Just like every home bar needs a certain set of liquors and ingredients to make staple cocktails, every great home wine cellar also needs bottles from some key categories to create a diverse collection. We’ve pulled together a list of the wines we feel every wine lover’s home should have.
Pinot Noir — the “when in doubt” wine – Pinot Noir is extremely versatile for food pairing, and is the wine to take to dinner when you’re not sure what you’re going to eat. A relatively dry, light-bodied grape with low tannins, Pinot Noir can be found all over the world – including in Burgundy where it is the only variety used to make red wine. It’s a good idea to always have a few bottles on hand, in case an impromptu dinner invitation pops up.
California Cabernet Sauvignon — In a statement? Crowd-pleaser. Its dark color, full body, and smooth, fruit-forward flavors rarely fail to satisfy. No matter what part of California the Cabernet hails from, there is a good chance that people know the region, have traveled there, or have a sparked interest. Its popularity means that Cabernet is always a good gift or bottle to open for company.
Champagne — Many people feel that Champagne, or other sparkling wines, should be saved for special occasions. We couldn’t disagree more. While it’s fun to pop open a great Champagne to celebrate, it’s just as fun to open a bottle on a weeknight to enjoy with Chinese food, seafood, or roasted chicken. So make sure there is at least one bottle of Champagne in your house for your next special occasion or sushi dinner.
Provence Rosé — Think “easy.” A chilled Provence Rosé is easy to consume with or without food, making it a classic “happy hour” drink that can bring you right into appetizers and dinner. Rosés from Provence are generally made from a blend of local grapes with Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, being common parts of the mix. Guests who are use to inexpensive, generic, pink wines will be surprised by the dryness and complexity of a good Provence Rosé.
Chianti Classico — Chianti is a region in Tuscany known for centuries as a source of top quality red wine. Chianti is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape, which pairs well with a wide variety of hearty dishes. You’ll want to have some of these on hand anytime you have Italian food.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape — The most prestigious appellation in southern Rhône, France, these vineyards produce rich red wines, composed of blending from the 18 permitted grape varieties. Don’t take these blends lightly – not only will they pair with almost whatever you’re eating, their jammy complexity will escalate and bring elegance and finesse to any meal.
Barolo — Named for a town in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, Barolo is made from the indigenous grape Nebbiolo. Barolo is unique among red wines for having both a light color and a very full body. Perfect with grilled meats and rich pasta dishes, a bottle of Barolo always makes a good impression when it emerges from the cellar.
Syrah — Responsible for some of the darkest, full-bodied red wines in the world, the immense flavors found in these wines are a reason to keep them around. Arguably, the best examples are found in the northern Rhône Valley and South Australia, from appellations like Hermitage, Côte du Rhône, Barossa Valley, and McLaren Vale.
White Burgundy — Like Chardonnay? White Burgundy is made from 100% Chardonnay in a variety of styles, from rich, oaky, wines that will please California wine lovers, to crisp, citrusy, mineral-driven wines that will appeal to fans of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Fun fact: Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, so having a few bottles as a staple in your cellar is a must. The small appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé produces some of our favorite White Burgundy, exuding complex citrus and mineral notes excellent for a variety of wine palates.
Chardonnay — Grown in almost every wine-producing country in the world, Chardonnay is commonly referred to as “the grape the world loves”. It’s easy to see why you would want that in your cellar; however, take it a step further. If you’ve only ever tried American Chardonnay, give the rest of the world a try. As one of the world’s favorite grapes, you won’t be sorry.
Zinfandel — Not the white, the red! This varietal is a good one to keep around for when you’ll be grilling. Barbecue chicken, steak, and veggies are a perfect pairing, but don’t stop there! Fire up some salmon for an easy weeknight meal or an impressive dinner to serve for guests.
Sauvignon Blanc — No matter where it’s from, whether it be typical New Zealand, French, or American, this dry, crisp white wine will be one you’ll want to have around from different regions. Not sure what the differences are between the countries? Pick up a few for a mini taste test – “shocked” may be a word that comes to mind after the comparison! While these are just a few categories to have on hand, you won’t grow your wine palate without branching out. So go ahead, stock your cellar from around the world – it’s never been easier to try so many different wines (or the same varieties from different places)!
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