Wondering which wines should be on your radar for 2020? I asked a group of wine writers and sommeliers what they’re personally looking forward to exploring in the new year. After far-flung explorations around the globe, it seems many are returning to the comfort of the classic regions of France and Italy. Some are going further back in time, to the wines of Georgia, Armenia and Lebanon, while others are looking at the newest emerging winemaking states in the U.S., such as Texas, Arizona and Michigan. Looking at what’s happening behind the bottle, such as supporting fair practices and wineries owned by women, is also important for many. And when they need a break from wine, many sommeliers are turning to tea for inspiration.
In 2020 I plan to keep drinking Spanish wines! Either Albarino with longer lees contact, hearty Ribeira Sacra Mencia’s, Garnacha’s from Sierra do Gredos or some smoky reductive wines form Canary islands. It’s amazing how spain is reinventing itself! There’s a great wine from there for everyone.
In 2020 I am committed to drinking more wines from classic regions. It’s so easy to get stuck on the new stuff from the new hot place, but I want to dive back into the ballers that got me excited about wine in the beginning of my career! You can bet your sweet peach I’ll be drinking more wines from Alsace, Barolo/Barbaresco, and from every inch of the Loire Valley.
Georgian Wines And Other Ancient Grapes — James Tidwell, Co-founder TEXSOM
I am looking forward to visiting Georgia (the country), Armenia, Greece, and Israel in 2020 and plan to be drinking those wines, plus examples from Lebanon and Turkey as an exploration of ancient grape varieties, the origins of wine culture, and exciting new developments. While not limited to these countries, my explorations in 2020 will be centered around these areas that have some of the longest histories of wine production, yet some of the most modern wine industries. I find the dichotomy fascinating, and feel that there is enormous potential still for each of these countries. As an addendum, I hope to visit China for both wine and tea, and am anticipating tasting more Chinese wines.
America’s Emerging Regions — Michelle Williams, Writer
This past year brought me the opportunity to dip my toes into some of America’s emerging wine regions, and I am enthusiastic about what I discovered. Wine is produced in all 50 states, but some is geared toward local consumption and not worth seeking out. However, states such as Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia are producing high quality wines. Who knew Syrah from Arizona, Tannat from Texas, or Petit Manseng from Virginia could be so exciting? Blanc de blanc from Michigan or New Mexico and Chardonnay from Idaho, yes please!
Women-Owned Wineries — Julia Coney, Wine Writer
I am interested in supporting more women-owned (specifically women of color), made, produced, and in-charge wines. I want to sip Jen Pelka’s new champagne Une Femme, drink more La Caravelle Champagne from Rita Jammet, and Petit Syrah from Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards. I’m going to purposely seek out these wines. They aren’t in limited supply, but I feel a responsibility to support and uplift them as much as possible.
In 2020, I’ll be focused on the incredible wines of New Zealand. I’ve always known New Zealand is a treasure trove of quality wine, but spending time with the outstanding winemakers there this past February gave me a fresh perspective. Pinot Noir from Martinborough and Central Otago are some of the best in the world, and they overdeliver for the price point. I look forward to exploring more of their Chardonnays, particularly from Gisborne and Hawkes Bay on the North Island, where these wines are incredibly delicious and perfect for food-pairing. I will also be hunting for crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs, made from smaller yet exciting wine producers who have elevated the profile of this misunderstood grape, that has been underperforming way too long and now really has a true expression of terroir and brings the thunder. Some of the best Syrah I have tasted comes from New Zealand. I was blown away by the aging potential of these wines, and I hope that we will see more of it in our local markets.
Valtellina — Alice Feiring, Wine Writer, The Feiring Line
I am in the mood for more more wines from Valtellina (Italy), mountain Nebbiolo, lighter wines with great structure and ageability and more wines with oxidation. Definitely into the new fortified wines from Andalucia.
Aged Weirdos — Kelli White, Writer at Guildsomm
Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and stranger, but I’d like to drink more aged weirdos. By that I mean wines that fall outside of the canon of what is considered age-worthy, and yet nonetheless are beautiful. I’m speaking specifically of wonders like older Muscadet, California Zinfandel, rosé of all stripes, and Passe-Tout-Grains. I hope that 2020 is the year of the raccoon, because I intend to make other people’s trash my treasure.
On a more conventional note, I’d also like to drink more top shelf Burgundy. It’s been out of my life for too long and it’s time to bring it back. Please Venmo me at Kelli-White-31.
A More Thoughtful Glass — Hristo Zisovski, Beverage Director at Altamarea Group
With everything that’s happening in the world, I thought it was important in 2019 to invest in moderation and thinking about how wine exists in the world. From the ecological impact of wine, to the toll alcohol consumption takes on us as individuals, I just wanted to be intentional in my relationship to it. We have a lot to learn and change in the wine industry, from #MeToo, to the gender and race wage gap, to the exploitation of immigrant labor, to the reality that addiction and mental health issues need serious attention in our industry. In the end I want sommeliers to enjoy wine and recommend wine because it’s something beautiful in every way, not just on the palate. And we can only do that if we become more self-reflective and critical of our consumption habits.
In 2020 I’ll be drinking more wine from women winemakers and women owned wineries. It takes an extra step to do some research, find the wines, and taste through to see if they’re my speed —but it can have such a huge impact on the market. If I am able to lift up quality wines from underdog producers, everyone benefits.
Wines From Clay — Jamie Goode, Writer
In 2020, I’m looking to be drinking more wines from clay – talha, qvevri, amphora, tinajas. I’m really interested in the textures of these wines, and also, I think that they seem to encourage winegrowers to work in a more thoughtful, natural, low intervention and low extraction way. I’m also going to be focusing more on Portuguese wine, seeking out the best examples from this interesting country. I’ll be continuing to follow the new wave spanish theme, and I’ll also be seeking out interesting wines from good terroirs in Bourgogne that don’t cost a fortune. Canada will remain a focus, and I’m also looking to re-explore the Pacific northwest, particularly Washington State.
Back To Basics — Vicki Denig, Verve Wine
In 2020, I’d like to go back to the basics and drink more wines from benchmark producers in traditional regions. I find that now, more than ever, the industry is constantly searching for things that are new, unique, and off-the-beaten path, and while that’s great, I still think there’s an indescribable value in knowing and appreciating the ‘the classics.’ For me, this looks like more Champagne, Barolo, Rioja, and definitely more Burgundy. And it doesn’t stop there! Hey, I might be a little poorer in 2020, but at least I’ll be drinking damn well!
Austria, Germany and American Hybrids — Rémy Charest, Writer
I’ll be taking my first serious wine trips to Austria and Germany in 2020, so I’m looking forward to discovering a lot more of those. Always happy for more Riesling — and Grüner, and Sylvaner, and Rotgipfler. I also want to taste a lot more hybrid wines from my northeastern part of North America. Better understanding of the varieties is making the wines a lot better, and I really need to catch up and get a more systematic sense of how they all work. One thing I want to drink less of is mousy wines. Get it together, natural wine producers…
Chardonnay — Jim Clarke, Wine Writer, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa
I’m planning on returning to a classic wine grape and drinking lots of Chardonnay this coming year. In part this was inspired by the large number of great South African examples I’ve been trying of late: Richard Kershaw, Leeu Passant, Matthew Van Heerden, Storm… the list goes on. But I also used to sell a lot of white Burgundy when I was a sommelier, and I’m hoping to revisit and spend more time with those wines — Cotes de Beaune would be great, but I’ve had number of excellent Macons of late, too. On the reds side, I’m indulging a similar nostalgia; I sold lots of Brunello in my days at Armani Ristorante, and I miss them and other Sangiovese-based wines. With 2015 Brunellos arriving soon, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them as well as younger Chianti Classicos.
Crémant de Die — Yolanda Shoshana, Writer
In the new year, I look forward to sipping more Crémant de Die. Unlike Bourgogne and Alsace, Die is a lesser known sparkling wine appellation in France. Die is producing some great bubbles and attention must be paid.
Sake — Shana Clarke, Writer
I’m definitely planning on drinking more sake this year. A new generation of brewers are paying respect to the traditions of centuries-old sake brewing while bringing their knowledge and love of wine into the process. We’re seeing higher-acid styles, sakes with a bit of age on them, as well as less attention to milling rates, which used to be the gold standard for defining a premium sake. The beverage’s umami qualities also make it a great pairing beyond standard Japanese fare; it answers the question about what to drink with bitter vegetables, and it’s awesome with pizza —seriously!
Orange Wines — Wanda Mann, Black Dress Traveller
I’m making room in my wine glass for more orange wines from around the globe. I’m very intrigued by this ancient style of winemaking and the unique hues, textures, and styles of wines produced by skin contact with white wine grapes. It’s fascinating to see modern winemakers look to the past to craft wines that feel new and exciting.
Dry Fizzy Reds — Brent Kroll, Maxwell Park
Lambrusco Secco and Dry Fizzy Reds — I always want to drink more of these and they are one of the easiest pairings in the world. Just put an array of cured meat on a plate. On a hot day in Emilia-Romagna it’s the regional pairing for the meat sweats. We do a week each year where we pour 10 dry examples by the glass, all paired up. For me, these wines aren’t normally about trying to wax poetic, it’s about easy drinking and balance. Ed Hardy makes a domestic Lambrusco and a lot of people think Lambrusco is junk due to the sweet versions and popular “Riunite on ice. That’s nice.” That misconception puts it at an everyday price point for some of the best dry examples. For grape of choice i’m mostly having Lambrusco Salamino (named after clusters being shaped like salami), which is more extracted, acidic and alcoholic than my other go to Lambrusco Grasparossa. When getting fizzy with it, there are some solid Syrah pet-nat’s that appeal to the Lambrusco lover in me.
Emerging American Regions — Sarah Tracey, Sommelier at The Lush Life
In 2020, I’d like to be drinking more wines from under-the-radar emerging American wine regions! Recently I’ve come across some truly intriguing discoveries from Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania & Michigan (not to mention my home state of Illinois) —there are plenty of intrepid farmers & makers in unexpected places, and I look forward to exploring their wines in the coming year.
Lambrusco and Lower Alcohol Wines — Lauren Dadonna, Sommelier
As a new decade approaches, I’m thinking about the long game and the delightful range of wines a bit lower in alcohol. This will include German exploration beyond Riesling, with Scheurebe, Silvaner and Domina each having a shining moment this past year. I’m excited to ferret out more quirky sparkling and am enjoying that Lambrusco is everywhere these days. No limits on this category, the whole world presents gems such as Craven Clairette from Stellenbosch which clocks in at a judicious 11.6% abv. Finally, I’m looking forward to diving further into tea and discovering how many can be nearly as satisfying as a nice glass of wine.
Sake — Sarah Blau, Sommelier
To begin the new decade I am looking to open my palate more to the east. Though it is not quite wine, I aim to drink more Sake. I would like to explore this category further with foods outside the realm of a Japanese restaurant. The world of Sake is huge, and even with years of experience already under my belt in sake consumption, I feel like I have barely touched the surface. There are so many more categories and styles I am ready to discover and to get more people on the Sake wagon.
Alentejo and Slovenia — Clive Pursehouse, Wine Writer
Alentejo: When people talk about amphora they seem to be talking almost exclusively about the wines from Georgia but in the Alentejo region of Portugal, amphoras, or talhas as they call them, make amazingly layered wines that are a story of the region’s heritage. Look for wines from Herdade do Rocim, Fita Preta and José de Sousa and grape varieties like Antão Vaz and Alicante Bouschet.
Slovenia is where it’s at for food wines, as well as some tremendous restaurants following in the footsteps of the great Ana Roš. Slovenia wine is becoming easier to find here in the States, and they do a lot of skin contact, and natural wines, both things I really enjoy. Look for producers like Batič, Movia, Klinec, Burja and grapes like white wines made from Rebula, Pinela, Zelen, Malvazija Istarska, Šipon (Furmint). And the native reds from Refošk.
Sparkling From Everywhere — Greg Martellotto, Big Hammer Wines
My wine drinking habits are increasingly mirroring my personal life goals. Taking time to celebrate more and share the beauty of life, accompanied with great wine, marks special moments. Bubbles always enliven the atmosphere and bring joy and I plan to pop a bottle of Franciacorta, Champagne, sparkling Vouvray or Riesling at least once a week. I want to drink more American bubbles too; there are some aged fabulous sparkling wines from California. My other goal for the new year is to exercise my curiosity and expand my experience. To this end, I will make a concerted effort to pursue atypical wines. There are so many surprisingly delicious wines like Malvasia from Croatia, Rosé from Corsica, and Lagrein from NE Italy. With the threat of European tariffs looming, I’ll likely be pursuing Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from atypical wine regions worthy of deeper exploration like Chile and Washington state.
Iberian Varietals From California— Tim Teichgraeber, Wine Writer
In the coming year I’m looking forward to tasting more California wines made with less new oak — wines that have more liveliness, freshness, and transparency of terroir, as opposed to wines built around pure intensity and woodiness. Things have been trending that way for a few years. I think progress is definitely being made, and I consider this a welcome state-wide wave. Cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah from Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast continue to inspire me at every turn.
Iberian varieties like Verdelho, Verdejo, red and white Grenache, and Touriga Nacional are making some serious gains in inland areas like Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, as well as in Paso Robles. Global warming is real, and these grapes will play an important role in the future of California wine.
Nebbiolo — Deborah Parker Wong, Writer
I rarely play favorites, I drink aromatic whites, lean reds and bubbles with equal enthusiasm. That said, I’ll be immersed in Nebbiolo as one of the”100 World’s Best Palates” tasting at the Barolo and Barbaresco World Opening in New York this February and I’ll keep exploring Italian wines from regions I won’t have the opportunity to visit when the Slow Wine Tour arrives in San Francisco in February. Sauvignon Blanc is a personal favorite and as US Ambassador for the competition, I’m eager to taste Sauvignon Blancs from around the world when I’ll be judging the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2020 in March. During the summer months I’ll be tasting with producers from Napa and Sonoma when I’m writing California entries for the Slow Wine Guide. All year long I’ll be selecting my favorite still, sparkling and fortified wines from France, Spain and Portugal for my WSET students and college classes.
The Classics (With A Side Of Poetry) —Paige Farrell, Writer
“For here there is no place that does not see you.”
My mind drifts to the words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke as I stand at the water’s sweeping edge. Rockport, Massachusetts, with its panoramic sprawl and steady gaze, asks one to take pause. Early morning grace surrounds, and silence, but for the ebb and flow of the oceans steady tide. What wines will captivate as the New Year unveils? The classics. I’ll posit myself in Italy and France; from the sensual, joyous beauties from Champagne, to the contemplative whites from the Jura, I’ll journey to the high altitude, poetic reds from Piedmont, and those of gumption from Trentino Alto-Adige, and give in to the muse.
Tea — Caleb Ganzer, Wine Director at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
To be honest, in the new year I’m going to be drinking more tea. I still love wine and I hope to keep exploring, but the great teas of the world are doing for me what wine did when I first got into it — they’re blowing my mind. Oolong teas like Tung Ting from Taiwan and Phoenix Honey from Guangdong, China offer the type of complexity I seek out of the great wines of the world. A well-sourced and well-brewed tea makes a wonderful accompaniment to a table full of blue chip wines. For me, tea is the future.