The Best Red Wines to Buy Right Now, Say Experts
Good news for wine lovers—August 28 is National Red Wine Day. The holiday is basically an excuse to get together with friends and treat yourselves to a high-quality glass (or two!).
But let's just come out and say it: wine shopping can be very confusing. It's hard to identify which red wines on the shelf will taste great and which ones will, well, leave you disappointed. So, to help you lock down the very best red wine, we asked two sommeliers to lend advice on how to go about choosing the right bottle.
"Rooty tooty, fresh and fruity is the sign of a good wine, but adding in layers of secondary and tertiary notes is what kicks it up a notch," Brianne Cohen, a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, and writer, tells Eat This, Not That! "So things like spice notes (black pepper and cinnamon) and earthiness—these complex notes let me know I have a great red wine in my glass."
Of course, unlike, say, a soft drink, made in a facility that keeps every bottle uniform, wines are unique. Each wine carries with it its place of origin and its history.
"A great red wine will always have character and individuality. It's reflective of the place it came from and the year it was made," says Amanda McCrossin, certified sommelier and host of the Wine Access Unfiltered podcast. "It's that something extra—that charisma and character, kind of like in people—that separates the good from the great."
Everyone's palate is different, and the only "perfect wine" is the wine that wows your taste buds. Still, there are some bottles that are more likely to be crowd-pleasers than others. If you're not sure where to start, here are five expert-recommended wines you can buy in honor of the national holiday.
For some thriftier options, be sure to try these 15 Best "Cheap" Wines Available Everywhere.
Thacher Winery 2019 Cinsault
"This wine is a ton of fun and perfect if you're looking for something interesting and different," says Cohen. "Although it is a natural wine, it still tastes like wine and not sour beer or kombucha!"
She recommends serving this wine—which comes from a boutique, family-run winery in Paso Robles, California—slightly chilled, adding that it's a very drinkable option.
Be sure to read up on This Is the Real Difference Between Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Other Red Wines.
Ad Vivum Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Living in Napa Valley, McCrossin is partial to the region's cabernet sauvignon. She loves this well-balanced, single-vineyard wine's "classic, timeless, elegant style," as well as its deep flavor. The brand was founded by Chris Phelps, who has been a winemaker in Napa Valley since the early 80s, working with top wineries for decades.
Madrigal Family Winery Estate Petite Sirah 2017
If you want to choose a wine with a beautiful history, Cohen recommends this Petite Sirah, the flagship product of the Madrigal Family Winery Estate.
"The Madrigal family was one of the first, if not the first, Mexican families to settle in Napa Valley in the 1930s. They have farmed in Napa for almost 100 years," she explains. "In the 90s, they decided to make their own wine."
She describes this wine as "deep, dark, and brooding," adding that its big flavor would pair well with lamb or a chocolate souffle.
Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva DOC 2018
As you can tell by the first three selections, high-quality wines can be quite pricey. Cohen recommends this inexpensive bottle from Sardinia, Italy, which has tasting notes of violet, balsamic, and wild herbs. For a food pairing, she suggests going with a steak salad.
Ochota Barrels 'Texture Like Sun' Sector Red
McCrossin has recently gotten into a category of wine from Australia called "Smashable Reds."
"Essentially they're light red wines that are generally lower in alcohol, are made in a more minimalist, natural style, don't see much oak treatment, and are served chilled," she said. "Kind of a white wine masquerading as a red!"
She recommends this bottle from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, adding that it is in fact "totally smashable."