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.
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
Loire Valley Reds (Chinon) and Whites (Muscadet and Vouvray)
Old School Rioja (red and white)
Austrian Wines: Gruner Veltliner and Zweigelt
White Burgundy from Macon and Saint Veran
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!