The Essential Bottles for Your Home Wine Bar

Stock image of adults eating dinner at a table

Thanks to wine preservation systems and storage units, you can now always enjoy a fresh glass at home. With a little planning, a well-stocked home wine bar can function for all occasions, from your post-work aperitif to after-dinner dessert wines.

There are six categories to consider when stocking a home bar, according to sommeliers and wine buyers. We polled wine pros across the country to compile their tips on everything you need to create the ultimate at-home wine bar.

Grouping of five varieties of rose wine in wineglasses.

Dry aperitif and a dry rosé

“For an inexpensive aperitif, I would recommend a dry German sekt,” says Joshua Lit, wine director at New York City’s Gotham Bar & Grill. He recommends a sparkling Riesling from the Mosel region. “Riesling is such a dynamic grape, and wines of this style are a great and affordable way to start your evening off right.”
Other possibilities include a dry fino Sherry, stored in the fridge and served either alone or in cocktails.

Lit also suggests stocking your shelves with at least one crisp, crowd-pleasing rosé.

“What I look for in a dry rosé is ripe fruit and acidity,” he says. “Some of my favorite producers of rosés come from Sonoma Coast. When Pinot Noir is picked early enough to have good acidity, it makes for a delicious rosé.”

Hansen-Lauer 2016 Brut Sekt Riesling (Mosel); 90 points. $25. Swirls of honey, tangerine, brioche and mineral perfume this lavishly floral sparkling wine. The palate is crispy and peachy but intently stony, too. An easy-drinking but elegant and satisfying sip with delicate effervescence. –Anna Lee C. Iijima

Auteur Wines 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); 95 points, $25. This is impressive wine at every level—a crisp, complex exploration of minerality and cool-climate aromatics. Grapefruit, Meyer lemon and stone provide a backdrop of elegant flavor within structured elegance and appealingly well-integrated acidity. This is a delicious wine. –Virginie Boone

Close-up of hands toasting champagne flutes during dinner party at home

Sparkling wines for everyday sipping or a celebration

“For the value end of the spectrum, I’d go for Cava [from Spain] or Crémant from the Jura, Loire or Burgundy regions of France,” says Arvid Rosengren, sommelier at Legacy Records restaurant in New York City. “The reason for recommending these is that they, by law, have to be made in a serious way, the same method as in Champagne.”

For a high-end wine, Rosengren chooses Champagne. “There’s a plethora of great grower Champagne out there that are delicious and have a great story to tell.”

Vicente Gandia NV El Miracle Organic Brut (Cava); $15, 88 points. Bready apple and pear aromas are clean and good, albeit standard for brut Cava. A centered palate is more easygoing and friendly than tight, while nectarine and orange flavors are just bright enough on a balanced finish. Made from organic grapes for what that’s worth. –Michael Schachner

Bertrand-Delespierre NV Enfant de la Montagne Premier Cru Brut (Champagne); $56, 90 points. A ripe blend of the three Champagne grapes, this is rich, showing baked apple, spice and a shot of acidity that perfectly backs up the white fruit and mineral texture. Drink now. –Roger Voss

Red wine in the glass In the modern kitchen . Classic white wall background .

Versatile everyday white and everyday red

Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at NoMad restaurant in New York City, says he “would look to dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York for a go-to dry white wine to stock a home bar with. If you’re looking for Sauvignon Blanc/Sancerre, a Pinot Grigio or a Chablis/unoaked Chardonnay, dry Riesling will stylistically totally satisfy what you’re looking for. It is mineral-driven, thirst-quenching and pairs with a wide range of food.”

For flexible everyday reds, blends from the Côtes du Rhone and Côtes du Ventoux are hard to beat. Also try the Rioja crianzas.

Boundary Breaks 2017 Dry No. 239 Riesling (Finger Lakes); $19, 91 points. A bright, effusive nose of pulverized limestone, freshly zested lime and white flowers offers a powerful start to this wine. The dry medium-bodied palate brings a complex mix of earthy, spicy and fruit elements, with flavors of crunchy yellow apple, lime, fresh ginger and tangy wet stone pushing through. A textured and tangy white-plum-skin note lingers on the finish. Editors’ Choice. –Alexander Peartree

Alain Jaume et Fils 2016 Haut de Brun (Côtes du Rhône); $15, 90 points. Hints of sage and dried wild mint elevate this rich, densely concentrated red. The succulent black-plum palate is boldly fruity and primary but finessed by savory edges and taut, gripping tannins. It’s an easy-drinking value wine that offers enough elegance for entertaining. Best Buy. –A.I.

Top Tools for Wine at Home

Fruity, but not sweet, whites and reds

“If your local wine store’s Italian white selection is the ubiquitous wall of Pinot Grigio, ask them to branch out and stock a Vermentino from Liguria,” says Jenni Guizio, associate director of wine for Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City. “These wines are so bright and salty, lightly fruity and herbaceous that they can be equal parts thirst-quencher and serious food companion.”

Having trouble locating Ligurian Vermentino? California also produces some interesting Vermentinos.

For your red, choose something fresh and fruity. “Beaujolais is my go-to house red,” says Guizio. “I will usually look for a cru Beaujolais, such as Morgon or Fleurie, but Beaujolais-Villages will do just fine.

“With fresh red fruit flavors, high acidity, relatively low alcohol and low-to-medium tannins, the wines are quite versatile. Best with a slight chill.”

Seghesio 2018 Vermentino (Russian River Valley); $24, 90 points. This wine is waxy in apple and lemon flavors, with an underlying floral accent. The texture takes on a slight creaminess that melds with its foundation of lively acidity. –V.B.

Domaines Dominique Piron 2017 Beaujolais-Villages; $17, 90 points. This richly structured wine offers red-berry flavors and acidity. The dry core balances the generous fruits. This balanced wine is ready to drink. Editors’ Choice. –R.V.

Multi racial group of friends sitting in dining room, candles burning on table, smiling and enjoying relaxed conversation

A versatile white and a red for fancy dinners.

“For a white, my thoughts would be a Savennières, which I always grab when going to dinner at a BYOB,” Linda Collier says, referring to the sought-after, crisp Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Collier has owned Collier’s of Centreville, a boutique wine shop in Delaware, for almost 40 years.

For a red, Collier loves a big, yet lean, Amarone from near Verona. “It is so perfect in so many ways,” she says. “Nice by itself and wonderful with so many foods.”

Loïc Mahe 2015 Les Fougeraies (Savennières); $50, 93 points. A south-facing parcel on shale soil has produced this rich wine packed with tropical-fruit flavors as well as crisper apple and citrus acidity. Aged in wood, the wine has some spice, but it really celebrates great fruit and wonderful acidity. Drink from 2020. –R.V.

Massimago 2014 Conte Gastone (Amarone della Valipolicella); $45, 91 points. Made from organically farmed grapes, this has aromas of underbrush, dark-skinned berry and cooking spice. The savory, full-bodied palate delivers ripe black plum, ground pepper and tobacco leaf alongside polished tannins. –Kerin O’Keefe

Blue cheese, honey, sweet wine, knife

Sweet wine – natural and fortified

Bordeaux’s Sauternes region, including neighboring Barsac, produces a reliable, naturally sweet wine. It has honeyed flavors, yet lots of acidity that make it good alongside spicy Asian cuisines, cheeses and foie gras.

“For fortified sweet wines, I would choose a Muscat from France: Beaumes de Venise or one of the many variations coming from Roussillon,” says Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier and president/chief education officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions, a public relations firm. “They are great with post-meal cheeses of all sorts and my go-to with strawberries or peaches and cream.” Goldstein is especially fond of the perfumed noses on these wines, which he calls “simply charming.”

Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2016 Sauternes; $21, 94 points. Dominated by Sémillon, this rich, luscious wine has layers of ripe fruit and intense concentration. Wood aging has sustained the richness of the wine and not overshadowed the ripe honey, candied peel and hints of almonds. The wine will age for many years. Drink from 2025. –R.V.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2014 Le Chant des Griolles (Muscat de Beaumes de Venise); $21, 92 points. Lavish yet impeccably light on its feet, this Muscat vin doux naturel offers intensely ripe, concentrated tangerine and honeysuckle notes offset by whiffs of fresh, green herb. It’s a silky, sweet wine anchored by a lingering thread of minerality and integrated alcohol. Enjoy now–2024. –A.I.

Published on December 6, 2019
Topics: Wine and Ratings