:21 +0000 Roman statue holding a bunch of grapes on a designed background
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Two thousand years ago, vines flourished around Rome, one of the largest cities in the ancient world. All over Europe, in every place they inhabited, Romans planted the common European grape Vitis vinifera and ultimately developed winemaking techniques that continue to shape wine production today.

And though the people of Rome famously enjoyed their vino, the irony is that the wine Roman Emperors drank was nothing like the high-quality bottlings enjoyed today throughout Italy. But recently, three historic, yet little-known indigenous grape varieties—Bellone, Nero Buono and Cesanese—are taking center stage in the rapidly improving Roman wine market.

Bringing Back Ancient Grapes

Originally called Latium, the Lazio region borders Tuscany to the north, Abruzzo to the east, Umbria to the northeast and Campania to the south. Home to Rome, it was also the primary winemaking region of the ancient Roman Empire, and remains quite good for growing grapes. Its volcanic hills supply fertile and well-drained land for vineyards. The abundant sunshine and proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea provide a climate ideally suited for grapes; cool sea breezes temper the drier, warmer temperatures.

Map of Itally
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Despite this, ancient Romans were not producing high-quality products. “In ancient Rome, what they called ‘wine’ was vinegar with honey and spices added, or sometimes garlic. But it was considered very good compared to other wines of the time,” explains Leonardo Leggeri, former Fondazione Italiana Sommelier (FIS).

“The wine was not good by our standards, but the grapes had enormous potential,” says Leggeri. “That is what we’re trying to show by bringing back these grapes and making good wine out of them.”

Even in more recent years, producers failed to take advantage of the wine region. For most of the 20th century, producers contributed to the area’s mass production of lower-quality bottlings. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine Fourth Edition, Lazio’s total area of vineyards had “considerably declined” and was not much more than 42,000 acres by the early 2010s. Today, Lazio winemakers want to raise the prestige of their wines while still remembering the area’s rich history.

Elise Rialland of Casale del Giglio says the renaissance of ancient Roman grapes, “makes Rome a point of reference for the area’s winemaking past. Today, we are getting back to our roots.”

Along with returning to tradition and taking advantage of the excellent land and climate, Lazio winemakers wish to capitalize on Rome’s enormous wine tourism potential, long left untapped.

“Rome has always been a big marketplace for Italian wines from every region—except Lazio. Lazio wines were limited to their area of production,” Rialland explains. “This was one of the challenges for Lazio producers, to try and be very present in Rome.”

The Three Grape Varieties to Know


Bellone is an ancient white grape variety that Roman historian Pliny the Elder referred to as uva pantastica or pane d’uva, meaning a “grape as good as bread” or a “grape that goes well with bread,” depending on the source. The white grape often brings bright, fruity characteristics of stone fruit, melon and citrus fruits. Some bottles also have flavors of herbs, tropical fruits and toast.

“Bellone is one of the few European varieties that is not growing on American rootstock,” explains Giovanna Trisorio of Cincinnato Winery in Cori, found about 60 kilometers south of Rome. This is because of the root-destroying disease phylloxera that blanketed Europe. “In a Roman coastal town, Bellone grew in sandy soil, so phylloxera could not attack the roots. It still grows on the original roots of ancient times.”

Cincinnato Winery, which derives its name from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman senator who settled in Cori more than 2,000 years ago, is celebrating this grape variety. As part of the Eternal City’s wine renaissance, Cincinnato has partnered with the Colosseum Archeological Park on a vine-growing project set on the grounds of a former villa, Vigna Barberini, in the center of Palatine Hill.

Trisorio adds, “Cincinnatus was a Roman senator, and Bellone was a Roman grape, so it made sense for us to work on this project. Our idea is to come full circle with the past, to replant Bellone where it started and bring back viticulture to the center of Rome.”

An estate that lies 50 kilometers south of Rome, Casale del Giglio, pays homage to this genealogy with the name of one of its Bellone wines—Radix, which is Latin for “root”—grown on the Roman coast. “Our Bellone in Anzio is a seaside Bellone. You can almost feel the saltiness; it’s very crisp,” Rialland shares. The coastal winery has spent years reintroducing the native grapes of Lazio. Its work paid off in 2022 when the magazine Gambero Rosso gave the winery’s Anthium Bellone (made with the ungrafted vines grown on the seaside) the coveted Italian award for wine excellence, Tre Bicchieri.

Nero Buono

The black (or red) grape variety Nero Buono almost exclusively grows in the volcanic soil of Monte Lepini. Of the 91.5 hectares growing in Lazio, 90 are in Cori. This isolated hill town benefits from fog-driven moisture and daily sea breezes, making it an ideal environment for the finicky grape. Insects do not thrive in its cool, windy climate, alleviating one risk to the famously fastidious grape. The deeply-colored wine brings flavors of dark-skinned fruits, rhubarb and black pepper.

“Nero Buono is difficult; there are no clones. It is very wild and produces many leaves, so we must take them out three times during the year. Berries are tight, squeezed together, so it is incredibly open to disease,” Trisorio explains.

View of Cori, an ancient town near Latina, in the Lazio region of central Italy
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Cincinnato Winery heads a Cori cooperative with 104 member farmers. Although international varieties pervaded Italian winemaking for decades after World War II, the Cincinnato Cooperative resisted.

Trisorio shares, “We have always supported [native grape] production. To give you an idea, in the 90s, Cincinnato used to pay double the market value for Nero Buono and 1.5 times the market prices for Bellone. So even if there was no demand, we wanted to keep those grapes alive.”

Another Cori winemaker, Marco Carpineti, took over his father’s vineyards in 1983 and continued to sell grapes to the cooperative for over a decade, eventually becoming cooperative president. In 1996, he shifted to winemaker and began crafting wine made solely with sustainably grown fruit native to the area. Marco Carpineti Winery’s regard has soared, its vineyards have expanded ever since and today Carpineti is one of the best-known winemakers of Lazio. He devotes 25 percent of his production to Nero Buono and Bellone-based sparkling wine made in the traditional method.

There remains much to learn about Nero Buono. “We are working with the village of Cori to find the DNA origin of the Nero Buono grape, but as of today, they have not found a genetic relative,” says Claudio Gargiulo of Marco Carpineti Winery. “We are [literally] writing the history of Nero Buono now.”


Technically, Cesanese can refer to one of two sub-varieties: Cesanese Comune and Cesanese di Affile. Both are used to make high-quality wines, which were highly prized in ancient times. There are three Cesanese appellations, which include Cesanese del Piglio DOCG, Cesanese di Olevano Romano DOC and Cesanese di Affile DOC. All are within a crescent-shaped, 50-kilometer vicinity.

Cesanese wine is a red wine that often comes with flavors of dark-skinned berries, herbs, cedar and cooking spices. It’s a ruby-colored pour that has high acidity and tannin, with the ability to age for a long time.

Colacicchi Winery in Piglio is home to the Cesanese del Piglio, the only Cesanese DOCG of the three DOCGs in Lazio (the others are Frascati Superiore and Cannellino di Frascati). Here, Carla Trimani and her three brothers own Colacicchi Winery, along with the oldest wine shop in Rome. The shop, which began in 1876, is next door to the oldest wine bar in Rome, Trimani il Wine Bar.

“Cesanese is the signature red wine of Lazio,” said Trimani. It is grown only in the Ciociaria, a tiny area of Lazio east of the capital. “Ciociaria is a very ancient land to produce grapes and vegetables and was the property of the Catholic Church. In 1280, Pope Boniface VIII had a home here, and he for sure drank Cesanese,” Trimani says.

When asked why Lazio is only now focusing on its native potential, Trimani explains: “In Italy, there were eras. In the 80s, if you did not [grow] Cabernet, Chardonnay or Merlot, you were nothing. In the 90s, if you did not use barrels, you were nothing. At the beginning of this century, if you did not over-mature and over-extract, you were nothing. We finished these eras. We do not need anyone to tell us what to do. We know.”

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How to Drink Your Way Through Disney World Fri, 06 Jan 2023 20:55:26 +0000 Oga's Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Image Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

When you think of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, you probably picture Mickey Mouse ears and long lines for rides. However, Disney World is more than just Cinderella’s castle and “It’s a Small World.” Whether you fancy a rum-spiked, Star Wars-themed concoction or a perfectly poured pint of craft beer, Disney’s drink scene is not to be missed.

The next time you find yourself soaking up all the magic, use this Disney World drinking guide to make the most of all the cocktails, beer and wine the parks have to offer.

The Best Spots in Disney World for Cocktails

Oga’s Cantina

Hollywood Studios

Home to drinks like The Outer Rim, an intergalactic-themed cocktail with tequila, pomegranate liqueur, lime juice, cane sugar and a black salty rim, and the Bespin Fizz, a rum-based drink complete with sparkling dry ice and edible glitter, Oga’s Cantina is the number one place to stop for Star Wars and cocktail fans alike. Don’t skip on the super-sweet Yub Nub, a mix of rums and citrus juices, served in a decorative mug. The name is almost as fun to say as the drink is to sip.

Plus, the bar’s curved stone walls and steampunk vibe look straight out of a film set. There are a myriad of cables and pipes draped from the ceiling, musical droids providing free entertainment (just as they were in A New Hope) and who knows, maybe even a bounty hunter or two lurking in the shadows. Unlike Han, Luke and Chewie, though, you can’t just wander into Oga’s. A reservation is needed, and a strict 45-minute time cap is placed on your visit. Consult the menu online before you go, so you have maximum time to revel in the drinks and decor.

Nomad Lounge
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Nomad Lounge

Animal Kingdom

Located beside Tiffins on Discovery Island inside Animal Kingdom, Nomad Lounge is the best watering hole for Avatar fans looking for a glimpse into Pandora. Opt for cocktails like the beautiful Annapurna Zing with its glowing lotus flower. This drink is made with Bombay Sapphire gin, puréed passion fruit, mint and lime, then topped with ginger beer.

Or order the Night Monkey, which blends dark rum and guava purée with coffee-flavored syrup (the non-alcoholic version is called the Happy Macaque). Another great option is the spicy Tempting Tigress, which is comprised of a 10-year-old bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and tamarind syrup.

Beyond quenching your thirst, Nomad can quiet the rumbling in your tummy, too. The tasty small bites menu includes Cuban or vegan Impossible sliders and a tuna poke bowl with kimchi and edamame. You can also try the mouthwatering honey-glazed pork belly served with chorizo and a cheese biscuit, or an order of falafel with garlic yogurt available for the kiddos. Snag a coveted seat out on the deck for views of the wooden and watery entrance into Pandora, and maybe spot a Na’vi or two if you’re lucky.

Plus, for anyone not imbibing, Nomad bartenders will transform cocktails into a zero-proof option faster than you can say, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Pongu Pongu

Animal Kingdom

Located in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora — The World of AVATAR, the Pongu Pongu drink stand is home to a handful of cocktails (and a couple of delicious snacks) that fans of the film franchise will love. Boba balls feature prominently in the Mo’ara Margarita, a Pandora-ified spin on the beloved drink. Be sure to order a couple of pineapple-cream cheese spring rolls too, a delicious value at under $4 each. You’ll find this little drink outpost near Windtraders souvenir shop, conveniently where you are likely heading right after riding Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

Pongu Pongu also features a non-alcoholic specialty beverage that is glam and intergalactic. The Night Blossom is an eye-catching drink flavored with apple and desert pear limeade, criss-crossed with electric green and purple streaks and piled with a heaping of yellow passion fruit-flavored boba balls.

BaseLine Tap House exterior
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The Plaza Restaurant

Magic Kingdom

While enjoying seared crab cakes, home-style meatloaf or a chili-Impossible burger at The Plaza Restaurant situated between Main Street U.S.A. and Tomorrowland, feel free to order up the Last Word. The cocktail blends gin, green chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lime juice and cherries for a sweet and sour sip. Or, order the Jack Rose, with brandy, grenadine and citrus juices.

Tony’s Town Square

Magic Kingdom

The boozy highlight at Tony’s Town Square is the Little Italy, a cocktail with rye whiskey, Averna Amaro Siciliano and sweet vermouth shaken beneath a garnish of cherries for a true Italian delight. Enjoy alongside regional classics like oven-roasted shrimp scampi, orecchiette with spicy Italian sausage or spaghetti with meatballs (which includes a plant-based Impossible option).

The Best Spots in Disney World for Beer

Raglan Road Irish Pub

Disney Springs

Beer lovers will surely want to pop into Raglan Road Irish Pub for an authentic taste of Ireland. With furniture that was built across the ocean on the Emerald Isle, and a menu featuring food inspired by fare served in pubs from Dublin to Galway, it’s a ticket straight to Europe.

Think Shepherd’s pie, dip packed with smoked haddock and Dubliner cheese and bangers and mash. Plus, with dozens of beer choices in bottles and on draft, Raglan Road is a full-on, authentic Irish pub smack dab in the middle of The Landing at Disney Springs. Sit down for a frothy pint of Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale or a crisp Magners Irish Cider. And if you can’t decide, you can choose from multiple different flights of beer, plus additional whiskey, wine and cocktails options.

You’ll also be able to enjoy live Irish music and dance on the main stage or out on the patio. Visiting Disney Springs on a weekend? The Rollicking Brunch invites you to sit down for more Irish classics, a morning pint and a three-hour Irish dance show. Disney advises guests make reservations, be it for weekend brunch or just a quick bite on a weekday. Same-day reservations may be available if you prefer to add some spontaneity to your highly-organized Disney vacation.

Morimoto Asia Sake Sangria
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Disney Springs

Come to Morimoto in Disney Springs for pan-Asian cuisine like blistered shishito peppers with wasabi crème fraiche, Peking duck ramen and a variety of sushi rolls, but stay for the beer. On draft is the popular Morimoto Soba Ale, a nutty ale with the flavor of roasted soba that was launched in 2003 as part of “Iron Chef America”’s Masaharu Morimoto’s Signature Series of Rogue Ales. Additionally, Morimoto’s Imperial pilsner, along with a couple of imported Japanese beers, are available in bottles and cans. Plus, you’ll find a wide selection of wines, sake, cocktails and more. If you have hopes of diving into the food and beverages at Morimoto, you will want to make an advanced reservation to ensure you get a table.

BaseLine Tap House

Hollywood Studios

This California craft beer oasis offers grown-up Mouseketeers fine ales, lagers, ciders, pilsners, IPAs—and some Disney history, too. The interior of BaseLine Tap House is designed with printing tools and details as a tribute to Figueroa Printing Company, which used to own the space and had a former partnership with Disney Studios. The inside of the bar has exposed walls and some of the old printing equipment from yesteryear. You’ll want to order the warm Bavarian pretzel with beer-cheese fondue and spicy mustard, paired with Red Seal Ale from North Coast Brewing. Or unwind after riding The Slinky Dog in Toy Story Mania with a create-your-own beer flight.

Wine Bar George
Image Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

The Best Spots in Disney World for Wine

Wine Bar George

Disney Springs

If you don’t think the most magical place on Earth could get even more magical, then you haven’t seen the list of 140 selections from Wine Bar George yet. Curated by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, Wine Bar George invites guests to peruse the list of reds, whites, sparkling and more by the bottle, glass and one-ounce tasters. There are even some on-tap wine options, too, like the 2018 Truth or Consequences Moscato from Washington State and 2019 Sabine Rosé from Provence. Because great wine is best when accompanying delicious food, be sure to order some of Wine Bar George’s house-made hummus and naan bread or crispy mac and cheese bites.

On especially oppressively hot and humid days at Disney World, cool off with frozen wine cocktails like the Frozcato, Frosé, frozen Old Fashioned and Freaujolais, which blend wine, fruit and liquor. Enjoy them alongside a basket of fries or one of the spot’s wine country-inspired snack boards. Whether you want to sip at brunch or have a glass after a long day of Disney fun, you’re going to need a reservation at Wine Bar George.

Amorette's Patisserie
Image Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Amorette’s Patisserie

Disney Springs

At Amorette’s you can sip a Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco while munching on a Mickey Mousse chiffon cake, making this patisserie one of the most fun and curious places to drink in Disney World. But the real reason to explore the drinks scene here is the seasonal grown-up slushies on offer for $10 each. Since going viral over five years ago, the rotating menu of boozy slushies continues to be a hit with grown-up Mouseketeers.

Flavors rotate based on what fruit is in season, but have included a strawberry Shiraz, mango Moscato and a glam, iridescent blue-colored wine slushie topped with a shimmering Minnie hat.

Jaleo restaurant
Image Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort


Disney Springs

Celebrity chef, culinary innovator and world-renowned humanitarian José Andrés has a colorful outpost of his beloved Spanish tapas restaurant Jaleo in the west side of Disney Springs. The lunch and dinner menus feature cured meats, Manchego cheese, paella and more, while the wine list offers selections from all over Spain like Palomino Fino and Liquid Geography Rosé, all set in a vibrant, beautifully-tiled space draped in hues of reds, oranges and yellows. Wines-by-the-glass options range from $9 to $19.

There are also regularly scheduled, multi-course, highly-curated events at Jaleo featuring as many as eight wines paired by wine expert Javier Baquero. As with the finer dining destinations at Disney Springs, a reservation is highly recommended if you don’t want to miss out on this tapas and wine paradise.

Tuto Gusto Espresso Martini
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For German Riesling fans, no visit to Disney World would be complete without a stop at Weinkeller, which sells cookbooks and souvenirs in the Germany pavilion that transport visitors to the Mosel region. Whether you’re on the famed Epcot Wine Walk or not, slip into the exquisite little wine bar tucked behind the shop to sample an impressive selection of German wines. Riesling not your thing? No worries. There are plenty of other whites, reds, sparkling and dessert bottlings offered by the glass and a tempting cheese board to accompany it all in this German enclave in Central Florida.

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar


If spending time in a cozy Italian wine cellar sounds magical to you, head to Tutto Gusto for hundreds of bottles of Italian vino, plus the requisite paninis and cheese boards. Also on offer? Antipasti, pastas and mains like braised beef short rib and pan-seared salmon.

Les Vins de France


Of course, you can’t ignore the French when talking about wine. The Les Vins de France kiosk inside Epcot, across from the France Pavilion, pours fine wines from Bordeaux and beyond, as well as Champagnes and Beaujolais. But many flock to this tiny green art deco outpost for the orange and lemonade slushies spiked with Grand Marnier and Grey Goose Citron.

Drinking your way through Disney World is all part of the magic at the most magical place on Earth. In fact, it might be even more fun than standing and sweating in line for the rides.


Does Disney World Have Alcoholic Drinks?

In short, yes! To enjoy them, you’ll just need a government-issued ID that shows you’re over the age of 21. Unfortunately, there is one famous area of Disney World where quickly grabbing an alcoholic beverage isn’t an option. The Magic Kingdom, which opened as an alcohol-free park in 1971, has changed its rules slightly within the last few years. Although there is alcohol to be found in today’s Magic Kingdom, guests can only enjoy it while seated at table-service restaurants.

Is a Reservation Required to Drink in Disney World?

While crowds are common in all areas of Disney World, from Magic Kingdom rides to Disney Springs restaurants, not all drinking hotspots require a reservation. In the list above, we call out places where an advance reservation is necessary or advised.

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A Pocket Guide to the Best Bar Carts, Plus How to Set up the Perfect One Fri, 06 Jan 2023 15:59:49 +0000 2 bar carts on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Wayfair

Whether you’re an established bartender or a budding at-home mixologist who likes whipping up cocktails, a bar cart is an absolute must.

Not only does a bar cart allow you to organize your spirits, glassware, barware and anything else you may need, but the right one makes for beautiful decor in your home as well.

Here, industry experts break down the best bar carts on the market, plus a few tips and tricks on how to stock your bar cart.

The Best Bar Carts

1. Colette Marble Bar Cart

“In college, I kept my bottles (both empty and full) lined atop the kitchen cabinets as if it were a rendition of boozy chic. Though part of me enjoyed climbing the counter for a sip, it wasn’t exactly a cute look. Now, I prefer something more refined and functional. I love the sleek design of this gold and marble bar cart from Urban Outfitters. Plus, the decorative wine glass rack and removable wheels make for easy hosting in small spaces.” Sam Sette, Digital Web Producer

$499 Urban Outfitters

2. Beaminster Octagon Bar Cart

“I love this vintage-inspired bar cart by Everly Quinn. Its mirrored shelves add some Great Gatsby class, while the rose gold adds a touch of fun.  It’s the perfect addition to a city apartment, or to add a beautiful accent to your dining area.”  —Sherrill Flaum, Advertising Director

$370 Wayfair

3. Feliz Rattan Bar Cart

“If you have a lot of hanging plants, some cozy oatmeal cushions on rattan or bamboo chairs and a bunch of macrame wall art, then you may just be cottagecore to the bone. And while that sounds a lot like something Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye might do on weekends at the lake house in between planting tulip bulbs with Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, we assure you it is a real legitimate home décor trend. If that’s your style, you need this bar cart to properly house your rum and exotic bitters collection alongside the homemade botanical extracts you keep in apothecary bottles.” —John Capone, Managing Editor, Print 

$599 CB2

4. Gold Leaf Metal and Glass Rolling Bar

“We just bought a bar cart from Home Depot last year, and we really like it. This gold finished cart is sleek and simple, classy and modern. The design is streamlined, but the gold palette is a touch of Gilded Age indulgence meets Midcentury Modern in simplicity and subtlety. The two glass shelves offer more space for creative display than it may first appear, with abundant real estate for bottles, an ice bucket and a display tray with retro glassware (perhaps some coupes with gold leaf accents?).” Amy Beth Wright, Freelance Drinks Writer

$159 Home Depot

5. Mid-Century Bar Cart

No matter where the party takes you, this bar cart can follow. With two spacious shelves, you’ll have ample room to store everything you need. Not to mention, its minimalistic build with tasteful gold accents will make the perfect addition to any room.

“It’s got that Herman Miller/Eero vibe I haven’t been able to get enough of since I stayed at the TWA Hotel.” —Laura Feinstein, Freelance Drinks Writer

$399 West Elm

6. Wayfair Bar Cart

“I’m all about simplicity and functionality, which is why this bar cart is ideal for me. It’s perfectly sized for my NYC-apartment while still being spacious enough to hold all my bottles, bartender tools and even a plant or two. Not to mention, the sleek, reflective shelves add an extra level of glamor.”  –Kristen Richard, Digital Editor

$170 Wayfair

7. Alsace Aged Bronze and Travertine Bar Cart

Yes, your personal collection of wine and spirits is worthy of a grand entrance. This chariot-style bar cart from Wine Enthusiast boasts stone dating to Ancient Rome and a bold bronze finish that is sure to make a statement in any living or entertaining space.

$495 Wine Enthusiast


How to Set up a Bar Cart

Now that you have the perfect bar cart, it’s time to stock your home bar. Thankfully, you don’t need to spend a fortune as a few basics are all you need to get started.


Consider the types of drinks you like, and start with the basic ingredients found in a wide range of cocktails. So, look for good bourbon, gin and vodka. You’ll also want some best bottles that aren’t base spirits to round out your drink, like an amaro and a bitter like Campari. For a sober bar, purchase non-alcoholic spirits like Lyre’s, Seedlip and Three Spirit.


Depending on how you plan to use your cart, you may need more or less tools. But, a great start is stocking up on the necessities.

Start with a jigger. It may seem like a simple tool, but don’t overlook it as it allows for consistent measurements, which is key to a good cocktail. Next, the all-important shaker. Choose between the two-piece Boston, tin-on-tin, Parisienne or three-piece cobbler cocktail shakers. To help you find the perfect option, check out our best cocktail shakers.

For drinks that aren’t shaken, you’ll also need a mixing glass and bar spoon at the ready. Of course, you can always opt for the standard pint glass to mix up some drinks. Finally, be sure to pick up a strainer for smooth drinks.


If buying additional glassware isn’t in your budget, you can always use what you already have. However, stocking your cart with martini, lowball and highball glasses is worth the investment as they can be used for a wide array of drinks.


Start with the tried-and-true Angostura bitters. It’s also a good idea to have simple syrup, tonic and citrus options like lemon and limes (of course, some of these will need to be refrigerated) on hand.

How to Style a Bar Cart

Now, it’s time to make your bar cart really pop. Much like drink preferences, styling is entirely up to you., but looking for funky and fun tools can help make the cart feel unique.

“The finish colors of shakers, tongs and other necessary tools can add gorgeous patina, interest and character to the overall vignette,” Marie Flanigan, interior designer and founder of Marie Flanigan Interiors, told Insider.

Another tip? Buy some local spirits for some extra personality. But above all, make sure your bar cart doesn’t get too cluttered. Not only does it ensure you’re always using the best/freshest ingredients (we see that jar of opened Maraschino cherries that’s been sitting there for months) but it will ensure a sleek presentation.

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Get to Know Germany’s Booming Natural Wine Scene Thu, 05 Jan 2023 20:54:13 +0000 Bottle of wine wrapped in vines
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Natural wine or low-intervention wine has exploded over the last few years and has proven it is here to stay. From Mexico and Austria, to New Zealand and Puerto Rico, natural wine permeates through all pores of the wine industry. Now, Germany is the latest country to experience a significant emergence of producers following the movement.

What Is Natural Wine?

There is no official definition of natural wine. Generally, however, it’s accepted that the term “natural wine” describes wines made with organic (or biodynamic) grapes that are spontaneously fermented. The result is then bottled without any additives, except for limited amounts of sulfur dioxide up to 50 milligrams per liter (although many don’t use it at all). For more information, check out our beginner’s guide to natural wine.

German town on the water
Image Courtesy of Aleksandar Zecevic

The Transition to Natural Wine in Germany

Like most countries, Germany does not have a legal definition for natural wine. Typically, the wines are labeled under the Landwein or Deutscher Wein (the German equivalent of table wine) designations, as they don’t meet the rules of the stricter Qualitätswein category.

“I’ve never used sulfur, but I could accept [limited use] for the definition,” says Jakob Tennstedt, of the eponymous winery in the Middle Mosel, who crafts some of the finest Rieslings in low-intervention style today.

Tennstedt continues, “For me, it is really important that if you say you’re making natural wine, the grapes come from organic vineyards.” This is especially true in the Mosel, since most sites are divided between numerous growers and many work conventionally.

Additionally, in the very steep, terraced vineyards of Terrassen Mosel, all spraying is done by a regional helicopter service that doesn’t use organic sprays.

“This is due to the sheer difficulty of spraying by hand in our scariest and oldest vineyards with limited manpower,” says Canadian-born Derek Labelle of Madame Flöck winery located in Winningen, in Terrassen Mosel. Since 2019, he has been working on an organic conversion with his American-born business partner Robert Kane.

“Our hope would be to have a fully organic Terrassen Mosel, and we have a tremendous amount of support from our fellow Winningen winemakers, but our peers are taking a wiser, more prudent ‘wait and see’ approach, rather than diving right in and potentially risking it all,” says Labelle.

Gamn Vineyard
Image Courtesy of Aleksandar Zecevic

The Impact of Natural German Wine

Natural winemakers have an important role in preserving the old vineyards, especially in Mosel. “They work in vineyards that are really hard to farm but have incredibly important historical genetics [of old, ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines],” explains Stephen Bitterolf, founder of a New York-based wine importing company Vom Boden, which specializes in German wine.

“They are literally saving the history of the region and defining a new Mosel, [but it’s important to mention that] a lot of classic estates are doing this too,” notes Bitterolf.

In that sense, by avoiding harmful chemicals and preserving old vines, natural winemakers are important from an ecological standpoint. Take Brand Bros, a winery in Northern Pfalz run by brothers Daniel and Jonas Brand, who converted their farming to organic back in 2014. Today, their vineyards resemble some of the prettiest gardens that have inspired many young winegrowers in the area.

Natural wines are also adding diversity to the overall picture of German wine. Natural winemakers work with historical, but less popular varieties, like Elbling, Dornfelder and Frühburgunder. In some cases, they work with old vines of these varieties, like Jonas Doster in Obermosel (Upper Mosel), whose Elbling bottlings make you reconsider everything you know about this humble grape.

Additionally, natural winemakers are redefining German Riesling as a whole. For the last 50 years, Germans championed off-dry and sweet-style Riesling, such as Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese. The vinification process for sweeter wines involves stopping fermentation by adding copious amounts of sulfur dioxide—the opposite of natural wine.

Consequently, natural winemakers only make dry wines. However, they are not pioneers of the dry style. The most prominent pioneers are Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) members, an association of more than 200 German wine estates that promotes binding quality standards and ecological management of its members. Some members of VDP create Germany’s most renowned dry wines such as Grosses Gewächs (GG) that come from Grosse Lage (or grand cru) vineyards.

But most GG producers still use a process where they add sulfur dioxide before malolactic fermentation (malo) is complete. This blocks the process of malo, producing wine that maintains the aromas and flavors associated with German Riesling. In comparison, natural wine goes through malo, as it must occur to mature and bottle a stable wine without adding sulfur dioxide.

“It is a natural thing that wants to happen, so why stop it?” questions Alex Saltaren Castro, who produces natural wine in Rheingau while simultaneously working for the renowned biodynamic grower, Peter Jakob Kühn.

“If you allow malo, you lose freshness, but I like it, as it adds complexity and texture,” says Jan Matthias Klein, a seventh-generation winemaker at the 32-acre Staffelter Hof winery.

German Vineyard
Image Courtesy of Aleksandar Zecevic

A New Wave of Natural Winemakers

Since 2014, Klein has also produced wines under his name, bottled unfined, unfiltered and without any additives. He says, “It is exciting to make wines solely from grapes.”

Klein is a rare example of a winemaker running a winery that has centuries of history behind him, but is still courageous enough to try new things. For many others, it is not easy to experiment with the unknown, especially if there is a chance of ruining centuries’ worth of reputation. Hence, most natural winemakers in Germany are either winemakers who didn’t previously enjoy huge fame internationally, foreigners or Germans who come from outside wine country.

“They don’t have hundreds of years of tradition to live up to,” says Klein’s importer, Evan Spingarn, who manages the German portfolio for Bowler Wine, a national wine and spirits importing and distribution company. “But with the emergence of natural wine, now they can experiment without being punished for it.”

One of the other locals and natural wine pioneers is Rudolf Trossen, who converted his entire estate in Mosel to biodynamic farming back in 1978. Trossen for years made classical wines with biodynamic grapes, and few heard of him until 2010. Then, sommeliers from the renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma encouraged him to make natural wines, and word started to spread.

Trossen’s contemporary, Dr. Ulli Stein, also from Mosel, was also encouraged by Noma sommeliers. Ohne (meaning “without” in German), his cuvée, is one of the first German Rieslings bottled without the addition of sulfur dioxide.

Today, Stein is joined in the vineyard and cellar by the Finnish-born, Amsterdam-raised Philip Lardot, who also has an eponymous winery in the region. Lardot crafts four distinct Rieslings, but also works with Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. He gives his wines at least a year of aging without any sulfur added, adding just 20 milligrams per liter of sulfur dioxide right before bottling.

Another noteworthy foreigner in the Mosel is Finnish-born Petra Kujanpää of Shadowfolk Vineyards. Kujanpää focuses exclusively on Riesling, which she farms by hand in the steep 60 to 100 years old vineyards. She applies biodynamic principles to her work and crafts wines with prolonged skin maceration (sometimes up to 270 days), bottled without sulfur dioxide.

Outside of Mosel, most winemakers focus on varieties other than Riesling. In Baden, look for wines from Enderle and Moll, with a special focus on their Pinot Noirs, which show taunting complexity. Florian Moll and Manfred Enderle started the winery in 2007 and were one of the original natural winemakers in the country.

Since 2018, they have had some competition. This is when Alex Götze and Christoph Wolber, two passionate Burgundy lovers, released the first Pinot Noirs from their Wasenhaus winery. The wines quickly created an incredible buzz, justifiably, as these are some of the most alluring Pinot Noirs in Germany.

While natural wine continues to spread through Germany’s wine scene, it’s definitely a region to keep an eye on for environmentally-conscience and interesting pours. If you’re curious about Germany’s burgeoning natural wine scene, these additional producers are ones to watch.

Bianka und Daniel Schmitt (Rheinhessen) 

Using a biodynamic approach to winemaking, this vineyard produces great wines with minimal intervention and extended skin contact.

Daniel Schweizer (Baden-Württemberg) 

Founded in 2014, winemaker Daniel Schweizer incorporated sustainable practices and spontaneous fermentation with natural yeasts from the environment, making for unique wines every year.

2Naturkinder (Franken) 

This urban family winery was founded in 1842 in the northern part of Bavaria, but made the change to natural wine production in 2012. The wines are farmed organically, without additives and are bottled without fining, filtering or sulfites.

Andi Weigand (Franken) 

Andi Weigand has been creating natural wines since 2018. The vineyards, which are harvested by hand, are certified organic and as old as 60 years old. They are grown in very old and unique stony soil, creating herbal, spicy and fresh wines.

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8 Bucket-List Drinks Spots Around the World Thu, 05 Jan 2023 19:36:17 +0000 Lost Spirits Distillery
Image Courtesy of Lost Spirits Distillery

With all the distilleries around the world, how do you decide which ones to explore? We’ve put together a list of the coolest bars, bucket-list stops and worldwide venues worth adding to your travel plans (or even making a special trip for). Some confer bragging rights as a pioneer or record-breaker, while others offer unique experiences worth making a detour to visit.

Add these eight stops to your travel bucket list (plus a few bonus ones) for memorable drinking experiences you won’t find anywhere else. 

Highest Altitude: Breckenridge Distillery or Orma

Breckenridge, Colorado or Silvaplana, Switzerland

Breckenridge Distillery
Image Courtesy of Breckenridge Distillery

Located at 9,600 feet above sea level, Colorado’s Breckenridge Distillery takes the title for the highest-altitude distillery in the U.S. Located on the outskirts of a ski-resort town in the Rocky Mountains, the distillery is worth a visit for its selection of bourbon and other whiskeys, art-filled restaurant and cocktail bar. Plus, you may possibly get a peek at the members-only Dark Arts Club.

But worldwide, Switzerland’s Orma takes the top (see what we did there?) title. From its St. Moritz summit, the distillery makes its single malt whiskey at about 10,836 feet above sea level.

Longest Bar in the World: Nearest Green Distillery

Shelbyville, Tennessee

Nearest Green Distillery
Image Courtesy of Nearest Green Distillery

Add this to your upcoming 2023 travel plans. At Nearest Green Distillery, which makes Uncle Nearest whiskey, the Humble Baron bar will be opening in March 2023. The wooden bar will be 525 linear feet, making it the longest bar in the world. It’s part of the Distillery’s whiskey-centric complex, which founder Fawn Weaver jokingly calls “Malt Disney.”

Lowest Altitude: M&H Whisky Distillery

Tel Aviv, Israel

M & H Distillery
Image Courtesy of Shay Yehezkel

The Dead Sea, a salt-laden lake that borders Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, has the lowest land elevation on earth, sitting about 1,385 feet below sea level. You can’t get any lower without sinking into the ocean. It’s here that Tel Aviv-based Milk & Honey Distillery is experimenting with the impact of low elevation on aging whiskey.

Most Athletic: High West Distillery & Saloon

Park City, Utah

High West Distillery
Image Courtesy of High West Distillery

Located in a ski town, this whiskey maker is the only ski-in/ski-out facility. To be clear, you can’t ski into the actual distillery, where whiskey and vodka are made. However, it’s affiliated with High West Saloon, located at the bottom of Park City Resort’s Quittin’ Time ski run and next to the Town Lift, which is considered the world’s first ski-in gastro-distillery.

In early 2022, High West added a pop-up by Northern California’s Mammoth Mountain, where patrons were able to ski right up to the bar.

Most Historic: Bols

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Lucas Bols Distillery
Image Courtesy of Lucas Bols Distillery

Bols lays claim to the oldest distillery in continual operation. Established in 1575 by the Bulsius family (the name was later shortened to the more Dutch-sounding Bols), the distillery is best known for making genever, a malty spirit similar to gin, and a wide range of liqueurs.

The “House of Bols” is available for tours, including a scent “library” and a Flair Booth, for those who want to learn splashy cocktail moves from mixology pros.

Most Remote: St Helena Distillery or Myken Distillery

Saint Helena Island or Myken, Norway

This is challenging to substantiate because St Helena Distillery is considered one of the most difficult to visit. This distillery is located on a tiny island 1,200 miles off the coast of South Africa and is accessible only via a five-day cruise on the HMS Helena, which embarks once every three weeks. The distillery makes gin, rum and liqueurs, as well as Tungi, a clear liquor distilled from the prickly pears that grow on the island.

Another strong contender? Myken Distillery, which makes gin and single malt whisky above the Arctic circle, on a tiny island 20 miles from the nearest point on the Norwegian mainland. The island is accessible by a once-daily ferry. We’re curious about the Arktisk Vintergin (Artic Winter Gin), said to channel the essence of the Northern Lights.

Most Theatrical: Lost Spirits Distillery

Las Vegas, Nevada

Lost Spirits Distillery
Image Courtesy of Lost Spirits Distillery

It’s hard to imagine a more over-the-top experience than what was on offer at the Los Angeles outpost of Lost Spirits: it broke ground with its Willy Wonka-esque boat ride through the distillery.

But in 2020, the California distillery closed and relocated to Las Vegas. In 2021 it launched a new rum distillery and a literal circus, with a troupe of acrobats, magicians and other performers. Visitors are encouraged to wander a labyrinth of theater sets; the working distillery is enclosed within the immersive cirque-du-Soleil-style experience. This is Vegas, after all.

Most Young-at-Heart: J. Rieger & Co.

Kansas City, Missouri

J. Rieger and Co Hey Hey Club Bar
Image Courtesy of Michael Robinson

Technically, this is an old brand, which was founded in 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri as Jacob Rieger & Company, a casualty of Prohibition.

Revived in 2014 as J. Rieger, the reborn brand expanded into larger digs in 2019, in a 60,000-square-foot facility. The new space includes a historical exhibit, the speakeasy-like Hey! Hey! Club in the basement and the outdoor Electric Park Garden Bar, named for the amusement park that once stood nearby, noted for inspiring a young Walt Disney. But most amusing of all: a 40-foot-long spiral slide intended for guests of all ages to ride from the second level to a ground-floor gift shop.

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10 Cocktails Inspired by Y2K Fashion Trends Thu, 05 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 2000s celebrates with cocktails in a vintage internet browser with a designed background
Getty Images, Alamy

Instead of saying “Bye Bye Bye” to low-rise jeans and matching velour tracksuits, someone is bringing Y2K fashion back—and it isn’t Justin Timberlake.

Shorthand for “the year 2000,” Y2K originally referred to a computer bug that created widespread panic for the new millennium. Today, the term also refers to the modern embrace of the culture of the late 90s and early 2000s, which has exploded across TikTok largely thanks to Gen Z. With hashtags like #Y2KAesthetic and #Y2KFashion going viral, it seems fitting for #Y2KCocktails to have their moment, too.

Like fashion, popular drinks from this era blend futurism with a slightly retro edge. Whether you’re a slave for double denim or find Appletinis “Toxic,” here are 10 boozylicious cocktails inspired by the most popular Y2K fashion trends.

Low-Rise Jeans / Appletini

Hilary Duff and Tara Reid wearing low rise jeans next to a Appletini
Getty Images

Originally called “hip huggers,” low-rise jeans are loathed for what is often seen as an unflattering fit. Yet, we were all wearing them. From Alexander McQueen’s “Bumster” trousers to bedazzled “Apple Bottom” jeans that got too low, the style appeared across MTV and the big screen. By 2010, waistlines had started to inch higher, but fast forward to Spring 2022 and low-rise jeans were back on the runway.

For a trend that is popularly unpopular, we chose a drink with a similar appeal: the Appletini. This vodka-based cocktail was created in 1996 at Lola’s West Hollywood Restaurant and is made with sour apple schnapps. The name is a bit misleading, as the drink is not a true martini.

Our version uses apple brandy, fresh lemon juice and elderflower liqueur to capture the original’s sweet-and-sour taste without taking a trip with 50 Cent to the “Candy Shop.”

Get the Recipe: An Appletini Recipe Worth Reviving

Double Denim / Vodkatini

Britney Spears & Justin Timberlake with a Vodkatini
Getty Images

When Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake pulled up to the 2001 American Music Awards in head-to-toe denim, they made a fashion statement that the internet would never forget.

Double denim can be worn in many ways—layered denim jackets, denim bustiers, denim skirts, you name it. Unfortunately, the iconic former couple didn’t win any AMAs the year of their denim debut. Instead of crying a river, we opted for something dry and as widespread as denim.

Y2K was the heyday of martinis, and although many tended to be fruity concoctions, the dry martini, or Vodkatini, had its moment. Made with just vodka and dry vermouth, there is plenty of room to add layers of complexity.

Get the Recipe: Classic Vodka Martini Recipe

Matching Velour Tracksuits / Bloody Mary

Britney Spears wearing a Matching Velour Tracksuit next to a bloody-mary
Getty Images

Before the pandemic made matching loungewear a household sensation, celebrities like Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez sported bright-colored velour tracksuits. Juicy Couture paved the way, making imitation velvet a comfortable luxury worthy of posing in on the red carpet. These days, with multiple brands including Juicy are hopping back on the trend. Why not snag a hot pink set for brunch? After all, few things go better with cocktails and croissants than couture.

Nothing screams juicy luxe like a Bloody Mary. This combination of vodka, tomato juice, spices and other flavorings is a staple morning cocktail that has yet to decline in popularity. 

Get the Recipe: The Ultimate Bloody Mary Recipe

Ugg Boots / Lemon Drop Martini

Uggs next to a Lemon Drop Martini
Getty Images

The Ugg boot trend is another trend revived for the item’s comfort and nostalgia (and perhaps its perfect pair-ability with velour). The Australian brand is most known for its classic chestnut style, worn in the early 2000s by celebrities like Vanessa Hudgens and the Kardashians. Since the pandemic, stay-at-home fashion inspired a new wave of Ugg footwear—from platform slippers to a mini version of the original.

A pair of Ugg boots were one of the first items Oprah gifted on her well-anticipated “Favorite Things” show. Also among Winfrey’s favorite things over the years? The Lemon Drop Martini. She served a version of this cocktail at her 2005 Legends Ball—right in line with the Y2K ‘tini craze.

Get the Recipe: Lemon Drop Martini

Baguette Bags / The Cosmopolitan

Beyonce with two small purses and a Cosmopolitan
Getty Images

Few (if any) style icons shaped how we dressed and drank quite like Carrie Bradshaw. The lead character from Sex and the City gained fame for her unforgettable outfits, which included a tiered tutu, newspaper dress and backward Chanel skirt. One of her most sacred pieces, however, was a Fendi baguette bag that became a must-have in the late 90s. While flashing the tiny shoulder bag at New York City nightclubs in the show, Bradshaw was even more so known for her drink order: “Another Cosmopolitan, please.”

And suddenly people were ordering Cosmos everywhere. Because if Carrie says the pink drink is cool, then it must be cool. The original recipe can be overly sweet, so we made a well-balanced version that, like the baguette bag, stands the test of time.

Get the Recipe: How to Make a Cosmo the Right Way

Butterfly Hair Clips / Strawberry Daquiri

2 butterfly hairclips with a Strawberry Daquiri
Getty Images

Teenagers like Hilary Duff and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were idols for many young girls, helping to shape Y2K style. While the butterfly motif was already having a moment in designer fashion, younger generations gravitated towards ever-more-colorful accessories. But right when we thought stores like Claire’s were outdated, influential figures of today like Olivia Rodrigo and Hailey Bieber are embellishing their hairdos with butterfly clips. Think childhood, but call it fashion.

Because the youth in all of us lives on, we suggest a cocktail with fruity jubilance like a Strawberry Daquiri. Our modern take on the classic adds complexity without losing its sweet nostalgia.

Get the Recipe: A Modern Take on the Strawberry Daquiri

Colorful Sunglasses / Spicy Margarita

Paris Hilton next to a spicy margarita
Getty Images

If you “Wannabe” undercover, you gotta get with this trend. From retro shield shades to skinny oval frames, colorful sunglasses of all shapes and sizes were a go-to Y2K accessory. It wasn’t that the Spice Girls were trying to cast shade, but a rimless pair of orange sunnies completed any outfit.

Now, keep the spice and add salt to the rim with this spicy margarita recipe—a love affair of tequila and green chili bitters that is sure to “Spice Up Your Life.”

Get the Recipe: King’s Spicy Margarita

Metallic Streetwear / The New Rum and Coke

Rihanna and tyra banks next to a rum and coke
Getty Images

Between shiny puffers, silver flared pants and rhinestoned-everything, Y2K had big bling energy—especially in the hip-hop and R&B scene. Artists like 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne dominated the charts with songs that in one way or another spoke about money and the sparkling things it can buy.

And what would hip-hop lovers sip on while wearing flashy chains “In da Club?” Bacardi rum. Like it’s your birthday, of course. Our version of the classic rum-and-Coke incorporates Champagne for a celebratory fizz.

Get the Recipe: The New Rum and Coke

The Rachel Haircut / Espresso Martini

JENNIFER ANISTON next to an espresso martini
Getty Images, Alamy

The one where “The Rachel” haircut goes viral. Jennifer Aniston’s signature hairstyle on Friends was a shoulder-length chop with voluminous layers that quickly became a trademark of the late 90s. After over a decade of being “on a break,” the flirty style recently resurfaced on TikTok with choppier draped layers. Enter “The Rachel” 2.0.

In addition to serving looks, Aniston’s character also poured coffee at the neighborhood shop Central Perk. Therefore, it only makes sense to choose a boozy brew: the Espresso Martini. This drink is a delicious choice (unlike Rachel’s Thanksgiving trifle).

Get the Recipe: How to Make a Real Espresso Martini

Newsboy Caps / Classic Old Fashioned

CHRISTINA AGUILERA next to a classic old fashioned
Getty Images, Alamy

Whether you call them baker boy or newsboy caps, this trend is one of many confessions of the 2000s teenage drama queen. Yet it was worn across the board: from Sharpay Evans and Christina Aguilera to Fall Out Boy.

Some may find the look reminiscent of Depression-era newsies, which makes the Classic Old Fashioned a perfect complement. But if Katie Holmes and Gigi Hadid’s recent choice of hat is any consolation, maybe dated styles are exactly “What a Girl Wants.”

Get the Recipe: Classic Old Fashioned Recipe

We hope these drink selections bring you some nostalgia. Any of them make the perfect pick next time someone asks to “Buy U a Drank.” Or even better, make it at home—in appropriate fashion, of course.

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What the Blue Cheese Haters Are Missing Wed, 04 Jan 2023 18:35:20 +0000 Blue cheese on a blue background
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In the pantheon of divisive foods, blue cheese often stands alone.

Wisconsin-based journalist Nicole Haase has hated blue cheese all her life. “That funk is all I taste,” she says. “Blue cheese just kind of ruins everything.” And she’s not the only one who feels this way, either.

“Nobody is ever ‘meh’ about blue cheese,” says Pamela Vachon, a freelance food writer and cheese educator at Murray’s Cheese in New York City. “It’s always a strong feeling, whether it leans toward love or hate.”

The reasons why some people adore blue cheese and others detest it include exposure, evolutionary instinct and, of course, personal preference. But some dismiss this very broad category based on erroneous, outdated or incomplete information. With an open mind and the right approach, almost anyone can find the right blue for them.

What Is Blue Cheese?

Whereas a cheese like Parmesan is strictly regulated, blue is a wide open wheel. Blue cheese is often ripened with edible cultures from the mold Penicillium and can be made from cow, sheep, goat or plant milk. This creates semi-soft varieties encased in bloomy rinds, as well as tart blues that crumble on contact.

The methodology is ancient. Some historians believe that Pliny the Elder was writing rave reviews of Roquefort, a French blue made from sheep’s milk, as early as A.D. 79.

Say the word “Roquefort” today, however, and “a fair number of people will pantomime their opinion by holding their nose and rolling their eyes, or worse,” writes Joshua Levine in Smithsonian. While most blue cheese has a strong scent that some find off-putting, it’s not always indicative of the gently nutty or even sweet taste. Like wine, cheese aromas and flavors are rarely identical.

Is Blue Cheese Mold?

There are also elemental reasons why some people recoil at the sight of blue cheese, and it usually has to do with the noticeable blue mold within the creamy cultured milk. “We grow up learning that mold is bad, and so we have this preconceived notion that anything moldy is bad for us,” says G. Daniela Galarza, a staff writer at The Washington Post and author of the Eat Voraciously newsletter.

Aversion to visible spoilage is an understandable instinct, but almost all cheesemaking involves mold in some capacity. It’s used to culture milk and is cultivated to form the velvety white rind outside a wheel of brie or camembert. Blue cheese, with its ribboned veins and pungent aromas, just wears its mold on its sleeve.

The Wide Range of Blue Cheese

Blues can vary greatly from funky to mild in their smell and flavor, so it’s best to find the right style for your tastes. “Its bark can be worse than its bite,” says Galarza.

For instance, Queso La Parel is a cow’s milk semi-blue from Asturias, Spain. It has a creamy texture and an approachable tang. Ireland’s Cashel Blue is similarly accessible, and Cambozola, a cross between brie and gorgonzola, has been called a “beginner’s blue.” 

Few of us are as tenacious as Haase, the blue cheese hater in Wisconsin who “kept trying different blue cheeses for years” before swearing it all off. More likely, we sample a few lackluster salad crumbles or tinny-tasting schmears before we decide it isn’t for us. But, like rosé or Lambrusco, the caliber of blue cheese made and available in the U.S. has improved dramatically over the last 20 years. 

“Throughout the 80s and 90s, blue cheese was thought of as a one-note product—an astringent, acidic, strongly flavored cheese you only want a little bit of, and never would you eat it on its own,” says Marguerite Merritt, the marketing manager for Rogue Creamery in Southern Oregon.

Modern craft cheesemakers create elegant blue cheeses given time to age properly. This is due to market shifts. Aging is expensive, younger generations of shoppers spend more on specialty foods than their predecessors and the introduction of quality cheese to national supermarkets. There has quite simply never been a better time in America to taste the diversity of blue cheese.

“It doesn’t have to be a strong, powerful cheese,” says Merritt. “It can be nuanced and layered.”

Cynics might argue Merritt is biased since Rogue Creamery’s lineup includes Rogue River Blue, a cheese that made international headlines when it became the first U.S. cheese to win a global cheesemaking championship. But that very fact points to the quality of blue cheese available. 

“There are blue cheeses out there that I wouldn’t touch,” says Merritt. “But ones made with the finest ingredients and European-style, handmade tradition? Those are entirely different cheeses.”

Additionally, pairing blue cheese with the right food or drink can help ease haters into enjoying it. Vachon believes we don’t do blue any favors by introducing it to people via wings or salads. “Both add vinegar and, in the case of wings, hot sauce to the occasion,” she says, “which just amplifies the pricklier aspects of blue cheese.”

A better complement might be fruit or dessert wine. “People who are on the fence should try it with wines that they already love, and then maybe also try it with foods they already love,” says Galarza. “So, if you happen to like honey, get some honeycomb, and have it with some blue cheese to see if you like it.”

Three Blue Cheeses to Try

If you’re a blue cheese lover, or a long-time critic but are willing to give blue cheese a try, give these three options a taste.

Cambozola Black Label

Cambozola Black Label
Image Courtesy of Cambozola

Mild and spreadable, with the faintest blue ribbons throughout, this is a great option for blue cheese skeptics. Its buttery flavor and texture and edible bloomy rind will put brie fans at ease, too.

Cashel Blue

Cashel Blue
Image Courtesy of Cashel Blue

Made by hand on a 200-acre farm in Tipperary, Ireland, this bright, creamy cow’s milk blue is especially approachable when it first hits the market, at 6-10 weeks old. Enjoy it within three months of sale, after which it can take on a sharper tang.

Rogue River Blue

Rogue River Blue
Image Courtesy of Rogue Creamery

This award-winning blue cheese from Southern Oregon is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and has elegantly subtle, fruity flavors. It’s available nationwide but produced seasonally, so availability can be limited.

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Everything You Need to Know About Burgundy Wines and Which Bottles to Pour Wed, 04 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of the Merchants

Less than 5% of French wine comes from Burgundy, but don’t let this region’s size fool you. Bottles from this tiny area vary in flavor, style and complexity, making a bottle of Burgundy something truly special.

“Burgundy is no more than 60 miles from North to South, and it produces some of the most beautiful profiles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” says Anna-Christina Cabrales, tasting director at Wine Enthusiast and Burgundy and Rhône Valley wine reviewer. “Winemakers around the world try and replicate the nuances and balance of this region.” 

What Is Burgundy Wine? 

Burgundy is a central Eastern France region that produces reds, whites, sparkling wines and rosés. From North to South, there are five primary wine-producing areas; Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. Each one is made up of different villages, also called communes.

Some of the villages are home to climats and/or lieu dits, both of which are delineated superior vineyards. Each are “very distinct in geology and soil composition, which is primarily clay, marl and limestone,” adds Cabrales. “The decomposed marine sedimentary rocks from the Jurassic era allows the grapes to really shine and is the thread through this region.” 

Here, we break down everything you need to know about Burgundy wine, plus some of our favorite bottles.  

Our Favorite Burgundy Bottles

Louis Latour 2019 Château Corton Grancey Grand Cru (Corton)

98 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bracing tannins frame red-cherry and fresh strawberry flavors in this ripe yet svelte, focused wine. Youthful red-fruit flavors are hedonistic already but this subtly spiced Pinot Noir is perfumed by hints of forest floor and wild herb that should gain depth  with time. It’s best to hold till 2024 at least. The wine should improve well through 2040. —Anna Lee C. IIjima

$ Various Wine-Searcher

Louis Jadot 2019 Grand Cru (Clos de Vougeot)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Ripe and muscular in body, this powerful red reflects the luscious black-cherry and cassis flavors of an exceptionally ripe vintage, along with the cool edges and deeply mineral undertow of Clos Vougeot. Delicate and perfumed yet grounded and mouth drenching, the wine still needs time to develop. Approach from 2025. It should improve well through 2040 and hold further. Cellar Selection. —A.L.C.I.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret 2017 Grand Cru (Grands-Echezeaux) 

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

Notes of truffles and sweet spice mingle into rich swathes of blackberry and black-cherry nectar in this fruity, mouthfilling Pinot Noir. It’s a plusher, softer expression of the Grands-Echezeaux reflective of a hot, dry vintage but maintains a graphite edge and mineral tension on the finish. At peak from 2025 to 2035, it’s likely to hold further still. —A.L.C.I.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Domaine Faiveley 2018 Les Porêts-Saint-Georges Premier Cru (Nuits-St.-Georges)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Ripe and supple in texture, this wine highlights flavors of plum confit and brandy soaked black cherries accented by smoke, char and violet petals. Vinified from a blend of whole-cluster and destemmed grapes and matured 16 months in French oak (40% to 50% new), it’s freshly balanced in acidity but pliant and open in tannin structure. Approachable young, it should improve through 2030 and hold further. —A.L.C.I.

$83 Total Wine & More

Albert Morot 2019 Beaune Bressandes Premier Cru (Beaune)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bold, spicy aromas of charred wood and black tea leaves perfume ripe boysenberry and blackberry flavors in this wine. Sourced from organic and biodynamically farmed vines, it balances rich black fruit against an earthen, smoky undertow. Soft, pliant tannins are welcoming young but it should hit peak from 2025 and improve through 2035. —A.L.C.I.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Au Pied du Mont Chauve 2019 Le Charmois Premier Cru (Saint-Aubin)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Hints of char and licorice juxtapose ripe, piercing aromas of cassis and blueberry in this intensely ripe, supple wine. Generous and glossy on the palate, it’s a black-fruited sip balanced by brisk acidity and a long, graphite finish. Best from 2024 through 2030, the wine should hold further. —A.L.C.I.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Domaine Dominique Guyon 2019 Les Dames de Vergy (Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Hints of violet petals juxtapose granite and freshly dug beetroot in this deeply fruity yet earthy, savory red. Bright, ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors are juicy and forward but the wine also has a mineral intensity that’s seductive. Fresh in acidity and framed by fine, penetrating tannins, it should improve through 2029 at least. —A.L.C.I.

$32 VinPorter

Burgundy FAQs

Which Grapes are in Burgundy Wine? 

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the main grapes of Burgundy. “The Pinot Noir exudes beautiful wild and sometimes concentrated red berry tones with hints of black pepper,” says Cabrales. “Its bouquet or floral presentation, backed with a fine stone minerality, captivates me. The moment I smell this, I know exactly where I am.” 

Whereas the Chardonnay from Burgundy is “like a bright sunny day,” says Cabrales. “The profile transports you to an open field where you can smell a balance between a fresh tart or ripe citrus basket. These wines’ light herbal notes and then the floral aspect is inescapable.”  

Along with these two grapes, there are several others permitted—albeit in much smaller quantities. Some regions can grow Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Aligoté, which is like Chardonnay.  

If you’ve ever had a Crémant de Bourgogne, or sparkling Burgundy wine, it likely used Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as its base blend but Aligoté, Melon de Bourgogne, Sacy, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are allowed in Burgundy sparklers as well.  

What Is the Burgundy Classification System?

Like most of France, Burgundy uses a classification system to signal quality. But it can get a tad confusing.  

“Think of the classification system in terms of quality level,” explains Cabrales. “The entry will be at the regional level, followed by village and the most prized vineyards sitting at the Grand Cru level. Due to quality standards through the area, there are some Premier Crus, the level before Grand Cru, that some collectors would regard as Grand Cru quality.” 

Here’s a look at Burgundy’s classification from the base level up.  

Regional Appellations: These bottles are labeled Bourgogne Blanc or Bourgogne Rouge and are more affordable options. They will likely be Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and can come from anywhere in the Burgundy region.  

“If you’re looking to present Burgundy to friends who are unfamiliar with the region reach for these wines. They’re delightful, straightforward and easy to drink,” says Cabrales.  

Commune or Village Appellations: Wines from here will be labeled with the name of the village in which it’s produced, like Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Beaune, Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet or Pouilly-Fuissé, for instance. The price tag increases from the regional level.  

“These wines are a great window into village terroir and the condition of the harvest for that region,” says Cabrales. “Expect a really balanced display of fruit and a greater expression of earth and terroir.” 

Premier Crus: Almost at the top but not quite. Premier Crus can either come from single or multiple different climats.

“These wines are about a specific soil composition and site condition,” says Cabrales. “Expect various alluring profiles that can vary greatly from site to site, even if they are within a stone’s throw from each other. These wines are textured and offer layers of complexity.” 

Grand Crus: These wines are the best of Burgundy. Less than 2% of bottles carry this label and therefore are quite expensive.

“These are simply the best and, in many cases, come from some of the oldest vines in the region,” says Cabrales. “These wines are powerful, incredibly complex and arguably some of the best profiles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.” 

What Is the Chablis Classification System?

Chablis has its own classification system. The majority of winemakers produce bottles in two or three of these categories. Only a handful make wines in all four and Chardonnay is the only grape allowed.   

Petit Chablis: Wines with this label can be made with grapes from different vineyards.  

“These are fresh wines with a citrus and zesty profile with very bright acidity,” says Cabrales. “Enjoy them in their youth and especially as an aperitif.” 

Chablis: These are the most widely available bottles. They can be made with grapes from select villages like Beines, Béru and Viviers.

“Chablis Village is your go-to when you simply want a high-acid mineral-laden wine,” says Cabrales. 

Chablis Premier Cru: Wines with this label can come from 40 different vineyards throughout Chabis.  

“The profiles can vary due to the exposition and where it sits along the Serein River,” says Cabrales. “Some might present to be a bit more austere or lean while others may exude more fruitiness. These wines have texture and a specific profile.” 

Chablis Grand Cru: Wines will this label come from Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. 

“Les Clos is the most sought after,” says Cabrales. “It’s the largest of the Chablis Gran Crus and the sunniest. But all are powerful and worthy of cellaring.”

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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The Best Cutting Boards, According to Cooking Experts Wed, 04 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 two wood cutting boards on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

A sharp chef’s knife, dependable skillet and sturdy cutting board make up the trifecta of all functional kitchens. With those three implements, a fabulous meal can be accomplished, whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef.

While plenty of attention has been paid to choosing the best knives and optimal cast-iron skillets, cutting boards often languish forgotten. But choosing the right one will not only keep your knives in tip-top shape, but it’ll also provide the just-right surface for chopping, slicing and dicing all of the ingredients for your next culinary masterpiece. Whether that’s a hearty spiced beef stew or caramelized apple tart, these best cutting boards are kitchen essentials. Some are even stylish enough to use as serveware.

Finding the best one can be challenging, so we turned to professional chefs and bartenders around the country for their recommendations. These are the nine best cutting boards according to the pros, plus some intel on how to decide what’s right for you.

What’s the Best Material for a Cutting Board?

For Corey Ferguson, executive chef at tapas spot El Five in Denver, hardwood is the only way to go. “It is the most sanitary because it is not porous—a knife doesn’t create seams for bacteria to get into,” he says, adding that wood cutting boards “last a very long time when maintained properly with oil and handwashing.” He notes they are good for all tasks and are easy on your knives.

Chef de cuisine Ashley Cunha from seasonal Southern-fare restaurant Farm in Bluffton, South Carolina, agrees—with a caveat. “I love a wood cutting board—they bring a beautiful aesthetic to a moment [and] I also enjoy the heft they provide,” she says. “But, in a restaurant setting with high volume and constant use, a wooden cutting board would be harder to keep clean and sanitized. We use plastic models to avoid any cross-contamination.”

But although plastic can be easily cleaned—and sometimes thrown in the dishwasher—synthetic materials can put more wear on your knives.

For some, rubber cutting boards offer the best of both worlds. “A good soft rubber cutting board is easy on your knife,” says Joseph Harrison, chef de cuisine at New American eatery Common Thread in Savannah, Georgia. “Whether you have a mid-range tool or something you really cherish, this material is very forgiving to the blade. It’s not porous at all, so it lends itself to a sanitary work surface and it’s easy to clean.”

What Are the Different Types of Cutting Boards?

There are so many different styles of cutting boards—and quite a bit of overlap between some categories—that it’s difficult to put together a comprehensive list. There are wood cutting boards, plastic cutting boards and rubber cutting boards, as well as cutting boards made of glass, metal and paper composites. There are cutting boards that double as cheese boards or pastry boards or cutting boards with handles. There are even cutting boards with or without moats along the edges to catch drippings. We could go on.

When navigating the category’s dizzying variety, it’s important to consider your particular needs. “If you are going to use it as a cheese board, it might be nice to have a handle to move it around easily,” offers Ferguson. “If you’re slicing meat, a canal around the cutting board catches drippings from the meat so they don’t run all over the place. If you have shorter counters, a tall butcher block can be optimal for comfort while doing knife work.”

Tyler Lyne, the chef in residence at the Auburn University-run 1856 in Auburn, Alabama, extolled the virtues of a peel-away rubber cutting board. “They’re great for everyday general cooking work, especially fish butchery,” he says. Lyne also likes end-grain wooden boards for heavy-duty uses like chopping bones with cleavers.

“If you want something more synthetic, opt for a good rubber,” Harrison adds. “Hard plastics chip easily and damage your knife over time. Plus, they often get stained and end up looking bad.”

What’s the Best Wood for a Cutting Board?

All of the professionals we interviewed agree that hardwood varieties are the best options for home chefs, as they offer durability, versatility and elegance. According to Ferguson, walnut is best.

“It is a hardwood, but on the softer side of hardwoods. It’s good on your knives, aesthetically pleasing and easy to maintain,” he says. “Even if it gets a little scratched up or dirty, the color of the wood hides it. Walnut cutting boards are what I use in my kitchen at home.”

Maple is a good hardwood choice as well, according to Harrison. “It’s generally a lighter color, easy to fit into any aesthetic and usually on the more affordable end of pricing.”

How Much Does a Good Cutting Board Cost?

Custom cutting boards and butcher blocks tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum, while synthetic materials like plastic or composite are more affordable options.

What Harrison considers a good price comes down to material and size. “A quality rubber or wooden board runs upwards of $100, but sometimes wooden boards can run as high as $300,” he explains. “These wooden boards are often handmade, someone’s put a lot of love and labor into them. Both types will last you many years if you take good care of them. You get exactly what you pay for in terms of craftsmanship.”

“The better the material you choose, the higher the price will be, whether that be wood, plastic, rubber or even bamboo,” Cunha adds. “All offer something a little different—some are easier to clean, some last longer and other ones can help hold your knife’s edge better. It’s important to choose what you feel most comfortable using.”

Ready to stock your kitchen with the best cutting boards on the market? Shop our expert-approved options below, and get chopping!

Best Overall Cutting Board: Boos Edge-Grain Rectangular Cutting Board, Maple

Around the country, there was a lot of love for John Boos cutting boards. “I have always been a Boos Block girl, the maple cutting board specifically,” says Ashleigh Fleming, executive chef at Southern fare-inspired Blue Jay Bistro in Littleton, North Carolina. She cites natural wood construction and extreme durability as factors, plus the longevity of the end-grain style.

$149 Williams Sonoma

Best Budget Cutting Board: Choice 30″ x 18″ x 1 3/4″ Wood Cutting Board

Ferguson says this wood cutting board comes in clutch as an affordable option with a large surface area perfect for lots of chopping, slicing and dicing. Natural rubberwood is a sustainable choice when it comes to hardwoods, and the reversible design ensures longevity. He especially digs the recessed handles and the forgiving surface, which helps keep knives supple.

$62.99 WebstaurantStore

Best Splurge Cutting Board: Boos Edge-Grain Rectangular Cutting Board, Walnut

“For wooden cutting boards, I suggest an end-grain style like this John Boos. They have more longevity and don’t tend to warp over time,” says Harrison. “These are also great display pieces for things like charcuterie or large, beautiful holiday roasts.”

$326 Williams Sonoma

Best Plastic Cutting Board: Material Kitchen Plastic Cutting Board

“My favorite cutting board is the reBoard from Material Kitchen. It’s BPA free and made from sugarcane and recyclable plastic scraps so it’s sustainable,” says Paula Lukas, head bartender at farmer’s market-inspired restaurant Bowery Road in New York City. “It cleans very easily, tends not to stain, comes in beautiful colors and [Material Kitchen] donates to the Heart of Dinner charity.”

$35 West Elm

Best Wood Cutting Board with a Moat: John Boos Block Prestige Maple

“I love the John Boos Block Cutting Board. The maple wood has the longevity to stand up to hard daily use,” says Mark Bolchoz, executive chef at the Italian-inflected Indaco in Charleston. “Specifically, I like the prestige series board for home because the little cut-out going around the board helps to catch juice and other things to keep your station clean, and it’s reversible.”

$71 Amazon

Best Plastic Cutting Board With a Moat: OXO Good Grips Plastic Carving & Cutting Board

Plastic is lightweight, easy to clean and affordable, which makes it an attractive option. It’s also Wirecutter’s top choice based on four months of rigorous testing. Editors loved the generous groove around the edge for catching juices, the grippy feet that keep it secure when chopping and the ample surface area.

This writer is a fan, too. As a former bartender and trained pastry chef, I always look for durable cutting boards for heavy tasks, especially when I’m entertaining. I personally own this plastic cutting board and use it religiously for slicing citrus, sprigs of rosemary and cloves of garlic. The surface is easy to sanitize, the more odiferous scents don’t get trapped in the material and it stays completely still on the counter while in use.”

$32 Amazon

Best Rubber Cutting Board: Tenryo Hi-Soft Cutting Board

Harrison and Lyne both cite this as their favorite cutting board. “It’s heavy and doesn’t slip on the countertop. It’s easy to sanitize and gentle on my knives,” says Lyne. “I also love the peel-type version of this cutting board—it has layers that you can peel off when it becomes worn out. While the cost is high, the board essentially is six boards for the price of one.”

$190 Korin

Most Stylish Cutting Board: Jones Woodworking Maple End Grain Butcher Block

“I love this board!” says Cunha. “They last a long time and they don’t get grooves from your knife like a plastic one might. They’re aesthetically pleasing, so if you don’t have a lot of space, it still looks nice if it’s left out. It’s stunning to use as a presentation piece. My friend gifted me one a while back while we were working in the city together and it still looks as good as the day I got it.”

$253 Etsy

Best Composite Cutting Board: Epicurean Chef Series Cutting Board

This board’s paper composite material “is durable and most importantly, gentle on a knife blade,” says Jared Hammond, executive chef at neighborhood French spot Brasserie la Banque in Charleston. “I use it at home and in a commercial kitchen, and it has yet to disappoint.”

$159 Amazon
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A Starter Guide to Wagyu Beef Tue, 03 Jan 2023 17:26:38 +0000 Japanese Wagyu beef
Getty Images

The days of CaliforniaBurgundy” and all sparkling wine “Champagne” seem comically antiquated. Yet today, beef consumers experience the same mixed messaging in shops and restaurants with Wagyu beef.

Wagyu beef has clear parameters in Japan, where it originated. Since then, other countries have adopted the term for almost any heavily marbled beef with tenuous genetic ties to Japanese cattle.

The ubiquity of so-called American Wagyu, Australian Wagyu, Wagyu burgers (tip: skip), Kobe-style beef and the like might make one think Wagyu beef is common. But there’s a reason you see the beef portioned out in thin, delicate rectangles like fish on Japanese dinner tables and not giant slabs of meat.

Like caviar, foie gras and jamón ibérico de bellota, top-quality Japanese Wagyu is one of the world’s great culinary delicacies. And comparing Wagyu beef to “normal” beef is akin to comparing saffron to turmeric, or white truffles to chanterelles. It’s not so much a competition as a different product altogether.

Here, we break down how to distinguish authentic Japanese Wagyu beef from the other Wagyus out there, and how to enjoy Wagyu to make the most of the product.

What Is Wagyu Beef?

Cattle in japan
Getty Images

The phrase “Japanese Wagyu” is actually a redundant term, as Wagyu (和牛) can be broken up into the two words “wa” (和), meaning Japanese-like, and “gyu” (牛), meaning cattle. There are strict rules in Japan about what can be labeled “Wagyu” (more on that later), but other countries that claim to sell this high-quality product use the term “Wagyu,” even though the beef doesn’t meet the same standards.

In practice, it refers to four breeds; Japanese Black (黒毛和種), Japanese Brown (褐毛和種), Japanese Shorthorn (日本短角和種), Japanese Polled (無角和種) and any hybrids of these animals. Japanese Black cows are the most common.

These breeds were recognized and labeled as separate breeds in 1944, and since, Japanese regulations have governed their production and, eventually, export. Per the government organization Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO), Wagyu cattle are selectively bred over several generations, and parentage must be completely traceable to ensure genetic purity. To do this, the animals are tagged and monitored individually. Many farms have onsite veterinarians (or daily visits), feeding sometimes happens by hand, hormones are banned and meticulous paperwork is kept on every animal.

So, what’s so special about Wagyu? Studies have shown Wagyu to have much higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids than non-Wagyu breeds. These high levels of unsaturated fat correspond to a lower fat-melting temperature (think vegetable oil and fatty fish) that liquifies at body temperature,  which is why people say Wagyu “melts in the mouth.” Compare that to most U.S. beef, which has a melting point of about 104–108°F.

And the fat content makes the appearance of Wagyu unique. The beef is densely marbled with fat, evenly distributed throughout like an ornate spiderweb that gives the meat a pinkish cast. Sushi fans might see more resemblance to otoro (fatty tuna) than what we know as steak.

Additionally, the scent is particular to this type of beef. Rather than a beefy or gamey scent, a piece of Wagyu has a faint coconutty smell from the sweet fat.

Because there is no legal definition for Wagyu outside of Japan, almost all beef labeled “Wagyu” outside of the country is crossbred Wagyu and is sometimes of lesser quality.

Japanese Wagyu Beef Grading System

Just as very little American beef is graded Prime (most sources estimate between 3–4%), only a fraction of Japanese Wagyu is of the quality that justifies its reputation and commands top dollar. The Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) measures yield (cutability or percentage of sellable meat by weight) in three scores of A, B, and C, and the degree of marbling on a 12-point scale.

They also analyze the quality of the meat based on beef marbling, color, brightness, firmness, texture, color, luster and quality of fat. These are given a combined numerical score of one (poor) to five (excellent), meaning the highest grade is A5. Lower grades are still Wagyu, but rarely anything under A5 is exported.

Between the strict standards of Wagyu beef production and the Japanese grading system, A5 Wagyu generally represents a better quality than most U.S. beef labeled Prime. In fact, there are A5 Japanese Wagyu with as much as five times the marbling of some Prime steaks. The scarcity of A5 meat—as well as the labor-intensive production—is why Japanese Wagyu beef is so expensive.

What Is American Wagyu?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) follows a different beef scoring system and gives its grades—Prime, Choice or Select—based on yield, age of the animal and the degree of fat marbling.

Japanese Wagyu was brought to the U.S. in 1976 when four Japanese Wagyu bulls were brought to be bred with domestic cattle. Most American Wagyu descends from these bulls. The first female Wagyu cows arrived in the U.S. in 1993, allowing for full-blood Wagyu progeny in the U.S. However, in 1997, the Japanese government declared Wagyu beef a “national treasure”  and enacted an export ban on the live animals.

Outside of Japan, ranchers distinguish between “full-blood” and “purebred” Wagyu. Fullblood is 100% genetically Japanese Wagyu, while purebreds are cattle that have cross-bred with full-blood cattle over enough generations to achieve a minimum of 93.75% Japanese DNA. Both are quite rare and will be labeled as such in restaurants.

Today, American Wagyu beef is usually non-Wagyu cattle with Japanese Wagyu somewhere in its lineage (usually Angus, in the U.S.). While they can be incredibly delicious, without Japanese husbandry practices and their strict grading system, this beef is not a foolproof substitute for Japanese Wagyu.

What Is Australian Wagyu?

Australia, too, has a large quantity of Wagyu-descended cattle, most of which have been cross-bred with Holsteins. There, the inspection process for Wagyu is government regulated, unlike in the U.S. where any grading beyond Prime, Choice and Select is voluntary. So Australian Wagyu, especially full-blood or purebred, can be a terrific option if you can find it.

Is Japanese Wagyu Better than “Normal” Beef or Other Wagyu?

Suffice it to say that Japanese Wagyu is very unique, and beef-eaters owe it to themselves to try it. Whether you prefer the taste and texture of full-blood or crossbred Wagyu from other countries may be a matter of taste.

Different though it may be from Japanese Wagyu, don’t sleep on crossbred Wagyu. Some call it “the best of both worlds”—the fat marbling of Japanese Wagyu with the powerful beefy flavor of domestic breeds.

What Is Kobe Beef?

Kobe beef is simply one type of Wagyu beef that requires the animal to be 100% pure Tajima (a strain of Japanese Black Wagyu), raised and processed only in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture. Only a few thousand heads of cattle qualify as Kobe beef each year, and it wasn’t exported until 2012. Kobe production, export and distribution are regulated and monitored by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, established in 1983.

Kobe beef is quite rare, and usually only a handful of U.S. restaurants have it at any given time (currently the Association has 55 recipient restaurants, though supply is sporadic to many). However, there are other place-designated beef options considered to be of comparable quality, such as Matsusaka, Yonezawa and Ōmi. In general, Kobe and Japanese Wagyu will be much more like each other than either of them will be to “Wagyu” from other countries.

How to Pair Wine With Wagyu Beef

“Pairing wine with Wagyu is interesting because the meat has such delicacy and finesse, but at the same time its density and structure of flavor requires powerful wines,” says Steve Ayon, wine director for Mexico’s Sonora Grill Group. The Group’s Prime Steak House in Mexico City and Holstein’s in Monterrey are among very few restaurants in North America to serve Japanese Wagyu, Australian Wagyu and Kobe beef all year (supply-chain issues notwithstanding).

He recommends wines that straddle elegance and power in the same way the meat does. “For example, Burgundies from Côte de Nuits, especially those from Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée or Morey-Saint-Denis at the Premier Cru or Grand Cru level, are favorites due to their remarkable complexity,” says Ayon. “For those looking for something different but just as complex, classic Barolos or even aged Brunello di Montalcino can be an attractive choice. Returning to France, Hermitage or Côte Rôtie are unique expressions of Syrah that, due to their tannic power and elegance, are especially good with the intensity of Kobe.”

Where to Buy Japanese Wagyu Beef

Wagyu beef isn’t widely available in stores in the U.S., but you can mail order it from these vendors:

Additionally, many restaurants throughout the U.S. serve high-quality Wagyu. This is just a sampling, so ask at your favorite high-end steakhouse or Japanese restaurant about availability.

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Get to Know Grappa, the Fragrant Italian Liquor Tue, 03 Jan 2023 15:00:00 +0000 hand holding up a glass of Grappa
Courtesy of Getty Images

Once associated with peasants, Grappa has drifted from its modest origins. Today, the spirit is common at Italian dinner tables of all stripes. Grappa’s evolution is a result of both tradition and reinvention, as modern distillers work to refine their products for generations to come.

Though its role in modern drinking culture is still progressing, one thing is for sure: Grappa has come a long way. But if you’ve never found yourself with a glass of the Italian spirit before, you may be wondering what the deal is. With its reputation changing, we break down everything you need to know about the fragrant liquor, including what is grappa, what is grappa made from, and how do you drink grappa?

What Is Grappa?

Grappa is an Italian spirit made from pomace—the grape seeds, skins and stems leftover from wine fermentation. It is traditionally enjoyed as a digestif, or after-dinner drink, to aid digestion and extend the evening.

This is not to be confused with brandy, which is produced by distilling wine and other fermented fruit juices. Whereas brandy can be made anywhere in the world, grappa is its own Geographical Indication (G.I.) and must be produced 100% within Italian territory from grapes grown exclusively in Italian soils.

How Is Grappa Made?

The process of making grappa is highly regulated. It’s also inherently sustainable. Production begins with leftover pomace obtained from winemakers. Pomace from red grapes is already fermented, whereas white wine pomace is considered “virgin” and requires fermentation prior to distillation.

Quality pomace is a top priority—it’s what gives the final product its primary flavor characteristics. “The main secret is the freshness of the grapes, then the still,” shares Lisa Tosolini of Bepi Tosolini, a family distillery in Northern Italy that’s been around since 1943.

Image Courtesy of Hellograppa & Assodistil

Therefore, many distillers begin with quality assurance prior to distillation. Larger distilleries may also choose to preserve the grape pomace for later use.

Next comes distillation. Distillation is a thermal process that turns raw materials like pomace into a concentrated liquid. This is done by heating and cooling cycles that concentrate the alcohol level, as well as separate desirable and undesirable elements from the emerging spirit. We dive into more detail about what distillation is and how spirits are made here.

When it comes to grappa, distillers can distill in continuous or non-continuous cycles—that is, somewhat automatic versus in the hands of the master distiller. The former is used for large batches, whereas the latter is an artisanal approach that allows a more customized product.

Finally, the resulting clear distillate (once diluted with water) can be bottled as is or transferred to steel vessels or oak barrels to mature for anywhere from a few days to over 18 months.

oak barrels for Grappa
Image Courtesy of Hellograppa & Assodistil

The process as a whole demonstrates a unique synergy between spirits and sustainability. By turning the leftovers from winemaking into a product of its own, Grappa production models a circular economy that provides CO2 savings for the environment. Some distilleries take their sustainability efforts a step further, using byproducts for various uses from industrial biofuel to grapeseed oil for the home cook.

The Different Types of Grappa

Not all grappa is created equal. Like wine, grappa can be classified based on grape varietal, aroma and age.

Mono-varietal grappas are distilled from a single grape variety, such as Moscato or Ribolla. These grappas express the purest profile of the grape and its terroir, versus multi-varietal grappas that are made from a blend.

Classifying grappa based on aroma also depends on its raw material. Moscato, Malvasia and Gewürztraminer are just a few of many naturally aromatic grapes that preserve their characteristics throughout distillation. Grappa can also be infused with flavorings like fruit, herb and licorice to achieve a different flavor profile.

In terms of aging, grappa falls into one of four categories, according to Hello Grappa, a grappa-focused trade organization:

Grappa Giovane (Unaged): Otherwise known as “young” grappa, this crystal clear product is bottled after a short rest in steel tanks.

Grappa Invecchiata (Aged): This grappa is matures in oak barrels for 12 to 18 months, taking on a light golden color and a more rounded character with hints of spices and vanilla.

Grappa Barricata: This grappa is also aged for 12 to 18 months, but in small wooden casks called Barriques. The resulting product is tannic with a deep golden color and rich flavors of tobacco, butter and cream.

Grappa Stravecchia (Very Old): Sometimes labeled as “grappa riserva,” this product is aged in oak barrels for more than 18 months. It takes on a golden amber color and intense flavors of spices and vanilla.

bottling Grappa
Image Courtesy of Hellograppa & Assodistil

What Does Grappa Taste Like?

Grappa had a bad reputation in its day for tasting like firewater, but that’s no longer the case. Different types of grappa take on very different flavor profiles ranging from green fruit and white florals, to aromas of hazelnut and dark chocolate.

“Some of the unaged grappas made from white grapes have these really beautiful floral notes on the nose,” shares Elana Abt, head sommelier at Quality Italian in New York City. “Sometimes there’s this ever so slight glycerol effect—like a little bit of a sugar quality even though there’s not very much sugar in the spirit itself.”

Aged grappa tastes wildly different. When visiting distilleries in Northern Italy, some of Abt’s colleagues found that they resembled some aged rums. “If I blind-tasted this, I would have thought it was rum Agricole,” says former bartender, co-founder of LTHospitality and TikTok Creator Chris Lowder.

How Do You Drink Grappa?

1. Drink Grappa Neat

The traditional way to taste and enjoy grappa is on its own—straight, in small sips—as an after-dinner drink to extend the evening. 

A small tulip-shaped glass is ideal for enjoying the aromas, filled just a quarter full. Young grappas should be slightly chilled (47-48°F) and aged grappas slightly below room temperature (61-62°F). 

2. Drink Grappa in Coffee

Looking to drink like an Italian from day to night? In the morning, some people blend grappa with a shot of espresso. This is called caffè corretto (which literally means “corrected coffee”) and can be enjoyed as an after-dinner drink as well.

3. Make a Grappa Cocktail

Breaking away from tradition, grappa has recently made its way into the hands of nifty mixologists as a base liquor with many possibilities. 

The is the first IBA (International Bartender Association) cocktail that uses grappa as its base. Its name pays homage to those regions in Italy renowned for producing grappa through the years—“Ve” for Venezia and “to” for Trentino Alto Adige. The middle “n” reflects the larger region of Veneto that contains the former and shares a border with the latter.

The cocktail itself is a blend of lemon, honey, chamomile and an optional egg white that highlights the complex flavors of grappa, as well as its versatility.

Grappa Semifreddo is another option: a creamy combination of the Italian frozen dessert and a shot of grappa. Semifreddo has a frozen mousse-like texture, which when combined with the spirit melts away as a thick and pleasurable drink. To amplify the flavor, you can add amaretto or a coffee-based liqueur as well. 

4. Bake With Grappa

Like Amaretto and Bourbon, grappa can booze up your Grandma’s favorite recipes.

The aromas of grappa are typically paired with bitter chocolate or dried fruit—think sweet Panettone from Northern Italy. Though the possibilities for incorporating grappa into both sweet and savory dishes are endless.

Where Can I Buy Grappa?

Grappa may be tricky to locate in the U.S. compared to Italian wines and clothing. Luckily, online retailers as well as Italian liquor shops offer a selection of imported bottles to choose from.

If a whole bottle seems a bit daunting for your first sip, try finding an authentic Italian restaurant nearby. The more traditional offerings, the more likely grappa will appear on the after-dinner drink menu.

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12 Delicious Italian Red Wines to Drink with Warming Winter Meals Tue, 03 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of

When winter rolls around, there’s nothing quite like cozying up to a bold bottle of red. And Italian red wines are particularly delicious picks when it comes to pairing them with your warming winter bowls of polenta, pasta or roasted meats. So, grab your plates of braised short ribs, Risotto alla Milanese or orecchiette with greens and sausage, and pour yourself a glass of these top-rated red Italian wines.

Plus, you can read up on our best Italian wines and the best Italian wines to cellar for more picks, or find budget-friendly options on our rundown of the best Italian wines for $15 or less.

What Is the Most Popular Wine in Italy?

Check out our beginner’s guides to Italian wine and bottlings from Italy’s Piedmont region for a full breakdown, but to begin, these are some of the most popular red grapes grown in Italy and the type of wine they’re known for producing.

Nebbiolo. Most notably, Nebbiolo is the only grape allowed in wines of Barolo, a full-bodied, high-tannic and bold red wine. This wine is one of the most famous to hail from the northwest Italian region of Piedmont. Additionally, the nearby area of Barbaresco produces a similar wine.

Barbera. Widely grown in the northwest region of Piedmont, Barbera is best known for wines from Asti. It’s a low-tannin, high-acid and fruity red wine.

Corvina. Grown predominantly in the northeast region of Veneto, Corvina is well known for wines grown in the Valpolicella area. These red wines are light and fruity; the grapes can sometimes lend to off-dry or sweet red wines as well.

Sangiovese. Most often associated with the Chianti area in central Italy, Sangiovese grapes produce a dry red wine that is high in tannin and acidity with fruit and herb flavors. In southern Tuscany, these grapes also contribute to Brunello wines that are fuller bodied and bold.

Montepulciano. This deep red wine has medium acid, high tannin and fruit flavors of plum and cherry. Montepulciano is best known for its production in the east-central region of Abruzzo.

Primitivo. Grown in the southern Italian region of Puglia, the Primitivo grape (also known as Zinfandel in the United States) creates a soft, fruity and dry red wine.

Though there are so many delicious Italian wines to add to your collection, here we break down 12 top-rated red Italian wines that pair beautifully with your seasonal eats.

Best Wines from Piedmont

Brezza 2018 Barolo

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This opens with enticing varietal aromas of small red berry, rose, camphor and dark spice. Made with organically-farmed grapes, it’s full-bodied and elegant, featuring ripe Marasca cherry, licorice and suggestions of almond liqueur framed in firm but polished tannins. Fresh acidity keeps it balanced. Drink 2025–2030. —Kerin O’Keefe

$49.99 Vivino

Prunotto 2019 Barbaresco

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Fragrant and loaded with finesse, this has aromas of red berry, iris, leather and forest floor. The youthfully austere palate offers sour cherry, cranberry and licorice alongside taut, fine-grained tannins. Bright acidity keeps it vibrant and balanced. Best 2027–2034. Editor’s Choice —K.O.

$41.99 Total Wine & More

Michele Chiarlo 2018 Le Orme (Barbera d’Asti)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Fragrant aromas of mature dark-skinned fruit, underbrush and spice lead the nose. The succulent palate offers Marasca cherry, raspberry jam and baking spice alongside firm acidity and polished tannins. Enjoy through 2025. Editor’s Choice —K.O.


Best Wine from Northeast Italy

Masi 2016 Costasera (Amarone della Valpolicella Classico)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Ripe black-skinned fruit, blue flower and baking spice aromas form the nose of this full-bodied red along with a whiff of cedar. Concentrated but possessing a weightless elegance, the smooth, enveloping palate delivers prune marinated in spirits, black cherry, licorice and cocoa framed in velvety tannins. Drink through 2036. #48 Top 100 Cellar Selections 2022 —K.O.

$49.99 Total Wine & More

Best Wines from Tuscany

Conti Costanti 2017 Brunello di Montalcino

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Extremely elegant and focused, this compelling wine defies the heat of the vintage, starting with a heady fragrance of ripe dark-skinned berries, violet, camphor, dark spice and whiffs of crushed herbs. On the linear, elegantly structured palate, tightly woven but extremely polished tannins accompany juicy Marasca cherry, blood orange, licorice and white pepper while fresh acidity keeps it balanced and fresh. Drink 2025–2032. —K.O.

$110.99 Total Wine & More

Marchesi Antinori 2018 Tignanello Red (Toscana)

97 Points Wine Enthusiast

Fragrant and incredibly refined, this classy red exhibits enticing scents including ripe berry, fine tobacco blend, camphor and dark spice. Smooth and enveloping, the delicious palate boasts a winning combination of creaminess and vibrancy, delivering juicy black cherry, red cherry, licorice and dried mint framed in polished, fine-grained tannins. Fresh acidity keeps it well-balanced. Drink 2023–2033. Cellar Selection —K.O.

$139.99 Vivino

Avignonesi 2017 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Certified organic and following the principles of biodynamic viticulture, this lovely red opens with enticing scents of camphor, pressed rose petal, forest floor and licorice. Smooth and savory, the linear, elegant palate delivers juicy cranberry, pomegranate, coffee bean and orange zest alongside taut but extremely refined tannins. Surprisingly fresh acidity for the hot vintage keeps it balanced. Drink through 2029. —K.O.

$25.99 Total Wine & More

Badia a Coltibuono 2019 Chianti Classico

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Ripe wild berry, blue flower and dark spice aromas form the nose along with whiffs of new leather. Tangy and easy drinking, the savory palate offers mature Marasca cherry and licorice alongside lithe tannins. Drink through 2024. —K.O.


Best Wines from Central Italy

Contesa 2020 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

This spicy red displays aromas of Sichuan peppercorn, blood orange peel and mentholated tobacco on the nose, with a solid core of black cherry and red plum. It’s polished and supple on the palate, with smooth tannins and pulsing acidity working in tandem to lend a firm webbing for the plump cherry and plum flavors to shine. Accents of orange peel and purple flowers lend levity, with a savory twang of granite on the close. —Alexander Peartree

$20 Wine-Searcher

Tre Monti 2018 Superiore Petrignone Riserva Sangiovese (Romagna)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Aromas of violet, leather, resin and baked plum come to the forefront. It’s full-bodied and rounded, doling out fleshy blackberry, spiced blueberry, mocha and tobacco alongside enveloping, fine-grained tannins. Drink 2024–2028. —K.O.

$26 Wine-Searcher

Best Wines from Southern Italy

Mastroberardino 2016 Radici (Taurasi)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Aromas of scorched earth, dried botanical herbs and baked plum form the nose along with whiffs of toasted nut. On the taut, structured palate, tightly knit, fine-grained tannins support dried cherry, licorice and tobacco. Drink 2024–2031. —K.O.

$44.95 Vivino

Tenuta di Fessina 2020 Erse (Etna)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Red berry, Mediterranean brush and camphor aromas escape the glass on this elegant red. The elegantly structured, medium-bodied palate features ripe raspberry, wild cherry, crushed mint and fennel seed alongside bright acidity and polished tannins. Drink through 2029. —K.O.

$26 Wine-Searcher

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.


What Is the Most Popular Italian Red Wine?

As previously listed, some of the most common Italian red wines are Barolo, made from the Nebbiolo grape; Chianti, made from the Sangiovese grape; and wines made from the Montepulciano grape.

What Are the Best Italian White Wines?

There is a wide range of white Italian wines that are popular, but one of the most common wines is Pinot Grigio. This white grape often comes from the northeast of Italy in the Veneto region. These wines are commonly unoaked with notes of apples and citrus fruits. Pinot Grigio wines are typically light-bodied and dry. Other popular grape varieties are Cortese, Garganega, Verdicchio and Fiano.

What Are the Best Italian Sparking Wines?

Prosecco is likely the most popular sparkling Italian wine, but there are many other Italian sparkling wines to try including Moscato/Muscat.

We Recommend:
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Mexican Beer Must-Haves, According to Suds Experts Mon, 02 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 3 beers on a desigend background
Images Courtesy of Drizly

Ask a modern American what Mexican beer means to them and they’ll reply not by explaining a flavor profile, but by describing a feeling. They’re beers for hot weather. Beers that go great with food. Beers that necessitate a lime. A cerveza you can drink a lot of.

But there’s a lot more to Mexican beer and brewing history than those simplifications.

What Is Mexican Beer?

As with many countries’ brews, Mexican beer was created and developed through an amalgam of cultures. Its history goes back quite a long way: Evidence suggests that Mesoamericans had already discovered fermented beverages before the 16th century, and, according to The Economics of Beer, the Aztecs made a sort of beer produced from sprouted kernels of maize.

The arrival of Hernán Cortés in 1519 and the ensuing Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, however, took beer in Central and South America in an entirely different direction. The first official European-style brewery was opened in New Spain by one of Cortés’ soldiers, Alfonso de Herrero, in the 1540s, probably in the what’s today south of Mexico City. It was heavily taxed (in favor of native intoxicants) and expensive to make, due to the lack of native wheat and barley. But it did give locals a taste for the stuff. As colonial restrictions waned, beer production and consumption began to rise.

By the latter portion of the 1800s, German immigrants had begun to immigrate to Mexico as part of a Second Mexican Empire, which was led by Austrian archduke Maximilian I of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. He brought with him his own brewer, who produced the sorts of Vienna-style lagers that no longer really exist in Austria today, but have become synonymous with a certain type of Mexican beer, most notably seen in the present courtesy of Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Ambar Especial.

A burgeoning railroad system allowed Mexicans to import brewing machinery and malt from the United States—as well as American beer, a new competitor to their homegrown stuff. Yet, by 1918, there were 36 beer producers in Mexico. The beginning of America’s Prohibition a couple years later would only help the Mexican beer industry, with many residents from the States crossing the border to drink.

As with the beer industry in many other countries, competition would lead to consolidation and closures. Cervecería Toluca became Cervecería Modelo in 1925 and start snapping up smaller breweries. Monterrey’s Cervecería Cuauhtémoc bought Tecate in 1954. By the second half of the 20th century, there were only two major brewers left, Grupo Modelo and Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma.

Most brands Americans know today are owned by these two giants and, the Vienna-style lagers excepted, most all of these beers are extremely light Pilsners. Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (now a subsidiary of Heineken International) has Tecate, Sol, Dos Equis and Bohemia. Grupo Modelo offers Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial, Victoria, Estrella and, of course, Corona. (Due to anti-trust legislation in 2013, Constellation Brands distributes Grupo Modelo in America.)

Corona was first imported to America in 1981 where it was seen as a luxury product..

Corona-mania” ensued with Americans throwing back beer from so many silk-screened bottles that it led to a glass shortage. Corona became America’s number one imported beer in 1998, but by 2018 Modelo Especial had taken the crown.

Whatever the case, Mexican beer had become a dominant force. Today, Mexican beers account for 80% of all beer imported into America.

The Mexican Craft Beer Movement

The craft beer boom began in America in the early-1980s before spreading to Canada, South America, Europe and Asia, but it would take a bit longer for Mexico to capitalize on the trend.

Not only was it hard to produce an artisanal beer here—Mexico doesn’t grow its own hops, and its barley production is far less than what the U.S. and Canada grows—but there wasn’t exactly a Mexican consumer willing to pay five to six times the cost of a macro beer. The country’s Big Beer duopoly also made distribution virtually impossible for the small guys; Grupo Modelo and Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma own the two biggest convenience store chains in the country, Extra and Oxxo.

The country’s earliest craft breweries and brewpubs like Sierra Madre Brewing, Cerveceria Minerva and Baja Brewing (owned by American expats no less) began to appear in Mexico at the start of the 21st century, but it wasn’t until around the mid-2010s that craft beer began to take off in Mexico, and only because the government had finally eased restrictions. Before then, bars had to pay up to $50,000 to serve beer, but they could get an interest-free loan if they signed a contract agreeing to carry the Big Beer brands exclusively. In 2013 the law was changed to allow bars to sell craft beer even if they’d previously signed an exclusivity contract.

Suddenly, craft breweries began to pop up like Cervecería Dos Aves, Cervecería Artisanal de Colima and countless others. Grupo Modelo would even acquire their first Mexican craft brewery, Cucapá, in 2015. Unlike the major players, these breweries produced ales.

Currently, RateBeer lists around 700 craft breweries in Mexico and the numbers continue to grow rapidly. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an easy-drinking, light beer on a hot day, it’s hard to beat the country’s legendary lagers.

By now, you surely have a hankering for Mexican beer. Here some some of the best, according to experts including brewers, brewery founders, beer and travel writers, podcasters, marketers and sales directors.

The Best Mexican Beers

1. Modelo Especial

Not just the best-selling Mexican beer in America, it’s now dollar-wise the second best-selling beer overall in the entire country after Bud Light. The sessionable lager is as drinkable as Corona, but isn’t as watery; it still offers a crisp flavor and some texture on the body. That’s why even craft beer connoisseurs like Justin Kennedy, the producer of the popular Steal This Beer podcast, cite Modelo as their top offering from south of the border.

$23 Drizly

2. Corona Extra

It might not be the best-selling Mexican beer anymore, but Corona surely remains the most iconic. For many fans, like travel writer Ali Wunderman, it’s the platonic ideal for what a Mexican lager should taste like: light, crisp and crushable, with just a hint of skunkiness.

$29 Total Wine & More

3. Victoria

Even though it lays claim to being Mexica’s “first cerveza,” this Vienna-style lager first brewed in 1865 is not as ubiquitous in America as many other longstanding Mexican brews.

“Here in New York, they’re just a little harder to come by than some other similar options, which maybe makes them feel just a tiny bit more special or exciting,” says Courtney Iseman, a Brooklyn-based beer writer. This crisp, easy drinker always manages to transport her back to a leisurely boat ride she once took in Xochimilco.

$10 Total Wine & More

4. Pacifico


This slightly grassy and citrusy lager is the go-to for LeAnn Darland, co-owner of Talea Beer Co. in Brooklyn. “It’s one of the most balanced Mexican lagers and was my go-to on beach days in San Diego,” she says, citing how refreshing and crisp it is while still offering a subtle malty character, a mild hoppy bitterness and just a hint of acidity.

$17 Total Wine & More

5. Negra Modelo

This quintessential Mexican-style Vienna lager upends the idea of what “Mexican beer” is for many drinkers used to brews light in color and flavor. But, of course, it has a heritage every bit as traditional as the more crushable, fizzy yellow beers. And just because it’s dark and more robust in flavor, doesn’t mean it isn’t highly-drinkable—as well as an ideal food-pairing beer.

$23 Drizly

6. Tecate

A fan of Vienna-style lagers, when opting for a lighter Mexican lager, longtime beer writer Meredith Heil grabs this golden offering. Expectedly crisp, it offers a little more hoppy bitterness than most Mexican lagers of its class, making it an ideal food beer, especially for spicy dishes.

$3 Drizly

7. Cervecera Hércules’

Basil Lee, co-founder of Finback Brewery in Queens, loves the traditional (though not always traditional to Mexico) lagers of this decade-old brewery. “Head brewer Josh Brengle is meticulous and methodical in brewing crispy, balanced lagers, paying close attention to European heritage and traditional process,” says Lee, citing the joy of drinking in the outfit’s beautiful taprooms in Queretaro and Mexico City.

$21 Total Wine & More

8. “All of Them

Then again, many experts were happy to simply celebrate the entire category. Like Chris McClellan, an advanced cicerone and the head of marketing and sales at Torch & Crown Brewing Company in New York. “[I] will drink anything imported from Mexico,” he says, especially if they are ice cold.

Why You Should Trust Us

We tapped beer industry pros for recommendations of the best Mexican beers on the market. This group of brewers, brewery founders, beer and travel writers, podcasters, marketers and sales directors returned a list that included everything from corporate-owned macro lagers to smaller, newer and more obscure craft releases.


What’s the Best-Selling Beer in Mexico?

Unlike in the States, where it has dropped to number two, Corona remains the best-selling beer in its native land. The brand has a value just under U.S. $6 billion, while Victoria actually comes in second at around U.S. $4 billion.

Does Mexico Have a National Beer?

While the major breweries were once nationally-owned, today they are in the hands of multinational conglomerates. So, while you could call Corona Mexico’s “national beer,” that would be strictly unofficially.

How Is Mexican Beer Different from Other Beers?

If different, in any way, it is by keeping the Vienna-style lager still alive. While no longer really brewed in Austria, it is the prominent style in Mexico today, best exemplified by Negra Modelo and Dos Equis Ambar Especial.

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Sta. Rita Hills Is More Than Just Pinot-Land Mon, 02 Jan 2023 14:00:00 +0000 Alma Rosa Winery vineyards in Buellton, California.
Image Courtesy of Ciro Coelho

Just 25 years ago, no one—not even winemakers in Santa Barbara County—promoted the name “Sta. Rita Hills” as a prime place for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Yet just two decades after the appellation’s creation in 2001, this fog-soaked, wind-whipped western edge of the Santa Ynez Valley is a globally recognized hotspot for cool-climate grapes and a model of how to correctly craft an American Viticultural Area.

“It can be hard to wrap your head around Southern California and think of a cool climate,” explains Matt Dees, who makes The Hilt wines from the Bentrock and Radian vineyards on Rancho Salsipuedes. “Until people come here and see it for themselves or taste enough wines, it’s hard to fathom. But once people taste that freshness and electricity in the whites and the depth of fruit and complexity of the reds, they become believers pretty quick.”

Today, those believers include both larger wineries from Northern California and highly regarded domaines in Burgundy and Champagne. So how did this no-name region rise to international acclaim so quickly? And what does the future hold?

In 1971, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard proved that Pinot Noir could thrive in Santa Barbara County / Sanford and Benedict Vineyard
In 1971, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard proved that Pinot Noir could thrive in Santa Barbara County / Image Courtesy of George Rose

Beyond Hot or Not

The rise of the Sta. Rita Hills is rooted in the combination of pure intentions and perfect timing. “The beginning was pretty innocent—there wasn’t any expectation of greatness,” said Richard Sanford, who, along with Michael Benedict, was the first to plant wine grapes here in 1971. “We were just finding a way to be in nature and make a living. All the pieces came into place.”

When their 1976 Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir won wide praise, others started planting vineyards between Buellton and Lompoc. The pace intensified into the 1990s, when the first Dijon clones of Pinot Noir hit the market and modern farming techniques such as drip irrigation, vertical trellising, cover cropping and high-density planting came into vogue.

“We took advantage of not only the climate and the soil and the land pricing but also these viticultural advancements,” says Chad Melville, whose father, Ron Melville, bought land alongside Highway 246 in 1996. “That was a big influence.”

But the mainstream understanding of Santa Barbara County was that the Santa Maria Valley was cold and the Santa Ynez Valley was hot. That just wasn’t true on the Santa Ynez Valley’s western end, so the vintners had to tell their own story. “The motivation of the appellation was very pure,” explained Greg Brewer, whose Brewer-Clifton brand is almost entirely focused on the region. “It wasn’t an appellation that was born out of a financial thing or an ego thing or a place of envy, like many borders can be. It was a real appellation born out of educational clarity. It was very basic: We weren’t hot.”

Holding firm to the message that the area was different, not better, Sanford convened a group, including pioneers in the region such as Richard Longoria and Bryan Babcock, to investigate forming a sub-appellation. With Wes Hagen— whose family planted Clos Pepe in 1996—handling details, they mapped it peak to peak to map it out, effectively developing their own appellation template.

“It wasn’t an appellation that was born out of a financial thing or an ego thing or a place of envy, like many borders can be.”

“This appellation was very, very different in its establishment because it wasn’t an old growing area and it wasn’t being leveraged by PR people,” said Sanford, who still laments that the eastern boundary was slightly expanded in 2016. “There was purity in the whole process—rather than trying to bend the boundaries to accommodate other people’s wishes.” Sanford also had to go to Chile to smooth things over with Viña Santa Rita, which is why the appellation’s name was eventually abbreviated to “Sta.” Rita Hills.

The appellation was approved in 2001, when winemaker Gavin Chanin of Chanin Wines was just a teenager. After working with regions across the state, he believes they got it right. “I’m a skeptic of AVAs—I don’t think they’re really useful, with the exception of the Sta. Rita Hills,” he says. “I find that it has a really distinct character, even though there are multiple soil types and multiple exposures.” The good times rolled on into the mid-2000s, with wallets growing fat and the film Sideways firing up a passion for Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills and the entire Santa Ynez Valley as a destination. “It had that perfect storm element,” says Brewer.

“Before the movie came out, people didn’t know how to pronounce Pinot Noir,” says Melville. “That gave people a comfort zone of getting their heads around this mysterious grape. It made it approachable.”

Melville Vineyard
Melville Vineyard, founded along Highway 246 in 1996, made the most of Dijon clones and high density plantings / Image Courtesy of George Rose

Not Just Pinot-land

Sideways pumped up the popularity of Pinot Noir, which now far outweighs Chardonnay in acreage. Over time, that’s bred a range of styles, from bold and ripe to lean and graceful, yet they all carry hallmarks of the appellation. “Whether you’re picking early or late,” said The Hilt’s Matt Dees, “the soul still shines through.”

Despite Pinot’s prominence, Dees believes—as do almost all of the dozen-plus vintners we spoke to—Chardonnay is the appellation’s true star. “The beauty for me is that, from east to west, the Chardonnays are identifiably Sta. Rita Hills, even when tasted blind,” he says. “I’m ferociously proud of that.” Babcock says that the Chardonnay has “an extra gear” to compete with wines from anywhere, while Brewer calls it “very singular.” Evidence of that goes back to a 1995 bottling of Chardonnay from the region by Rick Longoria, long before anyone considered it as an appellation. Set against top Chardonnays from around the world by a prominent magazine, Longoria’s was named number one, earning 98 points. “That might have been the first glimpse,” he recalls.

Melville pours his Chardonnay last during tastings. “They have that salty, briny minerality—this beautiful tight acid with concentrated fruit—all wrapped up in one package,” he says. “When I pour it at the end, it just blows the whole thing up. People just stop in their tracks and are like, ‘Whoa.’”

These winemakers are also bullish on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah, which, says Melville, offers flavors of “purple flower, white pepper, olive tapenade and charcuterie, with fresh acidity and just enough grippiness to make it all work.” Of course, he often must let it ripen until the potentially wet days of November, but explains, “With the risk comes rewards.” In fact, some of the region’s most acclaimed wines—those from Eleven Confessions Vineyard by Manfred Krankl’s Sine Qua Non— are Rhône-based, so it’s no surprise to see Grenache making headway, too. There are also exciting, if tiny, plantings of Gamay, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and other outliers.

“The story is a lot easier to tell if you say that the Sta. Rita Hills is Pinot-land, but there’s a lot of thrill in some other varieties, and definitely Syrah and Chardonnay are already proven in my book,” says veteran vintner Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, who recently purchased Fe Ciega Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. “There is room for more discovery.”

Another frontier is sparkling wine, which Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars first crafted in 2005. “Why is nobody making any sparkling wine here?” he wondered back then while testing grapes around veraison and finding their chemistry perfect. “We have phenolic development at lower numbers. That’s why we can make them drier.”

Fess Parker Winery was second on that train, and now runs an exclusive sparkling tasting room called the Bubble Shack. Winemaker Blair Fox learned the process from Yost, and is now sourcing almost exclusively from their Parker West Vineyard on the appellation’s western edge. But it’s happening everywhere. “I see more and more people picking for sparkling wine now than ever,” says Fox.

Yost hopes the trend matures, wondering, “Is anybody going to plant Pinot Meunier?”

Melville Vineyards
Melville Vineyard / Image Courtesy of George Rose

The Long Game

One crucial hurdle for a region’s reputation is the longevity of its wines. Only in recent years have there been enough older Sta. Rita Hills vintages to judge as such, but the verdicts are encouraging. Anyone lucky enough to try those old Sanford & Benedicts of the ’70s and ’80s was convinced long ago.

“That is no fluke,” saiys Babcock. “This is an indication that, in a good vintage, if you make it right, the wine is gonna go 20 to 25 years, no sweat.”

Investment from the likes of Napa superstars such as Dave Phinney and big brands like Jackson Family has bolstered Sta. Rita Hills, but nothing better validates a wine region dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than vignerons from Burgundy and Champagne staking claim. Etienne de Montille did just that in 2017 when, after a month-long tour of the West Coast, through the Willamette Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Cruz Mountains and elsewhere, chose the Sta. Rita Hills for his Racines Wines brand. Champagne veteran Rodolphe Péters is a partner, overseeing the sparkling program. They share an underlying hope that the region’s direct coastal influence will temper the warming weather patterns, as compared to their land-locked settings in the Old World.

“We can confidently say that the Sta. Rita Hills has the coldest climate in all of those regions,” says de Montille. “The Sta. Rita Hills also enjoys more diverse soils than we could find in Oregon or Northern California, ranging from sandy soil to Monterey shale to clay to diatomaceous earth and even some limestone. That was a good surprise for us.”

Given the competitive nature of the wine business, California’s persistent drought and the increasingly chaotic effects of climate change, not even a blessed region like the Sta. Rita Hills sleeps soundly.

“I worry more, frankly, about water,” says Victor Gallegos of Sea Smoke Vineyard. “Everyone has their head in the sand on that subject. We’re not having any conversations about what level of planting that watershed can sustain.” He’s not talking about grapes or cannabis, which both use drip irrigation—he means old-school farmers. If regulators do get involved, says Gallegos, “The people who are flood-irrigating or sprinkler-irrigating row crops in the Lompoc plain will probably go away or change their practices.”

Sashi Moorman, who makes Domaine de la Côte with Rajat Parr, is preparing for more violent storms, but his prevailing climate concern is more subtle. “The winters are warmer,” he says, explaining that, without a proper freeze, vine diseases proliferate. “These are serious issues that will become more serious.”

“We’re not having any conversations about what level of planting that watershed can sustain.”

Adam Tolmach watched Pierce’s disease destroy his Ojai property a quarter-century ago. He’s since planted disease-resistant hybrid vines developed by UC-Davis (including Ambulo Blanc, Caminante Blanc, Walker Red and Paseante Noir) there and just planted some at Fe Ciega Vineyard as well, where the disease killed off a Chardonnay block close to the Santa Ynez River. “The lower areas are just awful—you can’t grow 100% vinifera down there,” he says. He’s “guardedly happy” about the hybrids, and so are others. “At least three different vineyards have wanted to get ahold of me and talk about what these are,” he said. “There’s great interest.”

When Pierce’s disease started killing his vineyard, Babcock pivoted by buying fruit from other vineyard sites around the county. “I feel like a kid in a candy store,” says Babcock, who’s solving another problem by no longer growing grapes: “The biggest issue that the industry has is oversupply [of grapes].” Strict development rules also constrain Sta. Rita Hills, where it’s all but impossible to build a winery or tasting room. “That might pose a challenge to the evolution of the area,” says Brewer, who, like so many others, makes his wine in a Lompoc warehouse and sells it through a tasting room in the wine-soaked town of Los Olivos. “There’s not a lot of marketing flashiness between Highway 246 and Santa Rosa Road,” explains Hagen, referring to its still very rural nature. “The vines and wines are the stars, and they do most of the talking for us.”

This article originally appeared in the Best of Year 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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Are Stemless Wine Glasses Any Good? We Investigate Fri, 30 Dec 2022 14:00:00 +0000 traditional wine glass versus stemless wine glass
Graphic by Eric DeFreitas

When it comes to holding a wine glass properly, conventional wisdom is as follows: Always at the stem, don’t touch the bowl. That’s because stemware has a purpose: It allows for intentional tasting and graceful swirling, and when used correctly, can preserve the wine’s optimal temperature.

In other words, your wine glass matters. “Wine is meant to be enjoyed and the glass is equally important to the experience,” concurs sommelier and Wine Enthusiast Tasting Director Anna-Christina Cabrales.

So then what’s the deal with stemless wine glasses? One could argue that they go against everything we know about tasting etiquette. And yet, they’ve become a trendy staple for wine professionals and casual drinkers alike.

There must be some utility to stemless wine glasses, right? Let’s investigate.

When to Use a Stemless Wine Glass

“For me, stemless wine glasses are fun,” says Cabrales. “They usually have this cool appeal—whether it be that way the glass is cut or that it has some sort of decorative design—that just makes you want to grab and hold them.”

Stemless wine glasses are a solid choice for casual gatherings, she adds—irrespective of the quality of wine that fills your glass.

“I’ve had some really fancy stuff at a tailgate or the park,” Cabrales recounts. “Will I bring a Zalto glass into the park? No. But am I going to enjoy fine wine in the park with a solo cup? No, I’m not going to do that either.” Stemless wine glasses provide a happy medium, she says.

stemless wine glass
Graphic by Eric DeFreitas

As a final point, stemless wine glasses are easier to care for.

“They tend to break less,” says Cabrales. “A [traditional] wine glass has three parts—the base, the stem and the bowl—so it’s either one piece or three pieces.” Stemless wine glasses, on the other hand, allow for a more durable and compact storage option.

broken wine glass
Graphic by Eric DeFreitas

When Not to Use a Stemless Wine Glass

“When there’s a stem around,” says Cabrales candidly. In other words, stemless glasses will always be second fiddle to stemmed glasses. The traditional shape has its own nuances to account for, like why height matters for the stem. But choosing glassware depends on your goal as a wine drinker and, of course, your personal preferences.

Are you looking to smell the secondary aromas of caramel and butterscotch in an aged Chardonnay? Get a stemmed wine glass and make your way through the five S’s of wine tasting without omitting a proper swirl. Additionally, it’s a good idea to choose a traditional wine glass in formal settings. Having a stem keeps the bowl clean—and, well, no one likes smudged glassware.

swirling traditional wine glass
Graphic by Eric DeFreitas

But do you just want a casual glass of something tasty with a weeknight dinner? A stemmed wine glass will do just fine, if it pleases you.

Of course, exceptions abound. Cabrales says she’s been to wine bars that boast thoughtful bottle selections and choose stemless glassware over traditional stemware. 

“They’re sending me a message, saying, ‘This is how we feel you can best experience this wine,’” she recounts. “I always prefer having a stem, but there’s no rule as to what you enjoy wine in.”

Are Glass Stemless Wine Glasses Better Than Plastic?

If anything goes, then what about plastic stemless wine glasses?

When choosing plastic over glass, it’s a matter of practicality. Plastic serveware is often lightweight, portable and durable, nearly eliminating the risk of breakage. However, it’s worth noting that plastic glasses may not be the most environmentally-friendly option on the market.

“It gets the job done, but it’ll never match up to what glass and especially crystal can do,” says Cabrales. Why, exactly? According to Cabrales, the composition of your glass will help bring out certain aromatics. For instance, crystal glassware may contain minerals like lead, magnesium and zinc, which can positively affect the flavor profile of the wine. Shape matters, too—learn more by digging into our extensive wine glass guide.

different types of wine glasses
Graphic by Eric DeFreitas

When it comes to resolving the stemless versus traditional glassware debate, Cabrales leaves us with some words of wisdom.

“Sometimes you’ll have options, sometimes you won’t,” she says. “And sometimes even the stemless glass will trump what’s available out there. Just keep an eye as to what’s open for what will maximize your enjoyment—that’s the glassware you should use.”

Ready to give your wine glass collection a refresher? Our glassware buying guide provides expert insights and tips, helping you choose the best wine glass for you.

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Our Top Bordeaux Picks, from Budget to Baller Thu, 29 Dec 2022 14:00:00 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Vivino

Pop open a bottle of Bordeaux, and you’re almost guaranteed to be in for something special. The famous wine region is well-known for its elite pours, historical vineyards and mouth-watering blends. But a Bordeaux is so much more than the pricey bottle of red on a wine shop’s top shelf.

Want to know more? We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Bordeaux wine, what grapes are common in Bordeaux blends and the best bottlings to pick up right now.

What Is Bordeaux Wine?

Like many European wines, Bordeaux wines are named after the region in which they are produced. Bordeaux is a wine region in France about three hours south of Paris and is well known for its world-class winemaking.

The area has a mild ocean climate courtesy of the Atlantic Ocean and is home to over 6,000 winemakers producing in mainly family-run estates. Bordeaux can refer to red or white wines. But red Bordeaux wines make up about 85 percent of wine production—they are often moderately alcoholic, have strong tannins and pair beautifully with food. In contrast, depending on which grapes are present and in what amounts, a white Bordeaux, or Bordeaux Blanc, tends to be fresh and can have notes of citrus, grass and apples. Dry white Bordeaux wines make up just about nine percent of the region’s wine production; Bordeaux also produces small amounts of rosé, sweet white and crémant.

What Are the Common Bordeaux Grapes?

Most Bordeaux wines are not single-varietal, but a blend that contains multiple grape varieties. Red Bordeaux wine often contains the grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, but can also be blended with Malbec, Carménère and Petit Verdot. A Bordeaux Blanc typically contains a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, but can also include a mix of other grapes like Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Merlot Blanc and Mauzac.

Now, it’s time to get shopping. Our expert tasters picked these great examples of excellent quality Bordeaux wines from the current 2019 vintage, ranging in price from $15 to $200. They come from nine distinct grape-growing districts of Bordeaux. The wine is flowing, and we have the best Bordeaux wine bottles to get you started.

Cellar Selections from Bordeaux

Château Troplong Mondot 2019 (Saint-Émilion)

100 Points Wine Enthusiast

The magnificent Merlot in the blend has pushed up the alcohol, while also giving a velvet touch and power to the wine. This estate is now on top form, producing this generously ripe, black plum flavored wine. It is lifted by acidity while powering the wine’s intensity. Drink from 2026. #13 Top 100 Cellar Selections 2022 —Roger Voss


Château Cos d’Estournel 2019 (Saint-Estèphe)

98 Points Wine Enthusiast

Gone are the days when this illustrious estate produced the most powerful wine possible. This new release is stylish and packed with great black fruits. Some dark chocolate flavors add density while keeping the wine’s perfume and blackberry flavors. It is impressive, likely ready to drink from 2026. Cellar Selection —R.V.

$254 Vivino

Domaine de Chevalier 2019 (Pessac-Léognan)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

In this wine, rich tannins are beautifully polished by the 16 to 20 months in wood. The black fruits, from the 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, are structured, giving the wine considerable potential. Still coming into balance, the wine will likely be ready from 2027. Cellar Selection —R.V.


Château Léoville Barton 2019 (Saint-Julien)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

The wine is rich, complete. Its impressive structure is cushioned by the velvet black fruits and acidity. The wine’s construction is powerful but never overpowering. It will age well, ready to drink from 2026. Cellar Selection —R.V.

$289 Vivino

Château Haut-Bages Libéral 2019 (Pauillac)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

The classed growth, whose vineyard is in the south of Pauillac, is now performing impressively. This release has succulent black fruits that are braced with tannins and a firm, spicy structure. It is a dense wine that will age. Drink from 2026. Organic. Cellar Selection —R.V.

$65 Total Wine & More

Château Tour de Pez 2019 Cru Bourgeois (Saint-Estèphe)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

From the Pez plateau west of the village of Saint-Estèphe, this wine is dense and structured. Against this, the black fruits and perfumed acidity give the wine plenty of promise. Drink from 2026. Cellar Selection —R.V.

$408 / 12 bottles Millesima

Château de Sales 2019 (Pomerol)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This powerful wine with layers of new wood and dense black fruits is setting out for serious aging. It comes from one of the largest estates in Pomerol, less well known than it should be. Drink this wine that has great potential from 2026. Cellar Selection —R.V.

$69 Vivino

Editor’s Choice from Bordeaux

Château Ferrière 2019 (Margaux)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

The wine is dense and concentrated. Its deep black plum fruits and solid tannins have weight and density. The wine does keep a sense of proportion in its balance and juicy aftertaste. Drink from 2026. Organic and biodynamic. Editor’s Choice —R.V.


Château Fourcas Dupré 2019 Cru Bourgeois (Listrac-Médoc)

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a structured wine with fine tannins that will allow it to age. Black currant fruits and spice come together in a concentrated bond. The wine needs plenty of time, wait to drink until 2025. Editor’s Choice —R.V.

$30 Vivino

Best Buy Reds from Bordeaux

Château Beaumont 2019 Cru Bourgeois (Haut-Médoc)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

This ripe, generous wine already promises well. Firm tannins back up the berry fruits and black-coffee flavors. The wine, while young, has everything ready for good aging. Drink from 2026. Best Buy —R.V.

$32 Vivino

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.


Which Bordeaux Wine Region Is the Best?

Hate to break it to you, but “best” is in the eye—or wine glass?—of the beholder. There are approximately 65 appellations within the Bordeaux wine region, divided into the Left Bank and Right Bank by the Gironde Estuary, where the Dordogne River and the Garonne River meet. The Left-Bank Médoc region is most famous for Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux. This bank also includes Sauternes and Graves. The most famous Right-Bank regions are Saint- Émilion and Pomerol.

What Is Bordeaux’s Most Famous Wine?

Approximately 85 percent of the wine produced in the Bordeaux region are red wines made primarily with a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines labeled Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC can be grown anywhere within the region, while bottles labeled for the specific appellations (like Pessac-Lèognan AOC or Saint-Émilion AOC) tend to be of higher quality and hold a more prestigious reputation. This is especially true when they hold titles referencing a specific chateau or are classified as Grand Cru Classé, Cru Classé or Cru Bourgeois.

Why Is Bordeaux Wine so Expensive?

Bordeaux wine is famously expensive; some of the higher-end wines come from renowned chateaus and produce quality pours, making them a pricier pick. But affordable and great-value bottlings are certainly available.

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Wine Enthusiast Podcast: How Restaurants Create Successful Beverage Programs Wed, 28 Dec 2022 14:00:11 +0000 Episode 130 - How Restaurants Create Successful Beverage Programs
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Have you ever wondered how restaurants decide what wines to put on their lists? This week we’re looking at beverage programs.

My guests today are a part of the award-winning Union Square Hospitality Group, but they represent different restaurants within the group.

Assistant editor Jacy talks with Erin Healy, beverage director at Gramercy Tavern, Arthur Hon, beverage director at The Modern and Will Edwards, beverage director at Manhatta. They discuss how they go about finding new wines, regions they’re excited about and the importance of understanding your consumers.

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The New Wave of Weird, Wild American Brandy Wed, 28 Dec 2022 14:00:00 +0000 Illustration fo people drinking Brandy
Illustation by Amber Day

Once a year, Baltimore Spirits takes an attention-grabbing approach to dispatching an abundance of Maryland apples into apple brandy. Inspired by the harvest celebration of Mexico’s pechuga mezcal, raw apples are swept with smoke, then distilled with foraged pawpaw, persimmon and black walnut. For the final distillation, a 30-pound Maryland country ham is suspended in the still above the pot, for a distinct “prosciutto-y” salinity, explains cofounder Max Lents.

“It’s a completely insane thing to do— hanging hams in your still,” Lents acknowledges, “but the spirit wouldn’t be the same without it.”

Insane? Maybe. But it’s memorable—and that’s important.

Creative distilleries are shaking up the once-sleepy world of American brandy. Many are borrowing inspiration from ingredients and distilling cultures from around the world; others are finding ways to spotlight uber-local ingredients, preserving peak seasonal flavors in liquid form.

American brandy has a long lineage, dating back to the first colonists who adapted Europe’s distillation methods to turn apples, pears and other fruit into booze. More recently, modern craft brandy pioneers such as Germain-Robin, Osocalis, Laird’s and St. George, among others, brought high-quality American brandies to the mainstream. Now, a new generation is finding ways to draw attention to brandy—many with flavors we just can’t forget.

Baltimore Spirits

Baltimore, MD

When the distillery opened in 2015, the plan was to focus on heritage spirits such as a Maryland rye and a traditional apple brandy.

Yet, an obsession with Mexico’s often-smoky mezcal led Baltimore Spirits to emulate Mexico’s agave distillation methods—using apples, which they smoked and then pot-distilled. They describe the end result, Fumus Pumila, as a “mezcal-style apple brandy,” with a distinctly smoky tone. While the founders aren’t of Mexican descent, they say, “We were inspired by mezcal to make this spirit.”

They have since experimented with a smoked pommeau (a French style that mixes apple juice and apple brandy), as well as their annual “pechuga” variation featuring local autumn fruit and nuts— and that country ham.

What is it about brandy that keeps the experiments coming? “It’s overlooked and underappreciated,” Lents says. He points to the “ebb and flow” of enthusiasm for various spirits: vodka in the ’80s and ’90s, bourbon in the aughts. Brandy hasn’t held the spotlight lately, he adds, “But I think brandy will have its moment again.”

Bottles to Try

Fumus Pumila (Smoked Apple Brandy) 50% abv; $32.99

Asimina Pumila (“Pechuga”-Style Apple Brandy) 53.4% abv; $59.99

illustration of brandy next to fruit
Illustation by Amber Day

High Wire Distilling

Charleston, SC

“There’s something unique about brandy, and how distillation presents the finest essence of that fruit or vegetable,” says cofounder Ann Marshall. While the Charleston distillery is best known for its Jimmy Red Corn Bourbon, “We dabble in brandy,” Marshall says—notably, innovative versions inspired by their Southern heritage.

First came a golden peach brandy— South Carolina is the largest peach producer in the South. Prohibition had pretty much wiped out peach brandy-making traditions, so Marshall and husband Scott Blackwell reached out to drinks historian Dave Wondrich for an assist. Wondrich’s feedback: The early version likely was intended to produce “an American version of Cognac,” so their fragrant version, made using flesh, pits and peach skin, aged for two years in French oak barrels.

Other brandy test-runs have included a limited-edition watermelon brandy using local Charleston Gray watermelons (“it had a squash-y, rind-y, old-school heirloom melon characteristic”). Looking ahead, Marshall is dreaming about loquats, a kumquat-like fruit that grows in urban Charleston: “I could see us rallying to do something like that. It’s a whole other tier of things to experiment with and learn about.”

Bottles to Try

Peach Brandy (2 years old) 44% abv, $79.99

Peach Brandy 2022 release, bottled in bond (4 years old) 50% abv, $99

Watermelon Brandy 40% abv, $79.99

Rhine Hall Brandy next to fruit illustration
Illustation by Amber Day

Rhine Hall Distillery

Chicago, IL

Many of Rhine Hall’s brandies—plum, pear, cherry, etc.—are inspired by European traditions. After all, cofounder Charlie Solberg first developed an interest in brandy while in Austria, where he played professional hockey in the 1970s.

Today, daughter and co-founder Jennifer Solberg Katzman has expanded into what she terms “exotic” fruit brandies, made with fruit imported from Mexico and Central America, just right for mixing into tropical cocktails. They started with mango brandy about five years ago, followed by banana— “it tastes like banana bread, but with no sugar added,” Katzman says—and pineapple, the latter made in both a clear eau-de-vie and lush barrel-aged “reserve” style, with the barrel adding nuanced spice.

“The catalyst was, what can we do that’s innovative, but not trendy?” Katzman recalls. “I don’t think people get that excited about traditional Midwest fruit they can see at the farmer’s market. But if you throw something exotic into the mix, it catches someone’s ear.”

Bottles to Try

Mango Brandy 40% abv; $59

Pineapple Brandy 40% abv; $56

Pear Brandy 40% abv; $65

Tamworth Distilling

Tamworth, NH

Tamworth makes a wide range of spirits—whiskeys, seasonal gins and liqueurs, a VSOP apple brandy, pommeau and “plummeau” made with Damson plums. But a daring experiment distilling durian—a spiky tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia, noted for its custardy flesh and pungent aroma—caught significant attention when it launched in 2020. Nicknamed “Corpse Flower,” after a night-blooming flower with a similarly funky fragrance, the finished distillate included distinct floral notes.

Owner Steven Grasse had spent time in Southeast Asia and suggested distilling the fruit. The biggest challenge, recalls distiller Jamie Oakes, was sourcing fresh durian, which they could only find readily available dried or in paste format. “Being a polarizing fruit, I wanted it to be the best possible version the fruit has to offer,” Oakes says. He eventually procured fresh fruit packed in dry ice. While the original limited run sold out, Oakes anticipates “bringing it back at some point.”

Durian brandy was a daring gamble—likely one of many boundary-breaking brandies to come, Oakes predicts. “We think there’s a limit—and then we push through.”

Bottles to Try

“Corpse Flower” Durian Brandy 43% abv; $65 for 200 ml

Corpse Flower Brandy illustration
Illustation by Amber Day

Clear Creek Distillery/Hood River Distillers

Hood River, OR

Inspired by an Alsatian distillate made with pine buds, this bracing version is a neutral grape brandy steeped with Oregon’s Douglas Fir, yielding a naturally pale-green hue and bracing, forest-like scent. In addition to the Douglas Fir, Clear Creek is well-known for its wide array of fruit brandies, including a pear-inthe-bottle pear brandy, in the style of France’s “Poire Prisonniere.”

But each spring, the distillery team heads into Mount Hood to pluck fir buds from a lumber farm, working with the local forest service. “Those buds are only viable for us to pick for about five days; then they turn orange and brown and become too sappy,” explains head distiller Caitlin Bartlemay. “We have to pick 100-plus pounds in five days. We go up, we pick buds like mad, it’s like picking popcorn off a Christmas tree.”

Made just once each year, “It’s our love letter to the Pacific Northwest,” Bartlemay says.

Bottles to Try

Douglas Fir Brandy 47.7% abv; $50 for 375 ml

Will it Brandy?

Creative distillers are always thinking about ways to push boundaries even further. While it might be surprising what has worked, not everything does. Plenty of trial runs never make it to the bottling line (we asked). Apparently savory flavors can be challenging. Tomato has been tried (“just weird”) and onion (“potent”). There’s funk to come though: One distiller professed plans to try a mushroom brandy. Another is thinking about one made from fruit native to Asia—yes, yuzu brandy, here we come.

The producers profiled here are mostly small craft distilleries and make a limited supply of their most unusual brandies. Some skipped annual runs during the pandemic or delayed 2022 releases due to supply-chain issues. Purchasing direct from the distilleries—in person, if you can—is the best bet to scoop up limited-edition bottlings.

This article originally appeared in the Best of Year 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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What Does ‘Angel’s Share’ Mean in Spirits? Tue, 27 Dec 2022 14:00:00 +0000 whiskey glass with angel wings and clouds in the background
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One of the dreamier phrases you’ll hear in the drinks business, “angel’s share” is used to describe the amount of water and liquor that evaporates as a spirit matures in a barrel. It’s a naturally occurring side effect of the aging process that some but not all liquors undergo.

“Since the vaporization of a barrel’s contents is in the air, it’s described as being available only to ‘angels,’” explains Chris Morris, master distiller at Coopers’ Craft Bourbon in Kentucky. This impacts all barrel-aged spirits, he says, “but it’s the whiskey industry that’s embraced the term.”

The phrase has been used by distillers for centuries but became more popular in the 1970s.

To understand the meaning of angel’s share for whiskey, Cognac and other spirits, it’s helpful to explore how those liquors are made, and all the factors that distillers have to consider when creating their precious liquid.

Why Does Angel’s Share Occur?

While exact ingredients and steps vary, the process of making a distilled spirit starts with gathering raw materials. These include grain if you’re making whiskey, fruit for brandy or white wine for Cognac.

Once a distiller has what they need, they might smoke, shred or mill it before adding hot water and yeast to kick off fermentation. Next, they’ll distill the mixture one or more times in a pot or column still, depending on what they’re making, and pour it into wooden barrels to age.

As the liquid sits in its barrel, the angel’s share phenomenon occurs.

“Essentially, the cask breathes,” explains Jenna Elie, whiskey educator. “When things are maturing in a cask, as temperatures fluctuate, the liquid is moving in and out of the cask.”

If you’ve ever noticed a wood door getting stuck in its frame during the summertime, you’re familiar with the ways wood contracts and expands when exposed to elements like heat and humidity. That happens to barrels, too—and some of the liquid inside evaporates as a result.

How Much Is Lost to Angel’s Share?

The amount of water and spirit that evaporates during the aging process depends on several factors. Firstly, liquor that’s kept in barrels for longer periods of time loses more to angel’s share than those with shorter maturation periods. Producers can and do decide to age certain distillates longer than others for all sorts of reasons, including destination- and spirit-specific regulations. Cognac and bourbon must mature in barrels for at least two years, for instance, while Scotch has a three-year minimum.

Climate is another consideration. If barrels are kept in a consistently cool environment, the liquid inside them will neither age nor evaporate as quickly as it would in barrels intermittently or constantly exposed to heat and humidity.

“If you age a whiskey in Texas, it’s going to mature a lot faster than in Scotland, where the temperatures are cooler and you don’t get those huge surges over time,” says Elie. The angel’s share for a spirit made in Scotland might clock about 2–3% annually, she says, while it can be upwards of 5% each year in hotter destinations like Kentucky or Texas.

Microclimates also come into play. “Even if you have two distilleries within a mile of each other, the angel’s share can be very different,” she says.

Since aged spirits sit untouched in barrels for years before they can be sold, people who make them often have tight margins. As a result, many distillers try to anticipate angel’s share when plotting their production.

“Over time, a whiskey distillery will be able to calculate and therefore predict its angel’s share loss on an annual basis,” says Morris. “For example, if 1,000 cases are needed in five years, and your angel’s share is 5% per year, you will need to produce 25% more than you need to fulfill your predictions.”

Otherwise, your spirit—and profits—might just evaporate into thin air.

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Grieving in Wine Country: How Wine Brought One Man Back from the Dead Mon, 26 Dec 2022 14:00:00 +0000 Santa Barbara County's Wine Country
Courtesy of Getty Images

Two hours north of Los Angeles, or however long it takes you to crawl 120 miles along LA freeways, just past the Santa Barbara beaches there is a 90-degree dogleg-right in the 101 freeway. As you veer around the bend, a tunnel materializes suddenly before you, which burrows through a jagged peak of sandstone. It is my portal to another world.

This tunnel is about a football field long, but when you emerge on the other side, it is as though a wormhole has transported you to another time and place. The climate changes dramatically. The shivering, fogbound coastline is replaced by high flying skies and pointed sunlight. Crispy chaparral on bare slopes gives way to a forest of live oak that climbs the brief but steep pass over the mountains. After your ascent, there is a short stretch of flat road—a deep breath on the way for you to admire the hills and vines crisscrossing your path, before you drop into the Santa Ynez Valley. Here is wine backcountry, where GPS guidance is as lost as you, while you ford dry creeks to taste Pinot Noir in corrugated shacks and A-frame barns and tuck into creaky tables in old stagecoach stops.

“Here is wine backcountry, where GPS guidance is as lost as you.”

For years I fled LA to cross the threshold of this transporting tunnel as often as I could. I would even do the drive roundtrip in one day if that was all the time I had. My world down south was full of grief and loss, some belonging to others, some belonging to me. I was a chaplain and grief counselor working in hospice. I sat at the bedsides of people taking their last breaths. I tried to provide a teaspoon of comfort for their loved ones on one of the worst nights of their lives. I listened to and held all their questions, memories and emotions. It was profound and strange work. And it was often exhausting.

On my hardest hospice nights I would fantasize about taking the tunnel. Everything in my world seemed to be fading and dying, but the world beyond that tunnel felt so full of life and abundance, where nothing ever dies. Santa Ynez seemed like a garden always in bloom, its vineyards coursing with life and energy and its people dining joyfully at long tables set with bottles of wine at every place.

I lost my hospice job a few years ago. I was thoroughly burned out and suffering from what is politely called compassion fatigue. The place I went to heal was the Santa Ynez Valley. It took a while. But on one drive through the tunnel, the portal must have closed behind me, because I haven’t gone back.

This article originally appeared in the Best of Year 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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Your Pocket Guide to Barolo, Plus Which Bottles to Buy Fri, 23 Dec 2022 14:00:03 +0000 3 bottles of wine on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Vivino

Not many bottles get to claim to be the king of wines,” but Barolo has snagged that prestigious title in the hearts of many.  Made in Northwestern Italy, this bold red wine has been enjoyed for centuries. But whether Barolo is a staple in your collection or you’ve never tried a bottle yourself, there’s a lot to learn about the classic Italian wine.

Here, we break down what makes these wines so unique, plus our picks for the best Barolo bottlings. 

What Is Barolo Wine?

Barolo is a red wine, made only from the red grape Nebbiolo, which is well known for high acid, high tannins and flavors of red fruits, dried herbs and flowers. Barolo in particular is famous for its complexity, firm texture and ability to improve with age. These wines are often aged for a long time in oak to help soften the tannins. 

Many Italian wines are named for the region in which they are produced, rather than the grape variety, and Barolo is no exception: It’s produced in the Barolo wine region of Piedmont. This area, called the Barolo Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), is home to 11 villages that produce this wine. Though winemakers sometimes produce these bottles by blending Nebbiolo from multiple vineyards, producers also make single-designation Barolos. Among the 11 villages that produce Barolo, the most well-known are La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and Barolo.

The History of Barolo Wine

Like most aspects of wine history, it’s difficult to say when the first Barolo was made. What we do know is that Northern Italy has been producing wine for centuries. According to Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, by Kerin O’Keefe, the dry modern version that we know today most likely came about in the mid-1800s. Before that, wines from this region tended to be much sweeter. But even these earlier versions were beloved by noted historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, according to Barolo and Barbaresco.

In one story, a French woman named Juliette Colbert de Maulevrier (1785–1864) married an Italian man, Carlo Tancredi Falletti (1782–1838). De Malévrier, known as Giulia Falletti in Italy, and her husband owned estates in what we now call Barolo. According to legend, she became interested in viticulture and asked Louis Oudart, a French winemaker, to take over production. Once he did, the dry Barolo we know today was born. But, in another legend, Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour (1810–1861) was the one who asked Oudar to come and oversee wine production in Barolo at his own estate—giving birth to the style we know today.

No matter the history, Barolo wines are a favorite among wine drinkers. Here, we share our favorite Barolo wines for every taste and preference. 

Our Favorite Barolos

Bel Colle 2018 Simposio (Barolo)

92 Points Wine Enthusiast

Aromas of dark-skinned fruit, cedar and tobacco lead the way. The full-bodied palate offers baked plum, mocha and clove alongside tightly-wound tannins. Drink 2024-2033. —Kerin O’Keefe

$23 Wine-Searcher

Bric Cenciurio 2017 (Barolo)

91 Points Wine Enthusiast

Earthy aromas of tobacco, scorched earth and dark-skinned fruit emerge from the glass. The full-bodied palate offers ripe balckberry, clove and licorice alongside close-grained tannins. Drink 2024–2029. —K.O.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Cavallotto 2016 Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe Riserva (Barolo)

99 Points Wine Enthusiast

A combination of an extraordinary vintage and a fantastic producer are behind this stunning wine. It opens with aromas recalling woodland berry, pipe tobacco, forest floor, balsamic notes of camphor and new leather. Still youthfully austere, the firmly structured palate delivers ripe Morello cherry, licorice, ground clove and iron notes set against tightly knit, fine-grained tannins. Bright acidity keeps it well balanced. Drink 2028–2046. Cellar Selection. —K.O.

$ Varies Wine-Searcher

Elvio Cogno 2017 Ravera Bricco Pernice (Barolo)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

Defying the heat of the scorching vintage, this fragrant red has aromas of iris, violet, wild berry, leather and eucalyptus. On the full-bodied, delicious palate, fresh acidity and firm, fine-grained tannins support dried cherry, nutmeg and licorice before a tobacco finish. Drink 2025–2032. —K.O.

$ Varies Wine Searcher

Giovanni Rosso 2018 del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba (Barolo)

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Aromas of red berry, camphor and wet stone form the nose. Savory and vaunting an understated elegance, the luminous, focused palate offers strawberry compote, juicy red cherry, baking spice and crushed mint framed in fine-grained tannins. Vibrant acidity keeps it energized and balanced. Drink 2026–2033. —K.O.

$45 Vivino

Ratti 2018 Marcenasco (Barolo)

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

This stunning, delicious red boasts enticing scents of camphor, rose petal, small red berry and spice while the delicious palate stuns with strawberry compote, baking spice and star anise. Smooth, silky tannins and fresh acidity keep it perfectly balanced. Drink 2024–2030. Editor’s Choice—K.O.


G D Vajra 2018 Bricco delle Viole (Barolo)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Heady aromas of violet, camphor, leather and tobacco lead the way on this fragrant red. On the palate, tightly knit, fine-grained tannins accompany ripe Marasca cherry, crushed raspberry and licorice. Fresh acidity keeps it balanced. Drink 2025–2035. Cellar Selection. —K.O.


Paolo Scavino 2018 Ravera (Barolo)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Woodland berry, blue flower and wild mint aromas fill the glass on this fragrant red along with whiffs of dark spice. Focused and linear, the vibrant palate delivers juicy pomegranate, spiced cranberry, star anise and menthol alongside tightly wound, fine-grained tannins. Bright acidity keeps it balanced. Drink 2026–2038. Cellar Selection. —K.O.

$ Varies


How Much Does Barolo Wine Cost?

Like just about everything in wine, it depends! Some bottles cost hundreds of dollars, but you can occasionally find good selections from as low as $25. 

How Long Can You Keep Barolo Wine?

Just like price, there are many factors that go into this. Some Barolos are meant for aging, but some are best enjoyed young within a few months of buying. If you’d like an age-worthy Barolo, look for one that’s high in acid and has rich tannins and very pronounced flavors. If you are planning on storing that special bottle, just make sure to do so in a dark, cool place. Check out our other storage tips here.

How to Serve Barolo Wine

In general, red wines should be served somewhere between 65 and 68°F. This allows their fruit flavor and bold aromas to come through. Proper glassware helps you to fully experience your Barolo, and decanting can help the rather tannic wine breathe, become a bit softer in texture and enhance aromas. 

How Do You Pair Barolo Wine?

Everyone has their own approach to food and wine pairings. It’s also important to keep in mind that every Barolo is going to be different and so will your personal preferences. So, evaluate what’s in your glass and what you like. In general, steak, brisket and charcuterie boards are going to be excellent pairing options. Also, risotto made with red wine is a classic pairing in the Piedmont region where Barolo is located.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

We Recommend:
Breweries, Cideries and Beyond: A Drinker’s Guide to the Catskills Thu, 22 Dec 2022 16:08:37 +0000 vintge carskill postcard with images in the letters
Images Courtesy of Christian Harder, Moriah Wolfe, West Kill Taproom, Getty Images

Ask locals to draw a geographic line around the Catskills—the mountain range located 120 miles Northwest of New York City—and squabbling will inevitably ensue over which towns deserve inclusion. Now is probably the time to placate them with wine. But generally speaking, the region is said to encompass 700,000 acres of Catskill Park and parts of Sullivan, Delaware, Greene and Ulster counties.

With plentiful mountain water, an abundance of fish and game and neighboring Hudson Valley’s rich agriculture, it’s no wonder that Catskill farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, cider houses and distilleries are a destination.

But before you head out and explore this region, there are some important things to keep in mind; the Catskills is sprawling, cell phone service can be spotty, venues’ operating hours are often limited and don’t expect to come across taxis and other rideshare services easily. The good news is, several restaurants and bars listed also have lodging, so the commute to your bed couldn’t be shorter.

To help you drink Catskills-style—while also ensuring a smooth trip—we’ve compiled a list of some of the best spots accessible via Route 28, one of the main thoroughfares through the mountains.

Foxfire Mountain House

Mt. Tremper

Foxfire Mountain House
Foxfire Mountain House / Image Courtesy of Arden Wray

Just over two hours from New York City, the Foxfire Mountain House is everything you hope for in a mountain retreat. This restored 130-year-old house has Moroccan tiled floors, a stone fireplace, sheepskin blankets and antlers on the walls.

Foxfire’s cozy restaurant and bar is stylish yet unpretentious, and the drinks list reflects this. There’s a handful of cocktails, local beers and a cider. But wine is the star here. The concise, two-page list of 40 bottles strikes an elegant balance between European classics and natty favorites. For instance, there’s Bollinger Champagne along with an Oregonian pétillant naturel (pét-nat) from Swick Wines called City Pop. Pair these bottles with the three-course family-style food menu. On this veritable trip around the globe, you’ll find dishes like po’boys, mushroom wontons, coq au cider and pork schnitzel.

Foxfire Mountain House
Foxfire Mountain House / Image Courtesy of Arden Wray

You can also take your glass out to the bonfire pit, the lily pond or the glasshouse, an old outbuilding converted into a conservatory.

Note: MayOctober, Foxfire is open to public dining only on Sunday-Monday. NovemberApril it’s open Friday-Monday.

Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room

Big Indian

Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room
Image Courtesy of Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room

Open for nearly two decades and founded by Catskills native Devin Mills and his partner, Marybeth, Peekamoose remains a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The decor is cozy, quirky and quintessentially Catskills (think animal heads and tree branch lights strung from massive wooden beams). The food is locally sourced. And parents will sigh with relief to find a kid’s corner located far enough away from other diners.  

Peekamoose’s wine list includes a few New York gems and a whole host of local brews—including 10 on draft from Catskills breweries, and another dozen in bottles and cans.

West Kill Brewing

West Kill

West Kill Taproom
Image Courtesy of West Kill Taproom

Deep in Hunter Mountain wilderness in the Spruceton Valley lies one of the Catskills’ most beloved breweries. West Kill has been providing cold, frothy brews to thirsty hikers since 2017.

Mike Barcone founded West Kill with his partner, Colleen, and head brewer, Patrick Allen. Their approach to brewing may resonate with natural wine lovers. They rely on native yeast for some of their fermentations. They also focus on the region’s terroirs by incorporating ingredients found on the property into their brews, like wild thyme, cherries and foraged mushrooms. They’ve also used bark, syrup and leaves of the area’s abundant maple trees. Even the invasive knotweed once made an appearance in a farmhouse Saison brewed with Brettanomyces, or Brett, (yes, the same one winemakers avoid like the plague).

During the pandemic, West Kill’s expansive outdoor area provided a rare safe space for locals to gather. Recently, the brewery opened a highly anticipated second location, West Kill Supply, in Barcone’s hometown of Kingston, the gateway city to the Catskills.

Prospect at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge


Scribner's Lodge
Prospect at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge / Image Courtesy of Moriah Wolfe

With dramatic views of Hunter Mountain’s famed ski slopes, there are few classier ways to thaw out après-ski than Scribner’s restaurant and bar, Prospect. Miguel de Leon, wine director at SoHo’s Pinch Chinese and a 2022 Wine Enthusiast Future 40 recipient, now helms the drinks list, and the selection will soon be comprised entirely of New York State wines and spirits.

Top local wine labels like Wiemer, Barry Family Cellars and RGNY’s Scielo already nicely compliment the restaurant’s compact menu, which features locally sourced, seasonal dishes like pork chop with quince apple butter, and mushrooms and tofu with housemade kimchi. Bring a nightcap next door to the cozy fire, a centerpiece of the lodge’s eclectically stocked, mid-century modern library, or stay overnight in one of the 38 rooms.

Wayside Cider


On the western edge of the Catskills, 23 miles down Route 28 from Peekamoose, the terrain starts to flatten, the dense maple and pine forests giving way to dairy farms.

At the end of the historic main street in the quaint town of Andes is Wayside Cider, a funky vintage taproom housed in an old red barn. Wayside serves a simple pub menu to locals and weekenders alike. During the warmer months, patrons can knock back Wayside’s ciders (along with a few local brews and cocktails) beneath an endless open sky in the expansive outdoor courtyard and bar. The ciders themselves are light and quaffable, with one barrel-aged bottling and another fermented with mugwort. They’re all made from a combination of wild, heirloom and dessert apples along with those grown on Wayside’s nearby orchard and nursery.

Wild Common Wine
Inside Wild Common Wine / Image Courtesy of Christian Harder

Those craving wine can purchase a bottle across the street at Wild Common Wine. The shop has a natural-focused selection of mostly small-batch wines.

Weaver Hollow Brewery


If craft beer is more your bag, Weaver Hollow Brewery is a six-minute walk down the road from Wayside. Taproom hours are limited, but the beers are worth the effort. Owner and brewer, Luke Fuhrman, offers brews fermented entirely sans commercial yeasts and slowly aged in French oak barrels. Wine lovers’ taste buds will prick at the recently released Atto Terzo beer, brewed with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.

Brushland Eating House


Brushland Eating House
Image Courtesy of Christian Harder

A 10-minute drive North of Andes in the sleepy, pastoral village of Bovina, is Brushland Eating House. Founded in 2014, proprietors, Sohail Zandi and Sara Elbert, serve hearty dishes like venison pot pie and celeriac and leek soup. The rotating three-course menu is accompanied by a wine list of two dozen bottles featuring mainly European natural wine superstars like Eric Texier from the Rhône Valley and Domaine de la Pepiere in the Loire. There are two apartments to rent above the restaurant.  

City Sipping: Kingston

Sonder Restaurant
Image Courtesy of Sonder Restaurant

If Kingston is on your list of Catskills stops, it’s worth spending the time visiting a few different booze-filled spots. Kingston is home to two natural-focused wine bars, Brunette and Sonder. The former makes for an elegant date night while the latter has a more relaxed vibe, with the best happy hour deal in town ($8 glasses of wine daily from 4–6 p.m.).

For beer lovers, Keegan Ales, which has served thirsty locals and travelers alike for nearly 20 years from its central location in midtown, is practically an institution, with its peanut shells on the floor, dart board in the corner and live music on the small stage.

Meanwhile, Kingston Standard is housed in an old transmission shop, with stark white walls and wooden benches. It serves some of the city’s best pizza alongside a small but creative lineup of beers including a German-style smoked lager and a Flemish red sour ale. Stockade Tavern is a local favorite for cocktails. And the much-anticipated January 2023 opening of Chleo Wine Bar by a pair of industry veterans, Hope Troup Mathews and Charles Mathews, both of whom boast Blue Hill at Stone Barns on their resumes, seems set to become a city favorite.

Take out bottles from one of two excellent wine shops, Ester Wine and Spirits and Kingston Wine Co. The latter, again, focuses on all things natural wine.

City Sipping: Woodstock

Deeper into the Catskills in Woodstock is a town filled with musical roots, good vibes and sips that you won’t want to miss. Start at the local dive Station Bar and Curio, housed in a converted old railway terminal. It’s an idiosyncratic and quintessential Woodstock haunt with a pool table and frequent live music.

A fancier drinks experience can be had at Silvia, which boasts a stellar wine list including a Georgian Saperavi, a Slovenian pét-nat and an orange wine from Ontario. Or you could head to Silvia’s sister restaurant, Good Night, where cocktails like tamarind margarita and saké coconut colada are served at the bar, paired with creative Southeast Asian fare like walnut larb and Vietnamese pork chop. For a bottle to go, you can’t go wrong at the thoughtfully stocked Unfiltered Wine and Spirits.

But Wait, There’s More!

The Catskills is a big place, and there is so much more to explore! Check out these additional spots next time you’re in town:

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Vegan Irish Coffee’s Secret Ingredient? Oat Milk Thu, 22 Dec 2022 14:00:00 +0000 Vegan Irish Coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

Whether you’re a longtime vegan or simply looking to cut down on dairy, this vegan Irish coffee recipe is an easy riff on the original. All it takes is a little advance planning.

How to Make an Irish Coffee Vegan

As with any cocktail recipe, each ingredient matters, so choose yours carefully. Fortunately, while some winemakers use animal products to filter their wines, most spirits—including widely available Irish whiskeys—are vegan.

Make sure to choose a vegan sugar. Brands like Sugar In The Raw, Wholesome, and Trader Joe’s Organic are vegan, but others use bone char to whiten refined granular sugar. There aren’t any remaining animal products in those sugars, but some vegans prefer not to consume products made that way.

The trickiest component in this recipe is the vegan whipped cream. A few hours before you plan to serve your drink—or, ideally, the night before—put an unopened can of coconut cream in the refrigerator. This step is crucial! As it chills, the fat solids rise to the top of the can, so you can use a spoon or offset spatula to remove it and place it in a chilled bowl. Reserve the rest of the coconut liquid from the can for another purpose (Pro-tip: it’s a tasty substitute for water in breads or baked goods.)

Then, use a handheld electric mixer or whisk to aerate the cream until it starts to form peaks, but can still be poured. If you want to prepare the whipped cream a few hours before you plan to serve your cocktail, you can add a teaspoon of cornstarch, which is also vegan, for every cup of cream. Stored in the fridge, it will maintain its whipped consistency for 2–3 hours.

How to Serve Vegan Irish Coffee

When it’s time to build the cocktail, fill your heat-proof glassware with near-boiling water. Let it sit for three minutes and then discard the water. This fussy-seeming move helps the sugar dissolve into the whiskey and the cocktail maintain its temperature.

As you top the carefully measured whiskey and sugar with coffee and whipped coconut cream, keep an eye on your ratios.

“Don’t drown the drink in coffee—about 4 ounces is all you need,” writes Dale DeGroff in his seminal book, The Craft of the Cocktail. He suggests serving this drink in a proper Irish coffee mug. “Because of their size, they will force you to use the right amount of coffee.”

That said, if all you have is a chipped coffee mug, rest assured, your cocktail will still taste delicious.

How to Make a Vegan Irish Coffee


  • 1½ ounces Irish whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar in the Raw, or other vegan brown sugar
  • Coffee to top
  • Water, hot or boiling
  • Vegan whipped cream (recipe follows)


Fill your mug with hot or boiling water and let sit, undisturbed, 2-3 minutes.

Making a Vegan Irish Coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

Discard the water, and then add whiskey and sugar to the mug followed by the coffee, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Making a Vegan Irish Coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

Top with vegan whipped cream and serve.

Making a Vegan Irish Coffee
Photography by Ali Redmond

How to Make Vegan Whipped Cream


  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch


Refrigerate unopened can for six hours or overnight. Ten minutes before you plan to make the whipped cream, put mixing bowl and beaters to a handheld electric mixer into freezer to chill.

Making Vegan Coconut whipped cream
Photography by Ali Redmond

Open can of coconut milk and remove fat solids, which will have risen to the top, and add to chilled mixing bowl.

Making Vegan Coconut whipped cream
Photography by Ali Redmond

Reserve remaining coconut milk liquid for another purpose.

Making Vegan Coconut whipped cream
Photography by Ali Redmond

Add cornstarch and use a handheld electric mixer and chilled beaters to mix ingredients on high until peaks form, 3-5 minutes. Vegan whipped cream will keep up to four hours in the refrigerator.

Making Vegan Coconut whipped cream
Photography by Ali Redmond
These Restaurant Wine Lists Prove Hungarian Wine Is Much More Than Tokaji Wed, 21 Dec 2022 17:00:00 +0000 Duzsi Roze with Chicken Schnitzel, Seasonal Jam and Chicory Caesar Egri Csillag with Pork Collar & Eros Pista Marinated Radishes over Fresh Cheese
An assortment of dishes at Agi's Counter / Image Courtesy of Agi's Counter

Chef Jeremy Salamon knows where to find the stash of Hungary’s best-known wine when he visits his family in South Florida. “My grandmother has a cupboard dedicated to Tokaji,” he says. But like some other chefs in the United States with roots in Eastern Europe, Salamon has explored more bottles of the region than just the sweet stuff. 

Salamon is the chef and owner of Agi’s Counter, which opened in late 2021 and was named after his grandmother. The Brooklyn-based restaurant serves food influenced by Hungarian classics and Jewish diner food. Think dishes like palacsinta, a Hungarian-style crepe, with maple and fruit compote; pastrami tongue and cabbage; caraway Caesar salad; and confit tuna melts.  

But what makes Agi’s Counter special is it happens to have one of the United States’ only exclusively Hungarian wine lists. There are varied bottles, from the classic sweet Tokaji Aszú to more unique pours of Hárslevelű pét-nat and Kékfrankos rosé.   

“We’re trying to get people not to use Tokaji as a default,” says Salamon. “It’s just like paprika. When you think of Hungarian food, most people are like, ‘Oh, paprika.’ But there’s more to it than that.”  

Encountering Hungarian food and wine side by side is a rarity in the United States. But restaurants like Agi’s Counter are proving that there is so much to learn about one of Eastern Europe’s greatest wine regions. 

A Brief History of Hungarian Wine 

Hungary’s winemaking history is complicated—and ancient. At a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures, early Hungarian winemaking was influenced by the Caucasus and overlaid with Roman viticulture practices.  

Fast forward to the Renaissance, and Hungarians developed sweet Tokaji Aszú wine while under Turkish rule. In 1720, the Tokaj region became the world’s first to classify vineyards, even before Port and Bordeaux. By the late 17th century, France’s King Louis XIV, popes and other power brokers were all drinking it.  

However, an outbreak of a grapevine pest called phylloxera in the 1870s wasn’t kind to Hungarian winemakers, nor were the world wars. The country lost borderlands after World War I and emerged from World War II as part of the Eastern bloc, at which point a government monopoly took over winemaking. 

“Communism does weird things to wine,” says Patrick Cournot, managing partner at Ruffian, a natural wine bar in New York’s East Village serving Eastern European and Southern French-inspired cuisine. The communist government promoted banal, mass-produced wines, he added.  

But the isolation of the Eastern Bloc also held back the encroachment of international grape varieties and technical, interventionist winemaking practices. As a result, Hungary has original grape varieties but makes wines “in a modern style,” says Cournot. 

Gaining a Toehold in U.S. Wine Lists

Tuna Melt: Confit Albacore Tuna, Alpine Cheddar, Celery, Dill, Potato Bread, Cabbage Slaw
A tuna melt at Agi’s Counter / Image Courtesy of Agi’s Counter

Though many of Agi’s Counter’s Hungarian restaurant forebears—New York City’s Café des Artiste, San Francisco’s 20th Century Cafe and Chicago’s Boho House among them—have closed, American sommeliers are increasingly turning to Hungary. With its volcanic soils, 22 wine regions, abundant native grapes and stylistic diversity, Hungary offers wines with character and cost-effective pairing power.

Before he