Wondering which wines to drink in 2019? I asked a group of wine writers and sommeliers what they're personally looking forward to exploring in the new year. Judging from the responses, it’s time to get to know some of Spain’s less familiar wine regions. South African wines are showing strong, as are sparkling wines from all over. And if you really want to be ahead of the curve, show up with a bottle from Valtellina in Northern Italy. (And also check out The Best Spirits And Cocktails For 2019).
Sta. Rita Hills — Hunter Lewis, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine
I’m looking forward to working and playing more in California in 2019. We’ll spend some time getting to know the people and new school wines in upstart Sta. Rita Hills, and I also can’t wait to taste some the of OG Napa Valley stalwart producers, like Heitz Cellar, to learn more about the vision that pioneer California winemakers had for their wines and the region in the 1950s and 1960s.
Hybrids — Pascaline Lepeltier, Managing Partner at Racines NY, Best French Sommelier 2018
In 2019, I will continue to explore the world of hybrids and forgotten grapes, which can help to shape the future of the wine world. I had some really great wines from Quebec made with Vidal, Frontenac, Crescent, organic or biodynamically farmed, and I am excited to see what is next. I was already a fan La Garagista's wines with some of these grapes, and we are doing some wines with Nathan Kendall in the Finger Lakes under the label chèpïka with Catawba and Delaware: it is stimulating, and delicious, to see what is happening here in Northeastern America with these varieties. For the forgotten grapes, those which were not replanted after phylloxera and WW II in Europe, I've really enjoyed Thierry Navarre's oeillade, and some Carignan Blanc from La Realtiere - So I will dig way more into these!
Muscadet — Caleb Ganzer, Wine Director at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
In 2019 I look forward to drinking more Muscadet. I'm not talking about the mass-produced sea of Muscadet, which is delicious in its own right and still delivers tremendous value. No, I'm talking about wines from the Pays Nantais region made to age, wines made by farmers who are doing the right thing in the vineyard and pushing the boundaries of what people have come to expect from this region. The Melon de Bourgogne-based wines are fresh yet concentrated, intensely mineral and pure, delivering as much pleasure as a premier or grand cru Chablis when made by the right producer. And although they're more expensive than their ubiquitous brethren, they still offer an insane value for the price! One example is made by Fief aux Dames from the Monnières-St.-Fiacre cru. You can pick up a 2010 for less than $30!
South Africa — Kelli White, Writer at Guildsomm
I personally look forward to drinking more wine from South Africa! I recently visited there and was amazed by the overall quality of the wines, across all price ranges. Lots of cool stuff from super old vine vineyards, great Chenin and Semillon, and some fun, oddball blends. I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface and am looking forward to digging deeper.
New Spain — Aldo Sohm, Wine Director of Le Bernardin and Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
I love wines form the traditional areas, such as Rhone, Burgundy, Champagne, Austria, Piedmont and California. However I’m pretty sure I’m going to explore the ‘New Spain’: Galicia, Sierra de Gredos, Canary Island. Also wines from Portugal, with it’s local grapes, I’m fining really interesting. There are a lot of young wine makers rediscovering ancient grapes, old techniques, and abandoned and labor-intensive regions. They’re coming out with unique wines with a sense of place and they’re super delicious and inexpensive. These young and dynamic wine makers you’ll find in every country, so keep looking out for new and different wines!
Sake and New World Grenache — Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor, Food & Wine and Wine & Spirits Editor, Travel + Leisure
For 2019, in terms of personal pleasure, and not simply work-related drinking (strange term), I'm hoping to dive a bit deeper into sake, which I love but whose nuances & complexities I don't know nearly enough about; to somehow end up with more aged Champagne in my glass; and to keep hunting up truly inspired versions of New World Grenache — I loved wines from Andrew Latta, King's Carey, Dashe, and Sucette last year; now I need to find more.
Spanish Whites — Alice Feiring, Wine Writer, The Feiring Line
I'm having a love affair with Spanish whites, especially from Catalyuna and from Xarello and from Ribera Sacra from Godello... and many beauts with a little skin contact. There's so much exciting stuff coming out of Spain right now, wise and careful winemaking that is also natural.
Special Club Champagne — Victoria James, Beverage Director at Cote
Special Club Champagne! I need to start drinking way more of this farmer fizz. An elite consortium of growers, there are currently only 28 producers that made this cool kids' club. With new, hip inductees, like Moussé et fils, the group’s overall quality has never been higher or more cutting edge.
Whole Cluster Wines — Hristo Zisovski, Beverage Director at Altamarea Group
What I’m personally looking forward to drinking more of in 2019 is whole cluster wines. From Pinot Noir to Syrah, and everything in between, from Old World & New World, I love the textures and aromas a wine gets given from whole cluster stems. When done right, in the correct doses, these wines can have this rustic uplifted boutique finesse on top of an austere crunch & spiciness on the palate. I recommend serving at cellar temperature.
Wines To Inspire Travel — James Tidwell, Co-founder TEXSOM
One of the most appealing aspects of wine is that it can transport one to another place, another time or another culture. Therefore, my travel wish list and my wine drinking wish list are much the same. I hope to be exploring and drinking wines from older wine-producing cultures such as Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Georgia, while at the same time appreciating the diversity of the more recent wine culture in the United States and the many places whose wines I still need to explore here, including Texas, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and others. The classics are always appreciated and cherished. At the same time, I love drinking wines from areas not as often seen in the broader market, which offer a sense of discovery — not just about the wines, but also about the people, place, time, and culture from which they originate.
Spain and Puglia — Julia Coney, Wine Writer
I am looking forward to drinking more Albarino from Spain, wines from Puglia, specifically susumaneillo from Tenute Rubino. The wine has focus, depth, and lushness you don't expect. Also, I'm still drinking grower champagnes as often as I can. Pierre Paillard is high on the list.
Valtellina — Yannick Benjamin, Head Sommelier, The University Club & Co-founder of Wine on Wheels
One of my wine traveling highlights in 2018 was visiting Valtellina, an alpine valley in the far north of Lombardy and bordering Switzerland, and one of Italy’s best kept secrets. The Nebbiolo grape is king in this region (commonly called Chiavennasca to locals), but most wine lovers are familiar with Nebbiolo from neighboring Piedmont, particularly Barolo and Barbaresco. With the high demand and limited supply, prices from Piedmont will continue to rise. My alternative will be the Valtellina region, as it offers a lighter style with an intense aroma of red fruit and accessibility when young and is very food friendly. The quality is the highest it has ever been and it continues to get better, but most importantly it will save you and my guests a few pennies. Despite a history of 2,000 years of grape growing here, there is a renaissance of new winemakers who are shaking things up and bringing out the true potential that this magnificent region has to offer. 2019 will be the year for Valtellina and expect to see more of them on wine lists, wine bars, and in retail stores.
English Sparkling Wine — Treve Ring, Wine Writer, Logophile
What am I following, literally, in 2019? Well, fizz, naturally. English sparkling wine is of huge interest, and in my opinion, the future contender to challenge Champagne. Not that Champagne hasn't impressed leagues of late, primarily within the grower/single vineyard/terroir-centric styles, but also in the shift of colossal houses to lower dosage/regional specific bottlings. South Africa is always next in my minds eye, both for sparkling and still wines, and always the best value for exceptional quality on the planet, not to mention the most exciting and most progressive region going. Lastly, I'm drinking many Portuguese wines, and thrilled to support wineries rediscovering and supporting native varieties at threat of forgottenness.
South African Cape — Jim Clarke, Wine Writer, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa
I’m writing a book about South Africa’s wines for the Classic Wine Library this year, so I’m excited to check out wines from the Cape’s outlying regions that I need to revisit, and to tasting some wines that show off the country’s deep winemaking history — Cabernet-Cinsault blends, for example. And of course, lots of Method Cap Classique to keep the palate fresh.
Outside of South Africa, I’ve been exploring some interesting areas of California’s North Coast of late, such as Anderson Valley, the West Sonoma Coast, and Lake County, nd hope to continue looking at these wines, as I’m finding so much expression and character in many of them. I’d also like to spend more time with Eastern European wines — such a dynamic scene, and in some respects, one that resembles South Africa in that they reemerged after political changes in the early 1990s, and have really taken off recently.
Bring On The Salt — Brent Kroll, Maxwell Park
I'm looking forward to drinking more white wines that border saltwater: Assyrtiko, Vermentino and Albarino are the normal go-to's for me. I find myself exploring in Corsica, Provence, Sicily and Liguria in 2019. I also see Crete as the next big thing is Greek wine. Yeah savory!
The World! — Sarah Blau, Bar Manager, Verjus
I fulfilled my 2018 desire to drink more sparkling wines, but for 2019 I am looking to drink the world. The earth is far too large, with a vast variety of grapes, and I need to start enjoying more of them. Whether it is the ancient amphora wines of Georgia, the rich and elegant wines of Portugal, more Southern Hemisphere wines in general or more from my neighboring wine country here in California. Plus of course, more Champagne…
Spain's Smaller Regions — Wanda Mann, Black Dress Traveller
In 2019, I want to take a deeper dive into Spain’s smaller wine regions. I’ve been so impressed by the diversity and quality of wines from regions like Somontano, Carińena, Calatayud, and Rias Baixas; I want to taste and learn more.
Vinho Verde — Clive Pursehouse, Wine Writer
For 2019, I'll be drinking all the serious Vinho Verde I can get my hands on, and I'd like to see the region and its single varietal wines get more airplay. This region is widely embraced for those lovely, cheap, spritzy porch-pounders, but there are some seriously made, beautiful white wines (and the other colors too) coming out of the north of Portugal. Alvarinho you know, but Avesso, Loureiro and Arinto, just to name a few, make for outstanding food wines and pair up excellently with the coastal seafood of Portugal as well. (Look for Quinta da Lixa, and João Portugal Ramos to name a few producers.) That's what I'm on the hunt for in the new year. Felicidades!
Garnacha — Tim Teichgraeber, Wine Writer
After a recent trip to Spain, I've fallen in love again with affordable, sunny, red Garnacha from rocky, elevated vineyards in Carinena and Somontano. I've also developed a better appreciation for the intense, minerally, not-so-cheap wines from Roussillon across the French border. And then there's the relatively exotic and rare white Garnacha wines from Spain, but also from Paso Robles on California's Central Coast. I'm appreciating — fetishizing even — the rich candied grapefruit and pear flavors of white Grenache that intrigued Paso Robles winemakers in the early 2000's. This mutant white grape warrants exploration.
The unlimited potential, consistency, and reasonable prices of blended reds from the Languedoc continue to amaze me. Check out the schist-soaked, balanced, minerally reds from Faugeres, elevated blends from Terrasses du Larzac, and young red wines from Minervois. Do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to an ocean of soulful red wine.
Southern Hemisphere — Vicki Denig, Verve Wine
In 2019, I'm looking forward to drinking more wines from the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Australia and New Zealand. So often, I feel that we wine industry folk tend to focus our attention on the European classics, as well as wines produced in the USA, both of which are exciting and interesting. Yet it leaves us putting the wines of the Southern Hemisphere on the back burner. Let 2019 be the year that we show some love to the great wine producing regions of the other half of the world!
2016 in 2019! — Greg Martellotto, Big Hammer Wines
2019 is going to be a banner year for wine lovers. Why? Because 2016 will prove to be a historic and epic vintage around the globe. Across Europe, from Rioja and Ribera in Spain, to Tuscany, Piemonte and NE Italy, to Chateauneuf du Pape and Burgundy in France, and to Mendoza in Argentina, the level of quality is higher than cannabis growers on Mt. Shasta. In twenty years of buying and tasting, I've never seen anything like this. 2016 in Napa and Bordeaux have been rated as 98pt vintages and are already being compared to some of the best vintages EVER from these regions. Some of these wines are already hitting the shelves and I'm giddy to share what I've tasted on a pre-release basis over the last 18 months.
Dessert Wines — Sarah Tracey, Sommelier at The Lush Life and Wine Director, Villanelle
This year I'm looking forward to drinking and exploring a category that's truly under-appreciated and overlooked: dessert wines! Some of the most interesting and highly crafted wines representing any winemaking culture are their sweet wines — from Austrian Ruster Ausbruch to Sicilian Pantelleria, to the numerous, delicious Late Harvest wines of Bordeaux. But beyond being a fascinating piece of history, they're simply luscious and pleasurable to drink —and for me 2019 will be all about the things that bring pleasure and joy.
Alpine Italy — Lauren Dadonna, Wine Director at Del Frisco's Double Eagle Back Bay
I hope to be drinking the invigorating, savory wines and amari from the rugged foothills of the Alps. Whites from Alto Adige are electric versions of varietals both familiar and less so, from Terlan’s single vineyard Sauvignon and Pinot Blanc to Abbazia Novacella’s Kerner. Nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte feels light on its feet and more exotic than its cousins from Barolo and Barbaresco. Stay on the Nebbiolo train in Valtellina where ArPePe’s pure, yet wild expressions are favorites, and one can imbibe the local amaro Braulio, named for the nearby mountain, its piney, herbaceous complexity is addictively brisk.
Uruguay — Matthew Kaner, Good Measure, Bar Covell and Augustine Wine Bar
I look forward to drinking a lot more wines from Uruguay (Albariño, Pinot Noir, and yes, Tannat!) Also I think 2019 will be the year of South African Cinsault! Happy drinking y’all!
Values From The Big Regions — Fred Dex, Master Sommelier, Drummer
Nothing gets me more excited than finding incredible values within some of the world's most storied regions and styles, then sharing them with my guests. First on my list is my continued quest to find values from Burgundy that over deliver for half the price. Finding these takes a little digging, but absolutely worth the time investment. I’ll be drinking Bourgogne Blanc et Rouge from great producers, and wines from more humble regions such as Marsannay, Givry, Montagny and St. Aubin will be on my radar. There’s just something that feels majestic about a great bottle of Burgundy for $25 that drinks like a $50 bottle! I’ll also be on the search for great entry level Bordeaux that punch above their weight class. Wines from the St. Emilion satellites, Graves, Fronsac, and second label wines from top producers will be on my short list. Some of these can even be put down for a decade or more. I’m all about bubbles, but let’s face it, Champagne can be cost prohibitive to drink on a regular basis. I will be seeking out tasty alternatives such as Cremant style bubbles (bubbles made in the Traditional Method of Champagne) from the regions of Alsace, Burgundy & Loire Valley and finding new bubbly wines from around the world in places such as Tasmania, Austria and Italy. I highly recommend always keeping a bottle in the fridge for all occasions.
Sherry — Brad Japhe, Writer
I’d like to drink more sherry. Super dry and slightly salty expressions such as fino and palo cortado are the ideal aperitifs. Chill them and sip neat before supper, and they heighten the flavors of any food to follow. I’d also like to turn every single spirit into a highball in 2019. If it doesn’t do well spritzed in a long glass on the rocks, then I don’t want to know it.
The Classics — Zachary Sussman, Wine Writer
For the new year, my personal game plan is the continue to rediscover the time-honored classics. In an industry that perpetually encourages us to chase after the next shiny object, it’s easy to forget about some of the canonical benchmarks, so I’m looking forward to spending time with a few iconic regions that have been hiding in plain sight. That means Bordeaux (maybe this will finally be the year we make the Médoc great again), Alsace (and not just Riesling — I need more Pinot Gris and Sylvaner in my life), Rioja (it’s been far too long since I’ve explored beyond a small handful of familiar producers), and old-school Chianti (pound for pound the greatest value in Italian wine right now, and among the most food friendly).