Shopping for wine at the grocery store may seem a little backwards to enophiles used to carefully perusing racks of status wines and tiny-production bottlings at their favorite fine-wine shop. Sure, most supermarkets (not counting Costco here) won’t stock the first-growth Bordeaux or grower Champagnes that you long for, but many have upped their game in the wine aisle, providing a global range of affordable wines that deliver on quality.
To demonstrate that you can find wine gems while also picking up breakfast cereal and frozen foods, Wine Spectator turned to sommeliers from 11 U.S. restaurants that hold the publication’s Grand Award—its highest honor for wine programs. (There are fewer than 100 in the world, and their lists typically offer more than 1,000 wines.) In other words, we asked the people least likely to be drinking supermarket wine for their go-to supermarket selections—the bottles they pick for convenience but love for their character. Their choices range from fresh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to juicy Rioja to even (yes) Champagne.
Wine Spectator: What’s your favorite wine that you can find at the supermarket?
Mark Bright, wine director and co-owner of Grand Award winner Saison in San Francisco
Interesting question for sommeliers who rarely buy wines in supermarkets! The one that stands out especially when I am traveling and need wines for a meal while shopping at a mainstream grocery store would be Louis Jadot red and whites. They do differ by the region but always a safe bet and usually very affordable!
Aukai Bell, wine director of 2022 Grand Award winner Gabriel Kreuther in New York City
In NYC, wine isn’t sold in supermarkets, only at liquor stores and dedicated wine shops. So for this, I’ll have to think of when I’m traveling or before I moved here. My go-to is usually Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, which has always, in my opinion, had a consistently rising level of quality. I’ve always loved Champagne and never need an excuse to drink it. I don’t think I would really count that as supermarket wine, though; just wine that you might find in a supermarket.
So in that case, I’d have to say Berger Grüner Veltliner because what’s not to love about a liter of Grüner with a crown cap for around $15?
Chris Lara, wine director at Grand Award winner Metropolitan Grill, Seattle
When I need a bottle of wine at my local grocery store, I always head to the classic producers. Wineries like Caymus, Conundrum, Ridge Three Valleys, or Justin. Because I live in Washington, Chateau Ste. Michelle is usually my go-to. If I’m in the mood for a red, their Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon hits on all points. For a white, their Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc is expertly crafted, delicious and one of our glass pours at the Metropolitan Grill. I would also recommend seeking out the wine steward or clerk; they often know what’s drinking beautifully or is a great bargain. During the pandemic [when restaurants were closed], I took a job at my local grocery store! It was a pleasure to help people find that perfect wine with dinner or for a party.
Casper Rice, wine director at Grand Award winner Fiola, Washington, D.C.
Jankara Vermentino di Gallura Superiore from Sardinia is what I get for a crowd-pleasing white from the supermarket. The wine hits many slices of the flavor wheel: lush tropical fruit, floral bouquet, great acid and a savory, almond-like finish.
Hannah Williams, wine director at Grand Award winner Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
My go-to supermarket wine is a neutral, inoffensive white that I can enjoy very, very cold: Muscadet if I’m lucky, Albariño when I’m visiting my family in Miami, or better yet a cheap Soave. Bring on the screw cap and lees!
For red, I’d opt for a juicy, light Beaujolais or Chianti Classico. Grocery store Bourgogne Rouge or Brunello never ends well. Stick to the underdog appellations for better results!
Ali Yakich, wine director at Grand Award winner Flagstaff House, Boulder, Co.
I will admit, I love shopping at the grocery store, and I am always given this task every holiday for my family. There are so many factors to consider, which holiday is it, which food is being prepared, what region I have been obsessed with recently, or studying, etc. One of my most memorable and crowd favorites has been Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico. Not only is it an amazing talking point, but not many people have had wine from New Mexico. It’s also delicious!
Hall Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley is such a refreshing wine. It is right in between the green juiciness and the mineral elegant notes. It hits so many points. Louis Jadot has a few white options and a few red options at the store typically. And honestly, you cannot go wrong with any of them! They have an amazing reputation for a reason. For red, Marques des Riscal Rioja Reserva is a great value and has so much depth of flavor. Big, ripe, juicy and a little herbaceous.
Lindsey Fern, director of wine at the Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Va.
I am fortunate in that I don’t often have to buy wine at the grocery store, but every now and then one does find herself with a “wine emergency.” These unforeseen occasions tend to be when I’m dying for an Aperol spritz but don’t want to use good Champagne, or when I decide to have a spicy Thai dish and I don’t want to open a bottle from my collection. In a pinch, I like to use Cava in lieu of Champagne. They tend to have more acidity and brightness than Prosecco, which is what I enjoy in my sparkling wines. I live in a relatively rural area, and my market of choice is Lidl. They carry a brand of Cava called Amorany. It’s brut-level dosage, and they use traditional methods for secondary fermentation, plus it retails for about $8 a bottle.
Marcello Fiorentino, owner and wine director of Grand Award winner Marcello’s La Sirena in West Palm Beach, Fla.
My favorite supermarket wine is Barone Fini Pinot Grigio. Giovanni Bonmartini Fini has been to La Sirena on many occasions. We have built our wine list over the years based on personal relationships with winemakers, importers and customers in the business. We have been pouring Barone Fini Pinot Grigio by the glass for several years; we feel this is a great quality wine for the price point and I think it is delicious.
Steven McDonald, executive beverage director for Grand Award–winning Pappas Bros. Steakhouses in Dallas and Houston
We have great supermarkets here in Houston. I picked up a Bachelet Monnot Bourgogne Blanc 2018, and it was everything I needed!
Morgan Fouss, wine director at Grand Award winner Brennan’s Restaurant, New Orleans
La Crema introduced their Sauvignon Blanc in 2019, and it’s been my go-to grocery wine ever since. It is balanced and elegant with softer notes of peach and nectarine while maintaining bright acidity. It is carried in most grocery stores and goes great with potato chips!
Andy Chabot, senior vice president of food & beverage at Grand Award winner Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
I tend to lean toward Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs and, in general, rosés and sparkling wines from grocery stores. Things I can get nice and chilly and enjoy! One of my go-tos is J Vineyards California cuvée sparkling wine. It’s always nice to have a bottle of bubbly in the fridge for an anytime celebration, like when you’re cooking dinner!