Special Report

America’s Best-Selling Premium Wines

debyaho / Getty Images

Americans drank $68.1 billion worth of wine last year, including red, white, and rosé; dessert wine; and Champagne/sparkling wine. Some of the bottles opened, presumably mostly by that fabled 1%, cost thousands of dollars each. Some of the wine consumed, on the other hand, didn’t even come in bottles: It was packaged in plastic bags inside boxes, and sold for almost nothing. (The big California producer Franzia’s Chillable Red, for instance, could be had for as little as $7.99 for a five-liter box — the equivalent of about six and two-thirds bottles at about $1.20 each.)

When it comes to best-selling wines, not surprisingly, cheaper wines head the list. The number-one brand in America last year by a large margin was E&J Gallo’s Barefoot, whose various wines — including moscato, riesling, merlot, and many more — tend to be priced around $7 a bottle. Number two is the independently owned Sutter Home Winery, the producer that (accidentally) invented white zinfandel in the early 1970s. Many of their wines sell for around $6.

These and other top-selling labels, like Woodbridge, Black Box, Bota Box, and Liberty Creek, make drinkable, affordable wines that can be enjoyed without pretension. But what about those who want something of slightly higher quality? Here are 11 ways to tell if a wine is really any good.

Click here for America’s most popular premium wines.

The website wine.com, which styles itself as “the world’s largest wine store,” offering more than 12,000 items, has just released its 13th annual list of the top 100 wines in America based on its customers preferences. The ranking reflects the best-selling wines on the site for the first ten months of 2019, and suggests that wine.com users are not big fans of Barefoot, Sutter Home, and the like, as none of the big mass-produced wines of that kind appear.

That’s not to say that these are stratospheric in price, however. The two most expensive wines on the list are a $65 cabernet sauvignon from one of California’s most respected producers and a $60 Champagne. Some 15 others are priced between $10 and $20. (Note, though, that wine prices vary greatly from state to state, city to city, and even store to store, so take these prices as a guideline only.)

One thing the list makes clear: Americans like their cabernet sauvignon, as seven examples (plus one cabernet blend) are represented. There are also four sparkling wines, three chardonnays, and three sauvignon blancs, among other wines. There are also two rosés, one of them from the winery owned by the now-divorced celebrity power couple of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. (Here are 40 celebrities with their own wine or liquor brands.)

All in all, there are no surprises here. Look in vain for grüner veltliner, viognier, malbec, or nebbiolo, or for wines from Chile, Argentina, Germany, or Australia (though New Zealand is well-represented). What you will find, though, are 25 wines that are both very popular and very good.

25. Miraval Rosé 2018
> Region: Provence, France
> Price: $25

Miraval is owned by a couple of glamorous movie stars, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (though they’re divorced, they are still business partners). The winery is run by the Perrin family, famous for their Rhône wines, and the 2018 rosé is well made and flavorful.

[in-text-ad]

24. Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
> Region: Tuscany, Italy
> Price: $14.99 (est.)

This is a solid cabernet from Tuscany’s Maremma region, produced by a winery launched by one of the best winemakers in the Veneto, in northeastern Italy.

23. Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato 2016
> Region: Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
> Price: $23.99 (est.)

This cabernet/merlot/syrah blend is the second wine (that is, a less expensive “junior” entry) from famed Tuscan producer Marchesi Antinori’s Tenuta Guado al Tasso. Like Tommasi’s Poggio al Tufo, it’s from the Maremma region.

22. Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava Brut NV
> Region: Penedès, Spain
> Price: $10

The cavas from the Penedès in Spain’s Catalonia region are the great bargains of the sparkling wine world. This example, made from the traditional cava blend of macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo grapes, is dry and crisp — a good apéritif wine.

[in-text-ad-2]

21. Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2016
> Region: Sonoma County, California
> Price: $21.99 (est.)

Founded in 1895, Seghesio is a leading producer of zinfandel as well as wines from Italian grape varieties. This tannic offering is sourced from vineyards in the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, some of Sonoma’s best wine-growing territory.

20. Rombauer Chardonnay 2018
> Region: Napa Valley, California
> Price: $39.99

This fruity, slightly sweet chardonnay from the esteemed Carneros region has been called “a California icon.” According to Wine & Spirits, it’s the most popular single chardonnay in American restaurants.

[in-text-ad]

19. Segura Viudas Cava Brut NV
> Region: Penedès, Spain
> Price: $10.99 (est.)

Made from the classic cava blend of macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo grapes, this sparkler from a producer owned by Spain’s massive Freixenet Group is simple and juicy, with green apple flavors.

18. Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2017
> Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
> Price: $11.99 (est.)

By far New Zealand’s prime wine-producing region, Marlborough is famous above all for its tart, aromatic sauvignon blancs. Matua Valley Wines has the distinction of having started it all, as the first New Zealand winery to use the grape, back in 1974. Today, it’s one of the country’s biggest producers.

17. Joseph Carr Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
> Region: Napa County, California
> Price: $13.99 (est.)

This full-bodied cabernet, with berry, black cherry, and vanilla flavors, was given a score of 90/100 by WineEnthusiast. It is considered particularly good wine for its price.

[in-text-ad-2]

16. Kendall-Jackson 2016 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
> Region: California
> Price: $11.99 (est.)

This well-balanced, buttery chardonnay and the 2017 vintage of the same wine (No. 5) are wine.com’s best-selling chardonnays. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates is one of the largest wine producers in California, and also owns wineries in Australia, France, and Chile.

15. Antinori Villa Toscana 2015
> Region: Tuscany, Italy
> Price: $19.99 (est.)

One of the most respected names in Tuscan wine — in Italian wine in general — Marchese Antinori created the first-evern “super-Tuscan,” a wine with a Chianti heritage but employing grapes from other regions, like cabernet sauvignon and merlot, that could not be used legally for Chianti. This well-balanced, middle-of-the-road wine, itself no longer labeled “Chianti,” is made with those two grapes, along with syrah and Tuscany’s principal red grape, sangiovese.

[in-text-ad]

14. The Prisoner Wine Company Saldo Zinfandel 2017
> Region: California
> Price: $32

Prisoner, now owned by the massive international wine company Constellation Brands, produces only two wines currently — The Prisoner (a blend of five red-wine grapes) and this meaty, smoky zinfandel-based offering.

13. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
> Region: Napa Valley, California
> Price: $64.99 (est.)

This estimable Napa Valley winery’s Artemis cabernet is known for being rich and spicy, with intense fruit. It’s also a bargain, compared with the Stag’s Leap Estate Collection cabernets, which sell for $150 and up per bottle.

12. Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2017
> Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
> Price: $10.99 (est.)

Another good example of Marlborough sauvignon blanc (see No. 18), the Giesen is bright and crisp, with an attractive mineral character — good shellfish wine, among other things.

[in-text-ad-2]

11. Château d’Esclans 2018 Whispering Angel Rosé
> Region: Provence, France
> Price: $23

A dry, fresh blend of grenache, rolle, cinsault, syrah, and mourvèdre, this popular rosé overcame even the star power of the Pitt-Jolie Miraval Rosé (No. 25) in popularity among wine.com customers with its fruity aroma and elegant, bone-dry character on the palate.

10. Decoy Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
> Region: Sonoma County, California
> Price: $18.99 (est.)

An offshoot of Napa Valley’s merlot-centered Duckhorn Vineyards, focused on Sonoma County, Decoy entered the market in the 1990s with just one wine. a Bordeaux-style blend. It has subsequently become known for other varietals, and especially its hearty cabernet. The 2016 vintage was considered stellar in Sonoma.

[in-text-ad]

9. DAOU Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
> Region: Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
> Price: $25.99 (est.)

This luscious, violet-hued Central Coast cabernet sauvignon, with small percentages of cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot blended in, “drinks like a more expensive cab,” according to one reviewer.

8. Substance Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
> Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
> Price: $14.99 (est.)

Onetime rock band manager Charles Smith (he still looks the part) has a small empire of Washington state wineries. Though he produces merlot and sauvignon blanc under his Substance label, he has written that he established the brand “with a single minded vision to produce the best value-priced Cabernet Sauvignon in America.” This rich, full-bodied wine is a good example of his success.

7. Substance Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
> Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
> Price: $18

While the 2016 harvest in Washington state was record-breakingly large and also of good quality, the somewhat smaller 2017 vintage left winemakers “thrilled,” according to the trade publication Wine Industry Advisor. Wine Spectator called it “smooth, long, compelling…”

[in-text-ad-2]

6. Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva 2015
> Region: Tuscany, Italy
> Price: $19.99 (est.)

Tenuta Folonari’s landmark Nozzole property in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone has plenty of fruit and good body. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate suggested that “This is the kind of wine that immediately puts you in a good mood…”

5. Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2017
> Region: California
> Price: $17

A year younger and slightly fresher in flavor than Kendall-Jackson’s 2016 version of the wine, this bottling is equally buttery, with an abundance of tropical fruit on the palate.

[in-text-ad]

4. La Marca Prosecco NV
> Region: Veneto, Italy
> Price: $17

Prosecco, a bubbly wine made from the glera (or prosecco) grape in Italy’s Veneto, surpassed Champagne in 2018 to become the world’s largest-selling sparkler. This flowery, fruity example is the top-selling brand in America — selling almost as much as all champagne brands combined in 2017.

3. Meiomi Pinot Noir 2017
> Region: California
> Price: $25

Now owned by gigantic Constellation Brands, Meiomi specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay sourced from Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara counties. Smooth and well balanced, this fruit-forward pinot noir matches well with a wide array of foods.

2. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV
> Region: Champagne, France
> Price: $59.97

This classic, well-structured Champagne is mostly pinot noir, with smaller quantities of chardonnay and pinot meunier. Both rich and elegant, it’s a luxurious wine at a reasonable price (for Champagne).

[in-text-ad-2]

1. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2018
> Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
> Price: $18

The third Marlborough sauvignon blanc on this list (see Nos. 12 and 18), and the most expensive of the three — though still reasonably priced — this grassy, flinty, well-balanced wine obviously appeals to a wide range of white wine lovers.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.