What Do Sommeliers Drink at Home?

November 11, 2015

Confession time: Many years ago, I attended a press event that took me through the cheese caves of Murray’s and ended at Ted Allen’s Chelsea home. His apartment was stunning, every inch so tastefully decorated that you would think Architectural Digest just wrapped up a photo shoot. 

We were all gathered around in the kitchen listening to a chocolate expert when I noticed the Eurocave wine cellar. It was the size of most people’s refrigerators. I knew at that moment, before I left, I would have to sneak a peak at what this famous chef and T.V. personality drinks at home.     

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With ninja-like stealth, I seized my moment and got a look at the collection. It wasn’t filled with Château Latour, Screaming Eagle, or really any fancy-schmancy wine at all. There were quality, affordable wines that didn’t require a 7-figure salary to stock up on (unless he had hidden all the good stuff before we got there).    

The other night a neighbor came over for a quick visit. When I returned from the kitchen with our drinks I found her poking through my wines. I was flattered; she was embarrassed. She quickly explained that she was curious about what a sommelier drinks at home. I smiled. Much like Ted, I do not have any big-label wines, expensive Burgundies, or vintage Champagnes. (Those were consumed long ago.)

Rather, my house is stocked with really tasty, value wines priced under $30. 

I’m proud of my collection of misfits. And if you search the wine fridges of sommeliers around the country, you’ll find a similar group. Sure, these are the bottles that often get passed over on wine lists or ignored on the shelf, but that just means the supply and demand curve is in my favor. One of the reasons I became a sommelier, after all, was so that I could find great wines at good values. 

So wonder no more! Here’s what sommeliers are drinking at home:

Crémant de Bourgogne

Beaujolais Cru

  • Why: In my opinion, this wine, with its complexity and finesse, is the perfect affordable light red. It pairs with so many dishes, from fish to chicken to red meat.
  • Try: Louis Jadot Moulin A Vent

Loire Valley Reds (Chinon) and Whites (Muscadet and Vouvray)

  • Why: The Loire Valley is a treasure trove for sommeliers. With so many great and affordable wines coming from the region, it's almost always the first indicator we look for when scanning a restaurant’s wine list. For reds, try a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc from Chinon. For whites, a crisp refreshing Muscadet Sur Lies is an unbelievable value. For a richer, more complex wine, go with Vouvray.
  • Try: Baudry "Les Grézeaux" Chinon and Chesnaie Muscadet

Old School Rioja (red and white)

German Riesling

Austrian Wines: Gruner Veltliner and Zweigelt

  • Why: This white and red duo are a bit quirky but pack a ton of flavor in each sip. Gruner has become a bit more popular lately due to its crisp refreshing profile and hints of pepper. Zweigelt, on the other hand, remains a wine that most people have never heard of; but try it once and you'll remember it forever. It’s a go-to red wine for summer barbecues.  
  • Try: Leth Gruner Veltliner and Artner Zweigelt 

White Burgundy from Macon and Saint Veran

  • Why: White Burgundy wines are some of the most glorious nectars on the planet; that is both a personal and professional opinion. They are also darn expensive, so I’ve invested a great deal of time finding affordable, delicious examples, many of which hale from the villages of Macon and Saint Veran.
  • Try: Domaine Michel Barraud Macon Villages


So what's the common thread through all these wines? You can find truly excellent bottles without spending a fortune. Having a variety of weights (light, medium, and full-bodied) means you'll always have a wine to pair with just about any food or occasion.

But really, what gets us sommeliers most excited about our wine collections is the ability to introduce a friend to a new wine he or she may have never tried. So don’t be shy: Just sneak a peak.

What is your go-to affordable bottle? If it's not a secret, share with us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Wesley T Griffin
    Wesley T Griffin
  • clintonhillbilly
  • Mitchell Wexler
    Mitchell Wexler
  • Tamara Lover, D.W.S.
    Tamara Lover, D.W.S.
Tamara Lover, an accredited sommelier, is Co-Founder of a start-up called Bottle Rush, a company democratizing wine by giving everyone their personal wine expert to help them find wines they’ll love, not like, but love. Tamara’s passion for wine began like most wine love affairs – with one delicious bottle of wine. While dining at a restaurant in New York City, the sommelier recommended a wine that would forever change her life. One sip of the Pinot Noir blew her away. By the end of the glass, Tamara knew how she wanted to spend every moment of her spare time - finding that next great bottle of wine. In 2008, Tamara graduated with her WSET Diploma of Wine and Spirits (DWS) from the International Wine Center (IWC). She was also a weekly wine columnist for the Gothamist for five years and inducted as an honorary member of the Compagnons du Beaujolais, a historic Burgundian wine society. Tamara resides in NJ with her husband and two children. Feel free to ask her any wine related questions – especially about her favorite wine hacks.


Wesley T. February 13, 2022
At the beginning of the pandemic, I stocked up on wine. A local wine shop recommended Horton-Ducasse Haut-Medoc. After reading up on it, I stocked up on as much 2010 as I could find, then on to the 2015. I'm very new to wine, but I know what lousy tastes like! These were very good: dry, and pleasing. After a short time, I could easily say that the 2010 was (is) better, though if I did not have them side-by-side, I doubt that I could tell them apart. At the time (March, 2020) they were under $20. That suits my budget perfectly. Prior to finding that, I was trying out various Chianti
Classico Reserva. Finally, prior to that, I was oddly into Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. Such a distinct flavor (likely not to the tastes of most folks).
For budget reasons, I can't afford to "shop around" all that much. It would be nice to have, say, five other choices, with flavor and dryness as close to the Haut-Medoc described. Any help would be appreciated!
Tamara L. January 5, 2023
Hi Wesley, I don't know if you can get this in the States, but if you can, I highly recommend it as an alternative to your beloved Medoc - Chateau Les Tresquots Medoc. I have bought cases of this during lockdown and I'm down to my last bottle. Thanks for the question.
clintonhillbilly December 4, 2015
I'm not a somnelier, just a regular old wine lover, but I've really enjoyed reds from Croatia lately and found them to be reasonably priced. They are fairly light bodies and go well with lots of food.
Mitchell W. November 12, 2015
Meiomi Pinot Noir is our favorite versatile house red. Any number of reasonably priced Rosso's from Montalcino for a tease of those Brunellos that are still a long way from ready to party.
Tamara L. November 12, 2015
Hi Mitch - Great call on Rosso di Montalcino. If you are impatient like me those Brunellos seem to take forever to age, which is why Rosso di Montalcino is a great wine to satisfy the craving without having to wait years or drop a fortune. Try Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino ( and ( Hope you enjoy.