37 Wines Experts Uncork for Special Occasions
Life's highlights deserve to be toasted with a glass of the finest wine available. Engagements and weddings may be among our favorite moments to celebrate, but there are so many holidays and anniversaries that rank highly on our list, too. To help you make the most of every happy occasion your relationship has to offer, we tapped food and drink experts including sommeliers, chefs, and restaurateurs from across the country for their takes on the perfect bottles of wine to open for important events. After all, nothing says "Let’s celebrate!" like the pop of an uncorked bottle.
Of course, different moments call for different types of wine—which is why we asked these pros for all of their favorites, from reds and whites to brut rosés. Believe us, you don't have to be a wine steward or connoisseur to appreciate these bottles. They've been praised by these experts' clientele for their drinkability and pair just as wonderfully with food as they do alone. Whether you're raising a toast at your wedding, celebrating your first wedding anniversary at your favorite BYO restaurant, or pouring a few out for family over the holidays, these wines are sure to bring a bit more sweetness to your most special occasions.
While most of these wines fall into the "splurge" category, we've also sprinkled in a few more affordable options. These are elevated enough for major events, but are also perfect for upgrading the day-to-day—with these in your wine cellar, you'll be able to turn even the simplest weeknight dinners into Michelin-star worthy dates. Ready to discover this curated list for yourself? Click through for all the special occasion wine inspiration you'll ever need.
This luxurious rosé Champagne works for all of life's best moments. It's the perfect sip for snuggling in front of a ski lodge fire or for feasting at an anniversary dinner, says Morgan Calcote, the General Manager at FIG Restaurant in Charleston.
2013 Bereche "Campania Remensis" Champagne, $188, vervewine.com
This Grenache is anything but your "stereotypical Aussie fruit bomb," says Calcote. The juice is pure "sexy elegance," making it the perfect choice for your wedding night or even your first (or second, or third!) anniversary.
2014 Sucette Grenache Barossa Valley Australia, $54, morrelwine.com
Sip on this superior, nuanced Champagne as you and your love count down to the New Year, says Calcote.
2014 Jerome Prevost La Closerie "Les Beguines" Extra Brut, $105, stoneacrewineandspirits.com
Veuve A. Devaux
John Kelley, of Atlas Restaurant Group's Tagliata in Baltimore, Maryland, thinks rosé Champagne was made for celebrating. Enter this Cuvé de Rosée, which comes from a house that was in business during Prohibition. "The wine presents cherry and raspberry fruit with a bit of an herbaceous aroma that pairs perfectly with salmon or even roasted lamb—but it is soft enough that it is more than pleasant on its own," he says.
Veuve A. Devaux Brut Rosé Champagne Cuvée Rosée, $50, heritagewineandliquor.com
Also high on Kelley's list? This Amarone, which is perfect for pairing with prime rib, Korean BBQ, and blue cheese.
2013 Allegrini Amarone Della Valpolicella, $70, wine.com
Armand de Brignac
Phillip Dunn, the Wine and Spirits director of Spago in Los Angeles, is all about the splurge. "Armand de Brignac Rosê is quite possibly the quintessential Champagne Rosé," he says. "Rich, powerful, and decadent, this Champagne is also balanced with a purity and brightness of fruit that is unmatched at this level of quality."
Armand de Brignac Brut Rosé, $450, wine.com
New York City's SoHo restaurant King is lucky enough to have Annie Shi on staff—and we were lucky enough to pick her brain about her favorite next-level vino. First up? This bubbly rosé. "Nothing is sexier or more romantic than pink Champagne and Paul Bara is one of the great producers," she explains.
Paul Bara Grand Rosé, $63, shopbanquet.com
"You'll have no problem splitting a bottle between the two of you," says Shi, who recommends pairing this Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon blend with white or red meat.
Capezzana Carmignano Trefiano Riserva 2010, $55, ryebrookwines.com
Amy Racine, Wine Director of New York City's The Loyal, loves this light Santa Barbara rosé. "This wine was made by two wine lovers who preferred drinking European wines," she explains. "They took their passion for this style to create this lean, tart red fruit-driven rosé."
2016 Liquid Farm Rosé, $58, liquidfarm.com
"No one knows love like the French, and no one makes Syrah a well as Jean-Luc Colombo. He's nicknamed the 'wizard of wine-making' in the Rhone Valley, and the best producer to start with if you're just getting turned onto the region," says Racine. Put a bottle of Colombo's La Louvée Cornas in your basket to sample his very best.
2012 Jean-Luc Colombo La Louvée Cornas, $75, b-21.com
You'll need to keep your eyes peeled to find this Italian vintage, but Racine says the diligence is worth it. "These are hard to come by, but when I do find them I swoop them up every time," she says.
Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1998, $120, buyritewines.com
You can expect "fresh and balanced flavors of vibrant red fruit and a touch of salinity and spice" from this affordable rosé Champagne, says Jodie Battles, Beverage Director for Boston's Toro, Coppa, Little Donkey eateries. The secret? This specialty batch is held back and aged for a year before it's bottled.
2015 Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cuvée Tradition Rosé, $27, thewinecountry.com
If you're a fan of sweet fruits, you'll love the citrus, pineapple, and flinty minerality of this German wine. It's also a little unexpected—it may have bubbles, but this vino actually isn't a Champagne. "This sparkling Riesling is a fun, special alternative to more traditional sparkling offerings," says Battles.
2013 Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Riesling Sekt, $40, einfachweinkaufen.de
Named after the light pink hue of a partridge's eye, this sparkling rosé is "fresh, clean, mineral-driven, and entirely quaffable," says Andy Chabot, the James Beard Foundation-winning Director of Food and Beverage at Tennesse's Blackberry Farm.
Jean Vesselle Oeil de Perdrix Champagne, $40, klwines.com
Domaine de la Vieille Julienne
When in doubt, go for Grenache—and, if you can find it, this "peppery, elegant, and wholly-pleasing" red from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France, is the bottle to buy. "It goes with everything!" says Chabot.
Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Les Trois Sources, $78, wine.com
If you're in the market for an expensive, top-of-the-line white, Chabot has found it. "Every time I try one of Henri Boillot's White Burgundies, I am left wondering why they all don't taste as amazing as this one," he says. (Fun fact: White Burgundy is actually synonymous with Chardonnay!)
Henri Boillot, Clos de la Mouchere, Puligny Montrachet, $99, flickingerwines.com
If you're looking for a special rosé that tastes perfect now, but also ages well (a rarity amongst the pink wine variety!), put this batch from Chateau Simone on your radar. "It's a splurge wine, despite being a rose (which usually means affordable) because this particular rosé is one of the only rose wines I've ever had that gets better with a few years!" says Paul Einbund, Owner of and Wine Director at San Francisco's The Morris.
Chateau Simone Rosé, $70, winelibrary.com
Vilmart & Cie
This pink Champagne isn't quite like the rest. The Vilmart & Cie house ages the wines in oak barrels, which adds richness and fruitiness to the batches, Einbund explains.
Vilmart & Cie Cuvée Rubis Brut Rosé, $70, winelibrary.com
Gruner Veltliner (a white grape variety), as a rule, pairs well with most types of foods—which is why you really don't have to stress about the price point, says Einbund. The Gruner Veltliner from Tegernseerhof is one of his more affordable favorites.
2014 Tegernseerhof Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Superin, $20, winex.com
Château Calon Ségur
Boulder-based Carlin Karr, the Wine Director at Tavernetta Denver, Frasca Food and Wine, and Pizzeria Local, says that this Bordeaux's heart-adorned label is anything but deceiving. "This is the sexiest wine there is," she says. Vintages are also readily available, since Bordeaux has fallen out of fashion with young wine drinkers of today—which is a major plus for you.
1996 Château Calon Ségur Saint Estephe, $130, garyswine.com
"Krug is consistently the best, most luxurious Champagne there is, period," says Karr. You "simply cannot go wrong" with a bottle of this luxurious bubbly, making it the perfect choice for a special occasion.
Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne Brut, $90, drizly.com
If you're gearing up to celebrate the 14th of February, put Steven Grubbs Jr.'s (Wine Director, at Empire State South in Atlanta) Champagne pick on your shopping list. "Billecart is one of only a few old marquee Champagne houses that are still family-run, and the quality is as high as ever," he explains. "Their rosé is a total pleasure wine, and its packaging pretty much screams 'Do not open until Valentine's Day.'"
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, $80, wine.com
Like your relationship, this rosé only gets better with age. "After a year in bottle, this settles into a silky texture that is tough to beat, and feels imbued with all kinds of romance," says Grubbs.
2016 Lucien Crochet Sancerre Rosé, $30, klwines.com
"The 2013s from Barolo are mighty impressive, and stalwart house Vietti's Castiglione bottling is already open and broad—a perfect match for steak and truffles," Grubbs explains. You'll have to act fast to scoop up what's left of the batch, though: "Grab a bottle while it's still around."
2013 Vietti Barolo Castiglione, $53, wine.com
According to Grubbs, this house is one of the greatest producers of white wines—and carries the price tags to prove it. This white, grown in France's Macon-Verzé, is younger and more affordable—and is the ultimate wine pairing for caviar, oysters, and lobster (our favorite celebratory foods!).
2015 Leflaive Macon-Verzé, $38, grandvinwinemerchants.com
Going out to celebrate? This red blend works for all parts of your meal—no matter the number of courses. "There is enough acidity to handle your lighter first course, plenty of robust and developed tannins to cut the richness of your steak, and those lovely figgy, raisiny flavors from the drying of the grapes will be amazing with your chocolate dessert!" says Radish.
2011 Musella Amarone della Valpolicella, $50, klwines.com
Long Meadow Ranch
Chris Hall, the vintner at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, California, says this Pinot Noir rosé is the brand's go-to bottle for weddings and events, since it works across multiple flavors and palates. "It mixes up aromatics of peach, strawberry, and fresh roses," he explains. "It's full bodied yet balanced with a bright tension of fruitiness and red berries."
2016 Long Meadow Ranch Rosé of Pinot Noir, $25, shop.longmeadowranch.com
If you're stealing away to the Catskills for a weekend away, this Pinot Noir is the one to buy. "Earthy, woodsy flavors of mushroom, mint, and wild berries are all wrapped up with a balanced finish" in this wine, says Hall.
2015 Lioco Saveria Pinot Noir, $50, wine.com
Long Meadow Ranch
Another Long Meadow Ranch favorite, this fruity Pinot Noir "awakens the senses"—sounds like an apt description for a vino designed for celebration.
2015 Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir, $40, wine.com
According to Hall, you don't need to scour the vineyards of France for top-rate Champagne. This opulent and rich expression of sparkling wine comes straight from Napa Valley.
2008 Schramsberg J. Schram, $105, wine.com
Choosing the right wedding wine is challenging. This approachable (and affordable!) white is a total crowd-pleaser and pairs well with many flavors throughout a meal, says Hall.
2016 Massican Annia, $32, sunfishcellars.com
Rosé-snobs celebrating an anniversary in the summer should reach for this bottle. "This isn't a rosé for the faint of heart," says JP Taylor, the Wine Consigliere at Beast + Bottle and Coperta in Denver. "This wine is a deep-ruby color, and a perfect substitute for dishes that require a Pinot Noir pairing."
2016 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, $34, astorwines.com
Hearty meat dishes, popular around Valentine's Day and the holiday season, are the food pairing of choice for this red. You'll want to look for an older vintage, though. "This wine can be rough to drink when young, as the tannins take a few years to mellow out," says Taylor.
Mastroberardino Taurasi "Radici," $52, sherry-lehmann.com
White wine lovers need to rethink Riesling, says Taylor: "More often than not, wine drinkers stay away from Riesling because they are labeled 'too sweet.' While this may be true with some, it is not true for all. Look for a high alcohol percentage and the word 'Kabinett' on the label when trying to find a dry style. A wine with 8% alcohol will be much sweeter than a wine in the 11-12% range." If you're celebrating a holiday, birthday, or upcoming wedding with lobster, this German wine is a must.
2016 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling, $30, wine.com
Paronella has found that this tart red is perfect for those who typically enjoy Pinot Noir. The accessible price point makes this your go-to if you're looking to spice up at-home dinner dates.
2015 Guimaro Mencia, $17, 67wine.com