What to Drink Next: Trust These Names in Wine
It's a common wine quandary. Maybe you know a $10 wine you like. But then you need a $30 wine for a dinner or a gift, or you need one that’s truly high-end: $80, $100, even more. But with thousands of wines out there, how do you know what’s good?
One answer: Keep it in the family. In the wine world, there are family-owned wineries (or groups) that apply relentless attention to quality at every price level. Perhaps that’s driven by generations of winery-owning parents telling their children things like, “If you destroy our winery’s reputation, I shall come back to haunt you forever!” Or perhaps not. Regardless, it’s good for wine buyers. Here are seven to seek out.
The Antinori family has been tied to wine since 1385, making them the 10th-oldest family-owned company of any kind in the world. Now run by a trio of 26th-generation sisters—Albiera, Alessia, and Allegra—Antinori makes uniformly impressive wines from benchmark (and pricey) Super-Tuscans such as Tignanello and Solaia to approachable reds from Tuscany, Puglia, and beyond.
Bargain: 2015 Santa Cristina Toscana ($13)
Aromas of wild berries define this medium-bodied Tuscan red, made from a combination of Sangiovese, Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot.
Upgrade: 2015 La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($25)
In the right hands, the “Noble Wine of Montepulciano” offers hard-to-resist sweet raspberry flavors and tea-leafy notes.
Splurge: 2015 Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore ($125)
Piero Antinori created this intense, black currant–rich red to highlight the potential for Cabernet in Tuscany’s Bolgheri subregion.
Rioja’s Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), or Cune (pronounced “COO-nay”), got its start in 1879, the inspiration of Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa. The brothers’ descendents still own the company, producing superb Riojas at every price, and in every quantity—from nearly a million bottles of the Cune Crianza red to less than 3,000 of their top wine, Real de Asúa, named after the company’s founders.
Bargain: 2017 CVNE Monopole Blanco ($14)
This creamy, nectarine-scented white, made from the Viura grape, has been one of CVNE’s signature wines since it was first released in 1915.
Upgrade: 2014 CVNE Viña Real Reserva ($45)
Viña Real comes from Rioja Alavesa rather than Rioja Alta and is typically a bit darker-fruited and more earthy than CVNE’s flagship Imperial reds.
Splurge: 2011 CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja ($80)
From a great vintage in Rioja, this profound red possesses layers of rich red cherry and cassis flavors that last long after the final sip. It will age for decades.
3. Maison Joseph Drouhin
The Drouhin family has been making wine in Burgundy since 1880 (and in Oregon since 1987), achieving a reputation for excellent wines from vineyards they own (domaine wines, in Burgundian parlance) and from fruit they purchase (négociant wines). That means high-quality entry-level bottles, subtle village wines for a bit more, and brilliant (albeit sometimes very pricey) premiers and grands crus.
Bargain: 2016 Joseph Drouhin Laforêt Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($16)
Light and bright cherry flavors make this négociant Bourgogne rouge a hard-to-argue-with everyday pour.
Upgrade: 2015 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune ($44)
Pinot Noir from different vineyards throughout the Côte de Beaune go into this satiny, raspberry-inflected red.
Splurge: 2016 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc ($180)
This seductively complex white comes from a premier cru vineyard that the Drouhins originally acquired in the 1920s.
4. E. Guigal
One of the Rhône Valley’s most respected names, Guigal covers the range from very good, affordable Côtes du Rhônes to the wildly expensive trio of single-vineyard Côte-Rôtie reds that cemented the family’s reputation (La Landonne, La Mouline, and La Turque, otherwise known as the La La’s). Under founder Etienne Guigal’s grandson Philippe, the winemaking remains exceptionally precise at every level.
Bargain: 2015 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge ($15)
Saturated with blackberry and black pepper flavors, this Syrah-based red is a great choice for a holiday party pour or for dinner at home.
Upgrade: 2016 E. Guigal Saint- Joseph Blanc ($36)
The silky texture plus the aroma of spring flowers in this Rhône white (almost all Marsanne, with a tiny touch of Roussanne) make it hard to resist.
Splurge: 2015 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde de Guigal ($75)
This peppery, potent red offers a sense of Guigal’s famed La La bottlings—for, believe it or not, a seventh of the price.
Australia’s oldest family-owned winery got its start in 1849, when Samuel Smith planted some of the Barossa Valley’s first vineyards. They’ve never moved nor changed ownership, and over the years they have grown into one of the country’s most well-known wine names. The affordable Y Series varietal wines are a perennial value, and top cuvées like the Octavius Shiraz are Barossa benchmarks.
Bargain: 2017 Yalumba Y Series Viognier $13
Most inexpensive Viognier is overripe and oily. Yalumba’s Y Series is the opposite: vibrant with bright peach and jasmine flavors.
Upgrade: 2015 Yalumba Hand Picked Shiraz + Viognier $36
Black currant, pepper, and notes of orange zest all abound in this old-vine red from the cool Eden Valley region.
Splurge: 2013 Yalumba The Octavius Shiraz $119
Yalumba’s top Shiraz is luscious and powerful, packed with blackberry, espresso, and spice notes. It deserves a top-quality prime steak.
6. Jackson Family Wines
It’s a safe bet that most of the millions of fans of Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay don’t realize exactly how many wineries this Sonoma-based family (now headed by the late Jess Jackson’s wife, Barbara Banke) owns. The answer is 40, making wines from $13 a bottle to almost $400. The secret to their sustained quality? The family’s seemingly unerring eye for winemaking talent.
Bargain: 2016 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay $16
Winemaster Randy Ullom’s latest release offers all the richness and lemon cream flavors fans of this wine expect.
Upgrade: 2015 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir $40
Co-founder and winemaker Greg Brewer’s deft touch is a huge asset, as shown in this spicy, fragrant Pinot.
Splurge: 2015 Hickinbotham The Revivalist Merlot $75
Winemaker Chris Carpenter’s superb Australian Merlot is savory, almost gamey, and full of black cherry fruit.
7. Maison Louis Roederer
One of the most renowned names in Champagne also owns properties in Bordeaux, Provence, Portugal, and California, all overseen by Frédéric Rouzaud, a seventh-generation descendent of Louis Roederer himself. The company’s meticulous attention to vineyards results in a broad portfolio of remarkable wines, culminating in the famed (and historically, the first) tête de cuvée Champagne, Cristal.
Bargain: 2014 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Red $15
Sun-warmed, plummy fruit gives the sense of Portugal’s beautiful Douro Valley in this red from a property Roederer acquired back in 1990.
Upgrade: 2015 Château Pichon-Lalande Reserve de la Comtesse Pauillac $60
The graphite-scented “second wine” of Bordeaux’s Château Pichon Longueville is equal to many châteaus grands crus.
Splurge: 2008 Louis Roederer Cristal $279
Citrus, ginger, almond, and green apple notes mingle seamlessly in the latest release of this exquisitely precise Champagne.