Many of the world’s most lauded wines rightfully deserve their celebrity status. But that level of allure often means the wines come at sky-high prices for consumers—if they can even find them at all. As prices keep rising, especially in highly regarded regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux, wine drinkers are exploring other options.
For ideas on where to look, we turned to those who have made a career of seeking out under-the-radar wines that impress: Sommeliers! See what seven of these experts from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners suggest for wines with big payoff and lower prices than their sibling bottlings.
Wine Spectator: What are your favorite under-the-radar values from pricey producers?
Robert Lozelle, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Angler in San Francisco
Behind Burgundy’s generic classifications of Bourgogne are a treasure trove of wines that exceed their rank. One is Domaine de Montille’s Clos du Château, a single-vineyard white that’s agonizingly close to falling entirely within the village of Puligny-Montrachet, delivering its signature minerality at a fraction of the price. Likewise, Domaine Michel Lafarge’s Bourgogne Rouge is another single-parcel wine that uses the classification; as texturally precise as you’d expect from one of Volnay’s greatest.
As an aside, the storied Brunello producer Cerbaiona produces a multi-vintage Rosso that’s mostly Sangiovese with a smattering of Pinot Noir. As perplexing as that sounds, in my mind, this odd blend may be Italy’s greatest table wine.
Keith Goldston, wine director for the Post Oak Hotel in Houston, home to the Grand Award–winning Mastro's Steakhouse
From Germany, Robert Weil Trocken Riesling. This legendary producer from the Rheingau makes some of the most sought-after Rieslings in the world, yet their trocken bottling is affordable and you can actually find bottles for sale. Lots of fruit but finishes dry, so it’s super easy to pair with just about anything. The iconic “robin’s egg” blue of the label is as close as it gets to the “Tiffany blue” effect in the sommelier world.
It is getting harder and harder to find values in Burgundy, but Jean-Marc Boillot Montagny 1er Cru has always punched above its weight class. Drinking like a Puligny-Montrachet but at half the price, this wine is a gem for those who love racy, mineral-driven whites.
And from Bordeaux, La Dame de Montrose. The second wines from classified Bordeaux producers have always been great deals, but this one from Château Montrose has been ridiculously delicious over the last 10 vintages or so. It’s usually a touch more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon: big, lush and approachable with a long, earthy finish. A wonderful, ready-to-drink Bordeaux.
Ali Yakich, wine director at Grand Award winner Flagstaff House Restaurant in Boulder, Colo.
Chardonnay from Oregon and Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State are under-the-radar [values]. Absolute killer wines coming from both places. Abeja is great in Washington. Oregon has so many amazing Chardonnays, like Walter Scott, Belle Pente and Johan vineyards.
Zachary Kameron, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Peak in New York, N.Y.
One of my favorite places to look for these values are the Nebbiolo d’Albas from great Barbaresco and Barolo producers, because they know Nebbiolo so intimately and impart all of the care that goes into the higher-end wines. A perfect example is Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore. The single-vineyard designation is as good as many Barolo or Barbaresco but at a fraction of the price. It ages well and you can even find it in magnum from time to time.
Marcello Cancelli, wine director at Boka Restaurant Group in Chicago, which includes Best of Award of Excellence winner Swift & Sons
Italy is hard to beat here. Poggio San Polo, the great Brunello producer and their Rubio label from Tuscany; Tenuta Sette Ponti, the great Tuscan estate and their Crognolo label. And a recent pleasure, Le Petit Vin d'Avril, a multi-vintage label from the Avril family of the Rhône’s Clos des Papes in France.
Juan Pablo Escobar, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York
I think for not being big and commercially known, these Italian wines have a price that's rather high—but the quality justifies it.
Oasi Degli Angeli Marche Kurni 2016, a 100 percent Montepulciano wine from the heart of Piceno, Marche. The wine is produced from a 95-year-old plot that has always belonged to the family. The wine is matured in Grenier [a high-end cooper] barrels and barriques. A focused and powerful Montepulciano, elegant and expressive. The wine has tremendous aging potential.
Also, Fattoria di Petroio Poggio ai Grilli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015, a Sangiovese from a single vineyard named Poggio ai Grilli. This is a project the family began from a selection massale from their old vineyards. The wine is remarkably complex with structure and character, a wonderful wine from the soils of Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti.
And San Giovenale Habemus Rosso Lazio 2018 [Red Label], a tiny production of Cabernet Franc from Rome. An incredible project from Lazio, a region that’s typically overlooked but over the years has shown its tremendous potential with local varieties.
John Miller, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Harbor House Inn in Elk, Calif.
I love Burgundy’s Michel Lafarge Passe-Tout-Grains for something under the radar from a pricey producer. This wine holds all the earthiness and texture from Volnay Pinot Noir and the brightness of Gamay so well. I think Passe-Tout-Grains, in general, is often overlooked by wine professionals for its unique style.
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