Top Feature Stories and Tasting Reports of 2022

With people eager to make up for two years of pandemic restrictions, our most-read articles expressed a desire for exploration, travel and adventure

Top Feature Stories and Tasting Reports of 2022
Caption: Readers checked out iconic resorts to visit, such as The Breakers; what's in the wine cellar belonging to NFL star Ndamukong Suh and his wife, Katya; Wine Spectator's Wine Value of the Year, and top spots to dine in Italy, like Ristorante Cracco (Clockwise from top left: Courtesy of the Breakers Palm Beach; courtesy of Katya and Ndamukong Suh; courtesy of Allan Scott Family Winemakers; Andrea Wyner)
Jan 17, 2023

After two years of lockdowns and losses, social distancing and swabbing before showing up, 2022 was a year of growing optimism as many did their best to embrace a post-pandemic ‘new normal.’ Although COVID-19 continues to circulate, many people are again enjoying the pleasures of being together, preferably around a table with good friends and family—and, of course, great food and wine.

Even though many restaurants closed during the pandemic, those that survived or recently opened are seeing diners eager to return to old favorites and explore new arrivals, especially establishments with a track record for vinous excellence among our Restaurant Award winners. Wine drinkers are feeling adventurous; they’re keen to explore new regions and overlooked bottlings, especially if they offer tremendous value, even as they resume travel to beloved destinations, Italy chief among them. Despite all this, people remain attached to the comforts of their favorite grape varieties and a hearty meal at home, always looking for good buys among new releases and fresh twists on go-to recipes. All told, 2022 was a year of people coming back together after too long apart—a worthy reason to raise a glass and be thankful.

Here are the most-read feature articles and tasting reports published in 2022.

Top Feature Stories

1. Sommelier Roundtable: Favorite “Out of Fashion” Wines

 Beverage director Zsombor Mezey pouring wine for guests at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Beverage director Zsombor Mezey likes to introduce guests at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec to sparkling wines from outside Champagne, including those from the nearby Niagara wine region. (Courtesy of Fairmont Le Château Frontenac)

With wine providing a virtual way to experience new places until traveling was appealing again, wine drinkers have been eager to explore unknown, overlooked and out-of-the-way regions, styles and grape varieties. We asked 11 top somms about their favorite wines that have unjustly fallen out of fashion. From Madeira and Vintage Port to Chenin Blanc and even Chianti, these unsung wines are poised for the spotlight and offer tremendous drinking pleasure—and, in many cases, great value.

As dining out and entertaining larger groups at home came back into full swing, readers also turned to sommeliers for advice on the most versatile wines for pairing with a variety of dishes. Wine pros divulged their horror stories of guests behaving badly—good reminders of what not to do in any restaurant—and gave readers ideas for crowd-pleasing bottles to uncork at the Thanksgiving table.

2. Restaurants and Bars We Love in Italy

 Diners inside Antica Bottega del Vino in the evening
Antica Bottega del Vino in Verona, which holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award for its wine list, attracts a crowd of locals, including area wine producers, and visitors. (Thilo Weimar)

With most travel restrictions lifted, people are taking trips they could only dream of at the height of the pandemic. For many wine lovers, Italy remains a top destination, with the call of la dolce vita bringing millions of visitors to the country to explore its rich art and history, thriving wine and food culture, stunning scenery and more. In the cover story of our April 30, 2022, issue, we rounded up “101 Things We Love About Italy,” including top restaurants and bars in Tuscany, Piedmont, Sicily and beyond.

3. Restaurant Guide: Iconic Hotels and Resorts with Great Wine Lists

 Exterior of the historic Breakers Palm Beach main building, flanked by palm trees
At the Breakers Palm Beach, the flagship restaurant, now known as HMF, has earned a Grand Award every year since 1981. (Courtesy of the Breakers Palm Beach)

After being cooped up for too long, many people had a serious case of wine wanderlust in 2022. Whether indulging in a weekend getaway close to home or traveling across the globe, readers sought outstanding wine service paired with top-notch food in elegant settings. Our 9 North American picks range from a ski destination in the Canadian Rockies to an historic hotel alongside the warm sands of Palm Beach, Fla., and from the lush shores of Oahu to a Nantucket Victorian inn overlooking the Atlantic. Our additional guide to 10 iconic hotels and resorts around the world highlights luxurious destinations that range from a charming Grand Award–winning retreat on the German island of Sylt to an Irish countryside castle.

With winery visits ramping back up, readers turned to our list of top winery restaurants, including spots in Chicago, Virginia and North Carolina, plus a smattering of California destinations. For those in an especially celebratory mood, our bucket-list wine restaurants are sure to provide a once-in-a-lifetime vinous experience. And a flurry of new restaurants with ambitious wine programs, including 12 of the latest Restaurant Award winners bringing top-notch wine service to their communities, made 2022 even brighter for restaurant-goers.

4. Wine Talk: How Ndamukong and Katya Suh Dominate the NFL Wine Game

 Portrait of Ndamukong and Katya Suh outdoors
NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and his wife, Katya, have explored Napa Valley many times, along with visiting wine regions such as Bordeaux, Greece and South Africa. (Courtesy of Katya and Ndamukong Suh)

There’s no shortage of professional athletes who’ve ventured into the wine business. But when it comes to active NFL defensive players, few are as enthusiastic about wine as Super Bowl champ and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, currently with the Philadelphia Eagles and previously with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over the past decade, the NFL star and his wife, Katya, have developed a palate for the finest wines of Napa and Bordeaux. The couple met at the University of Nebraska in 2009, got married in 2020 and had twins last year. Both of them spend the offseason in Suh’s hometown of Portland, Ore., where Katya designed a new wine cellar to store their growing collection of rarities. The couple spoke to Wine Spectator about finding their passion for wine, visiting Bordeaux’s top châteaus and what’s in their 3,500-bottle cellar.

5. 8 & 20: One-Pot Chicken, Zucchini and Orzo with Sémillon

 Plate of chicken and zucchini served over orzo, with a glass of white wine
Topped with fresh veggies, comforting pasta or noodle-based dishes were popular with home cooks over the past year. (Julie Harans)

While diners were eager to discover new restaurants and revisit old favorites in 2022, the comfort of cooking at home remained central to many people’s post-pandemic routines, though they sought out fresh, easy weeknight recipes as they returned to more active lives. This simple summertime recipe can be prepared with pantry staples in just over an hour, and with only one pot involved, cleanup is a breeze. The dish, which pairs beautifully with a zippy Washington Sémillon, also shines on the versatility front: It can be easily tweaked into a vegetarian entrée or filling side.

The year’s other top recipes expressed a common craving for straightforward, flavorful and healthy dishes—and a fondness for the comforts of pasta and noodles. Like our top recipe, which uses hearty orzo as a base for chicken and veggies, the runners-up pair spaghetti with zucchini, stir-fried ramen with beef and scallion, and long pasta (such as linguine, spaghetti, bucatini or fettuccine) with shell-on shrimp. These recipes combine hominess with unexpected flavors, creative wine pairings and a kick of peppery spice, seemingly reflecting the spirit of the year—adventurous and exuberant, yet with a deepened appreciation of the joys still to be found close to home.

Top Tasting Reports

1. Top 100 Wines of 2022

 Graphic for Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2022

At this point, it goes without saying that our annual release of our Top 100 Wines—our editors’ picks of the most exciting wines they reviewed in the previous 12 months—generates the most curiosity among wine lovers around the world, especially when it comes to the reveal of our Top 10 and the Wine of the Year. Topped off by a reasonably priced, stellar “second wine” from one of Napa’s most prestigious producers, the 2022 list highlighted everything from an appellation’s best vintage of a generation to a top-quality wine in a can. California Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir figured prominently on the strength of the 2019 vintage; Italy displayed its muscle from Piedmont and Tuscany, and France’s Rhône Valley also shone. Half of the wineries in the Top 100 earned the honor for the first time; others were consistent performers with great track records. More than half the wines were priced less than $50, with 29 honorees costing $25 or less.

2. Top 10 Wine Values of 2021 and Wine Value of the Year

 Portrait of Allan Scott (center) in a vineyard with his son Josh (left) and a grandson (right)
Allan Scott (center) planted the first vineyard in Marlborough in 1973. Now, his children, Josh (left) and Sara (not shown), lead their family winery. (Jessica Jones)

Speaking of values, for the first time, Wine Spectator created a list of the Top 10 Wine Values, from our 2021 reviews, to celebrate wines that over-deliver on quality for the price and allow all wine drinkers to explore new grapes and regions. All of the wines on this list were rated 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale, priced $40 or less and were made in large-enough quantities to be widely available. Our editors also kept in mind the diversity of the global wine scene, looking for wines with solid track records that are good representatives of their regions. There are few things more exciting in the world of wine than finding an outstanding bottling that’s accessible at any budget—like the Wine Value of the Year for 2021, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that scored 93 points but cost only $17! Explore our top 10 picks and then check out our 2022 list!

3. 2022 Beaujolais Nouveau: A Banner Vintage

 A row of seven top-scoring 2022 Beaujolais Nouveau bottles
The 2022 vintage for Beaujolais Nouveau represents an all-time great for some producers. (Robert Taylor)

Even if the hype over Beaujolais Nouveau Day isn’t what it was in decades past, it seems Thanksgiving always gets wine drinkers thirsting for a few bottles of bright, fruity Gamay to go with the turkey and all its trimmings. And the 2022 vintage gave shoppers all the more reason to get excited: France’s Beaujolais region experienced an outstanding vintage, which means the 2022 Nouveau are some of the best-tasting ever. In Wine Spectator’s blind-tasting, the wines showed especially juicy, fresh and aromatic, with greater density than is typical for these usually light-bodied reds. On the less-bright side, a prolonged drought combined with a scorching-hot summer resulted in a very small harvest in 2022, and for the second year in a row, there wasn’t enough Nouveau to meet demand. We highlighted nine Nouveau worth seeking out for the holiday table.

4. 24 Best Canned Wine Releases of 2022

 A can of 2021 Sunny B held up in front of water and a row of boats docked at a marina
Companion Wine Co.'s Sunny B was the top-scoring wine among the canned wines tasted for this report. (Courtesy of Companion Wine Co.)

The growing canned wine market is being pulled in different directions. One way is chock full of cheap, mass-produced, widely available products of middling quality, often sharing shelf space with ready-to-drink cocktails and hard seltzers. The more intriguing path is in the premium sector—higher-priced wines made from quality grapes by well-known winemakers. Wine Spectator blind tasted nearly 60 canned wines and found more than a dozen producers delivering on quality, with about half the wines scoring between 85 and 89 points, or “very good.” And for the first time, the quality of canned red wines matched that of whites and rosés in our tastings. Here are reviews and prices for the best of the bunch!

5. Tasting Highlights: 10 Stellar West Coast Pinot Noirs for $30 or Less

 Rows of vines sloping in two different directions up a hillside, topped with a large fir tree and a smaller one
Argyle's Spirit Hill Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills is a key source for its Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. (Courtesy of Argyle Winery)

California Cabernet Sauvignon and West Coast Pinot Noir have been running neck-and-neck in popularity among readers for the past few years. But as it became increasingly difficult to find high-quality Cabs without triple-digit price tags, Pinot pulled ahead in 2022, with this selection of very good–to-outstanding wines ranging in price from $30 to as low as $14. Nonetheless, Napa was not far behind with 10 Terrific Napa Wines for $50 or Less, new reviews of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese and even Cabernet Sauvignon scoring up to 92 points and priced as low as $22, along with 8 Stunning Napa Cabernet Wines Up to 92 Points, which explored the wonders of the valley’s signature grape through widely available 2019 Cabernet Sauvignons priced $50 or less!