Even as I write that, I think, “How ridiculous” – how am I supposed to limit it to FIVE wines!?!? There’s so much out there.
However, I started to think about it like this:
I know I have five tops and one pair of jeans that are my absolute go-tos. That doesn’t mean I don’t wear the other clothes in my closet. It just means that when I’m at a loss, and I need to race out the door and look half-way decent, I know that I can throw on this particular pair of jeans, one of those five tops, a scarf, and a blazer, and I can make it work. So that’s how I thought about the wines I am sharing with you here. So, think of the following as a guide for those times when your in-laws show up at the door unexpectedly, a friend pops in from out of town, or your schedule suddenly changes, you are able to make that friend’s birthday party, and you want to bring a bottle to share!
Ok so here goes!
- Sauvignon Blanc: No surprises here but it’s hard to go wrong if you show up to a party with a bottle of this lovely and refreshing white. It’s a wine that suits most palates and is fairly easy to pair with food, especially spicier foods that could use a bright and tart wine to cut through the heat. Top of the popularity list right now are Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. Even though the country makes up less than 1% of the world’s wine production (what?), this grape makes up fully 86% of the country’s wine exports! If you want to be a bit more adventurous, try a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, South Africa, or California.
- Pinot Noir: This versatile red wine was made famous by the movie “Sideways,” and for good reason (although Merlot makers were none too pleased with this, of course! Those who’ve seen the movie know what I’m talking about). This wine is often a crowd-pleaser because it tends not to be too full-bodied, still packs a ton of flavor, and is easily paired with food. The downside? Pinots can be a bit costlier than other red varieties. That said, try looking for a non-California Pinot, perhaps an Oregon or Washington State Pinot or one from France, Australia, or even Germany (where they call it Spätburgunder) and see what you get!
- Crémant de Anywhere: I’d say this is one of my favorite discoveries of the last couple of years. It took me a while to get into the bubbles but once I did, I was hooked! I’m actually a huge fan of Cava but I’d say that this wine is still a little lesser known than, well, anything French. Champagne though can be pretty expensive and so I recommend going for a Crémant. The wine is made in exactly the same method as Champagne but cannot be called it unless bottled in the town of Champagne. These bubbles will make your mouth and your guests tingle without breaking the bank. There are seven official regions that are entitled to use the Crémant designation, though the three most common you’re likely to see are Crémant de Limoux, Crémant d’Alsace, and Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy).
- The Rosé: Yep, you’ve gotta have a rosé on hand. A couple of years ago I might have qualified that statement with: “…especially if you live in a warm climate or spend a lot of time with your girlfriends.” Now, while that’s still true, rosé wine has become so popular as to be on most wine lists in most places throughout the year. This makes me very happy! While the most common rosé you’ll probably find in your neighborhood store comes from Provence, don’t forget to try rosés from more off-the-beaten-path locations like the Loire Valley (where you might find them being made with Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir) or the Languedoc regions in France, the Basque country, Northern California or even Italy!
- The Outlier. A huge category to be sure but keep in mind just how many countries make wine in the world. Sure there are the big ones – France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Australia, Argentina, etc – but don’t forget about Greece, Armenia, Chile, Portugal, Moldova, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, even England. Yep, the wine regions in the world are ever increasing. And, don’t forget that each one of the 50 States produces wine as well. Wines from Virginia and Arizona have consistently amazed me and there are several other regions that are burgeoning in the wine industry as well.
So there you go. The top five wines I think you should have on hand at all times. You know, in case of a wine emergency!