Wondering which wines to drink in 2018? I asked a group of wine writers and sommeliers what they're personally looking forward to exploring in the new year. Expect to see a strong return to the mothership — Bordeaux and Burgundy are high on people's lists, although in a more-affordable way, and world events seem to be driving everyone towards sparkling, including those from Spain, England and even Brazil and Belgium. New winemakers from Australia are getting noticed, and there's a lot of love for Central Europe and Italy's Alto Piemonte. (And also check out The Best Spirits And Cocktails For 2018).
Spain — Caleb Ganzer, Head Sommelier at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
"In 2018 I hope to be drinking more singular wines from small plots all over Spain. There is a tremendous resurgence of native grapes/ancient vines in oft-forgotten pockets across Spain, and winemakers like Laura Lorenzo are transforming these into impressively complex and pleasurable wines of unique character. One of my favorites by her is the 2015 “Gavela” from Ribeira Sacra made from Palomino! Delish!"
Chenin, Muscadet and Canada! — Pascaline Lepeltier, Sommelier
"I will look to keep drinking even more Chenin — I want to keep exploring more and more nuances of the grape. I will also continue to drink more from the Loire, especially Muscadets, as more and more "crus communaux" are going to be released from different producers in the next months and years. Same for Sancerre, that I overlooked for sometime, and where we can see a new energy, including a more and more precise definition of the different soil types, thanks to a more careful farming. I will also keep on exploring Piedmont — especially alto piemonte, roero, and all the surroudings of Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the white of Friuli and Slovenia. I am very much looking forward to drink what is coming from the new talents of Australia, in the hills of Adelaide or in the cooler parts of Victoria, as there is a lot of interesting things happening there. And finally, in the U.S. — Finger Lakes, Vermont , the Sonoma Coast. And Canada — Quebec!!!, Nova Scotia!!!, Ontario! — as these areas are becoming more and more benchmarks for acid-driven yet ripe, focused wines."
"I still believe champagne’s are a great value and this region produces a lot of exciting wine. Austria had a pretty good 2017 vintage and didn’t struggle as much as France did. There some really note worthy wines made. Another lookout will be German Pinot Noirs. In general we see a movement to small artisanal wine makers."
"First in 2018, I'm going to drink allllllllllllllllllllll the Cava. If you're able to get your hands on the ARS Collecta wines by Codorníu Raventos, you're going to blush when you realize these wines were produced in Spain and not in Champagne. The "456'' Gran Reserva is a project 10 year in the making. "456" blends three grapes (Xarel-Lo, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay), each grown in a different terroir and region: Conca Barberà, Penedès, Segrià. Codorníu Raventos is the first to do this in Cava production. Also don't miss out on the "Jaume" or the "Finca la Fideuera" bottlings! This is rare Spanish juice.
Secondly, I am going to reestablish my love for young California wines, especially out of the Edna Valley! Doubly especially if they were made from fruit sourced at the (then called) Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard, now known as Slide Hill Vineyard. Predominately planted to Syrah, the real sleeper from this vineyard is the Grenache! Get your hands on 2014 Ethan Grenache or even the 2010 No Limit Syrah, both made from fruit grown at the then Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard. You will thank me."
Alto Piemonte — Alice Feiring, Wine Writer at The Feiring Line
"In 2018 I'll be drinking wines from Alto Piemonte — especially Boca, Bramaterra and Colline Novaresi, because more and more I'm craving wines with crazy character and spine."
Southern Hemisphere — James Tidwell, Co-founder TEXSOM
"I get to see a lot of wines at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, and the entries from the Southern Hemisphere have made me want to explore these countries in more depth. Australia’s emphasis on new styles and regions in the past few years, New Zealand’s diversity beyond Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, South Africa’s development as a major new wave producer, and Chile’s exciting winemakers and wines make these some of the most interesting wine-producing countries. What I love is that each is defying stereotyping, which makes the wines fun to taste. Surprises abound, and I cannot wait to taste more in 2018."
Magnums! — Victoria James, Beverage Director at Cote
"I personally want to think and drink bigger in 2018. Sure, magnums are inherently impressive, but they also keep wine younger and fresher, since there is less overall exposure to the effects of oxygen (through the cork). We don't stop at just magnums at Cote, here we celebrate bottles up to 15L —Nebuchadnezzar! 2018 is definitely the year to gather friends together and drink big."
Côtes de Bordeaux — Yannick Benjamin, Head Sommelier, University Club and Co-Founder Wheeling Forward
"Growing up in a French household, it was only natural to always have wine on the table. My mother was born and raised in Bordeaux, so there was a natural bias towards her native region, and those wines are what inspired me to choose a career in the hospitality field. Throughout the years, I began drinking more obscure wines, and my palate developed into wanting less oak — and the price for Bordeaux unfortunately became too unreasonable. However, I discovered a new and exciting category within Bordeaux known as "Côtes de Bordeaux," which was created in 2009. This designation covers right the bank communes of Blaye, Francs, Castillon, and Cadillac, and most of the producers that you will find under this umbrella make some of the most delicious and distinctive Merlot based wines that have a true expression of that Bordelais terroir. The majority of these wines are accessible young, but most of all, the quality from this this region simply over-delivers and it is wallet friendly. So in 2018 you will certainly see a lot of Côtes de Bordeaux in my Zalto!"
Australia and Central Europe — Rachel Signer, Wine Writer, Editor Terre Magazine
"Aussie wine: I recently visited Down Under and there are some unique producers making beautiful wines. It's always a treat to enjoy one of Tom Shobbrook's light-but-juicy Syrah and Mourvèdre wines from the Barossa, and I'm enamored by his new sparkling Shiraz called "Making Space." In the Yarra Valley, Mac Forbes is making precise, terroir-driven Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling. There's also loads of cool stuff coming out of the Adelaide Hills, in South Australia — look for Manon Wine, Jauma, Gentle Folk Wines, and Ochota Barrels, for some tastes of this free-thinking, cool-climate region.
A good bottle of grower Champagne, made by a small producer rather than a large house, never fails to thrill me. I love the nuances of each wine, whether it expresses a single vineyard, or a blend of sites, thanks to its limited production and the care that goes into it. I'm hugely in love with the wines of Benoit Lahaye, Vouette et Sorbée, Val Frison, Christophe Mignon and Jerome Prevost.
There is so much exciting stuff happening in the vineyards of Central Europe, and I've got my eyes in particular on Austria's Burgenland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. One sip of the fascinating wines from Claus Preisinger, Slobodne Vinarstvo, Strekhov 1075 or Milan Nestarec, and you'll see what I mean."
Spain — Kelli White, Writer at GuildSomm
"I'm looking forward to exploring Spain. A trip last year was eye-opening and really whet my appetite. I confess I've not worked much with Spanish wine in the past decade, so rediscovering Spain's exceptional diversity, quality, funky indigenous varieties and classic wines is at the top of my list."
Italy — Zachary Sussman, Wine Writer
"In 2018, I’m planning to further explore the amazing depth of Italy’s white wine traditions, from Arneis to Zibibbo, which still don’t command nearly enough respect. And at the same time, I have made a vow to stop chasing the novel and obscure, and to brush up on the "classics,” which I’m often guilty of neglecting. For example, I need more great Sangiovese from Tuscany in my life — Chianti, in particular, which offers such exceptional value — and more old-school Bordeaux."
Wabi-Sabi! — Treve Ring, Wine Writer
"What am I personally going to seek out more of next year? Easy. Wines of place, people, and time. I'm interested in wabi-sabi wines, wines that are not points-perfect, but are charismatic and singular from where they are from, and who made them — people are part of terroir, after all. I'm particularly keen on the next wave from South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Champagne, fueled by youthful, unfettered and brave talent. The other area I'm dialing on is England, and sparkling wine. Outside of Champagne (and shhh... Nova Scotia), England has the soils, climate, freedom, and potential to be a seriously worthy sparkling wine region, and as a fizz-focused person, I'm thrilled by what I'm tasting."
Sparkling Brazilian — Sarah Blau, General Manager at Aster
"For 2018 I am looking to have more bubbles in my glass. Not just Champagne, but the Crémant of France, the sparkling Riesling of the Mosel, even the red Lambrusco, which are now being produced and exported more and more as quality wines. I would like to get my hands on sparkling Brazilian wine, which I feel like will be the next big thing. Whether I have something to celebrate or just want something in my glass, sparkling goes with all foods and all moods."
English Sparkling and Chilean Whites — Jaime Smith, Irreverent Wine Person
"Me, I would like to search out a few more English sparkling bottles in the next year, we see so much press and so few bottles. I also need to get go back and indulge in my Ribolla addiction; whites from BC and Chile along with Rioja will be sought out too."
Aged Bordeaux, Rioja and Piedmont — Lauren Dadonna, Sommelier at Les Sablons
"I'll be seeking out more wines with bottle age, wines that are about savory, more so than fruit. Older bottles don't have to be very expensive, 2nd/3rd label Bordeaux offers value, and regions like Rioja and Piedmont are in the habit of holding back vintages, as are individual domaines like Couly-Dutheil and Mayacamas. Another category I plan to dedicate more attention to is Provençal whites: Bandol, Cassis, Palette. These wines are richly textured and practically demand to be paired with food, shining equally aside a winter pork preparation and summer's lobster. Lastly, if 2018 provides even half of the drama that 2017 delivered, we will all need Champagne and lots of it. It's the wine that most reliably encourages a smile and promotes a toast, and with the timely release of Peter Liem's great book, the time to drink more Champagne is now."
Burgundy — Jason Jacobeit, Wine Director Bâtard
"In our blitz-paced age, a glass of Burgundy is a chance to slow down, engage with something in a meaningful way, and emerge from the experience more present. For me, Burgundy is a reminder of what drinking great wine should be; eminently delicious and meaningful. It's a cultural exchange, a chance to glimpse the spirit of a place — no other wine provokes or engages me in such a way."
Susumaniello, Zibibbo and Torbato — Wanda Mann of Black Dress Traveller
"Italy has more native wine grape varieties than any place in the world, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with tasting them all! In 2018, I’ll be drinking more Susumaniello from Puglia, Zibibbo from Sicily, Torbato from Sardinia, Lagrein from Alto Adige, and as many wines produced from Italy’s 500+ grapes that I can find. It is always exciting to taste something new and these wines reveal so much about each region’s winemaking culture."
Zweigelt — Brent Kroll, Maxwell Park
"For me, 2018 is about Austrian Zweigelt — I am consistently impressed with what this grape can do. The wines are graceful enough to sometimes be a Pinot Noir alternative. I’ve had a vertical from Anton IBY, where the wines take on a meaty character like northern Rhône Syrah. This is something I never see by the glass but always have my eye out for. In addition to red wine, this makes a great rose and eiswein too."
2015 Bordeaux, and later, 2016 Bordeaux — Greg Martellotto, Big Hammer Wines
"I expect to be drinking lots of 2015 Bordeaux, that are arriving now and over the next few months. It's one of the best vintages of the century and certainly the best since 2010, particularly for right bank wines. Toward the third quarter, I'll be receiving some of the 2016 Bordeaux, and that will be an even more enthralling vintage, particularly for left bank wines. In the new world, I believe Santa Barbara represents some of the most exciting, under-the-radar and certainly most under-valued wines. I'm also looking forward to stockpiling 2016 white wines from Friuli, a region that I would argue is at the top of the list for the best and most diverse white wines on earth."
Languedoc — Tim Teichgraeber, Wine Writer
"I think the Languedoc region of Southern France is a treasure trove of red blends, with a genuine sense of place. Most are made from a mix of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignane. Keep an eye out from wines from Terrazes du Larzac and Faugeres. I'm also infatuated with minimalist, cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Anderson Valley in Northern California. Baxter, Drew and Foursight are a few great labels."
Belgium — Clive Pursehouse, Wine Writer
"One of the last places you may look for world class wine would be in the Heuvelland region of Flemish, Belgium (more known for its beer culture) and yet that's just what you'll find at Entre-Deux-Monts, in the rolling hills on Belgium's border with France. There are less than ten wineries operating in the region of Heuvelland, and quality is not universal; perhaps owing in part to the wide use of lesser known hybrids like Regent and Rondo. However at Entre-Deux-Monts, which may just be the top class of all of Belgian wine, winemaker Martin Bacquaert (who studied in Bordeaux), has taken on the classics of Burgundy with a Flemish provenance. The 2016 Estate Chardonnay and 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, while very young, show the potential of this Flemish region. Cool climate varieties with ample acidity, elegance and finesse; these are classic wines. The Chardonnay could easily be mistaken for something from the Mâconnais, crisp, fresh and elegant and the Pinot Noir hints at the northern reaches of Oregon's Willamette Valley, with red fruit, flint and dried violets."
Bubbly Rosé — Fred Dex, Master Sommelier
"I like trying new things, but I'm a creature of habit. I've been drinking bubbly rosé for a decade. You can get a great cava rosé for $20 and under, so you always have a bottle in the fridge when friends come over. There's more great stuff coming out of Italy, not just prosecco, and Crémant from France. And I love Bordeaux and Burgundy. People think you have to take out a mortgage, but incredible producers are making declassified burgundies for $25 and under. And there are great entry-level bourgogne rouge and blancs — I wish more sommeliers were hip to those. I cook a diverse range of foods at home, and if I need a white to go with my roast chicken or a light red for pasta, I can get an affordable bottle from the same producer making the $75 bottles. I'm also into Italians from Etna and sagrantinos from Umbria — those are like getting John Varvatos suits for half price."
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