What is the right wine for right now? In the time before, pairing wines with any occasion was one of online media’s favorite sommelier sports. The perfect wine with pizza eaten in a park on a warm summer day, slight breeze, pepperoni? The right wine to celebrate your fiancé’s uncle’s wedding anniversary? The orange wine for people who don’t like orange wine, but think they like orange wine?
But, let’s face it, we’re no longer looking for a wine to pair with something specific; we’re looking for a wine to pair with anything and everything—the kind of inexpensive wine that is reliably delicious, interesting (but not too interesting), life-giving and, most importantly, available. The best wine for all the time. To get a sense of what that bottle looks like to some of the country’s top wine professionals, we asked them. Here’s what they chose.
Steven Grubbs, wine director, Empire State South | Atlanta
My pick—which we’ll call “affordable Italian white”—is obviously more of a category than a specific wine, but these are definitely wines that my house doesn’t function well without. I cook a lot of fish, often in simple preparations with lots of various fresh vegetables, and I’ve found that nothing matches that habit (especially without requiring too much thought) better than, say, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (I’m particularly into San Lorenzo’s di Gino bottling) or a smart, spicy style of Gavi di Gavi (like biodynamic farmer Giordano Lombardo’s Vigne di San Martino). They are just weighty enough to deal with a range of fish styles, and have plenty of acid and salt to handle the crunchy green vegetables and tricky tomatoes of late spring and summer.
Vinny Eng, former wine director, Bar Tartine and Tartine Manufactory | San Francisco
Everything about Filipa Pato’s extra brut rosé from the Bairrada region of Portugal says, “Keep steady, better days are coming.” In a time when uncertainty predominates, it sure is nice to spend some time with a wine that is so well-made and consistent that it reminds you of your bestest, long-time friend: approachable, serious when you need them to be and always reminding you that where you are is an OK place to be. Start your Zoom happy hours with a splash of Filipa’s delicious pink goodness, a dry sparkler made from two of the world’s most underappreciated noble grapes: the Portuguese native varieties baga and bical. So, go on ahead, choose the gallery view—because what more can you ask for right now than a screen full of laughter and mirth.
Joe Campanale, owner, Fausto and LaLou | New York
This is a light, soft Italian red from Piedmont, from a biodynamic producer who makes elegant natural wines. In comparison to most dolcetto, typically 12.5 to 14 percent in alcohol, this dolcetto—the grape is known as dosset in the regional dialect—is lower in alcohol (10.5 percent), which means you can finish the bottle solo and still make your 9 a.m. Zoom call in the morning. The lower alcohol also makes it super versatile for a time when we’re all getting creative in the kitchen. You can pair it with typical red wine dishes (pasta, pizza, meat) or chill and serve it with lighter vegetable-forward dishes. It’s a great value wine at under $20 for a true artisan product.
Hannah Williams, beverage director, Blue Hill at Stone Barns | Tarrytown, NY
Gulfi Carjcanti, from Sicily, is my ultimate quarantine wine. It drinks as if a premier cru Chablis and a chenin blanc had a love child! Think Maldon sea salt, Martinelli’s apple juice and blanched hazelnuts. An absolute gem of a bottle that you can usually find with a bit of age to it, well under the $25 price range.
Grant Reynolds, owner, Parcelle Wine and partner, Delicious Hospitality Group | New York
Mitja is a great friend and former colleague. This wine is just crisp enough to drink on its own, but also savory and bitter enough to go with any food. These days, it’s less about wine pairings and more just about having something that’s delicious and reminds you of great times with friends, right?
Dana Frank, owner, Bar Norman | Portland, OR
I’m quarantining with the 2018 Les Lunes Cosmic Blend, made in Northern California. I absolutely love the fresh vibrancy of Diego and Shaunt’s wines, and I really want to be drinking wines that live in that frequency right now. An unhip blend of cabernet sauvignon, cab franc and merlot, fashioned into a very hip wine, Cosmic is full of energetic blue fruits with a whisper of grip. It’s delicious with a little chill, and absolutely what I’m reaching for while on lockdown.
Jhonel Faelnar, wine director, Atomix | New York
Elbling is a grape you don’t hear of often. There simply isn’t a lot of it made and not a lot of it planted, either. This cuvée from the Hild family in Germany’s Upper Mosel region is made in the same way Champagne is made, and presents itself as an easy-to-drink, acid-driven bottle of bubbles with notes of tart yuzu and green apple. It goes remarkably well with different kinds of cuisines. Yes, I mean with your Seamless order, or better yet, your home-cooked meal—and it really lets the food shine.
Jorge Riera, wine director, Frenchette | New York
It’s super affordable at just around 20 to 22 bucks, and can last for a couple of days if stored properly. It’s super fresh with vibrant fruits, and great to sip while cooking, too. Such a glouglou-y wine, and I don’t really drink too much beer, so this is my go-to for a daily thirst-quenching beverage of choice.
Uznea Bauer, co-founder, Labarre | New Orleans
Padié’s “The Whirlwind of Life” is an unctuous, acid-driven macabeu that tastes like sunshine with a touch of melancholy. It is the perfect wine for quarantine because it is affordable and delicious, and its chunky minerality pairs well with solitude, restlessness and existential quandary. Alternately, the citrus elements shine with internet memes, wandering thoughts, anxiety, Zoom dance parties or while working from home wearing no pants, doing yard work, deconstructing systems of oppression or going to the club (i.e.: the park).