Market reports show Millennials now drink more wine than both Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers. While Millennial men and women in their 30s drink wine at about the same rate, women make up two-thirds of “high-frequency” 20-something wine-drinkers.
What does that mean for you? Even if grape juice isn’t your thing, chances are good your date cares about the quality of vino in her glass.
Of course, there’s no shame in handing her the wine list. But if that’s not an option, here are five wines that are sure to impress. Each is listed by region or style, ensuring you’ll be able to find at least one or two of them on the menu or at your neighborhood wine shop.
SYRAH FROM THE COLUMBIA VALLEY (WASHINGTON)
“[Syrah] is the Bruce Springsteen of American wine,” says Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia. “It’s hard working, aspirational, and always going to impress.” Syrah wines are full-bodied, savory reds that tend to feature pepper and plum flavors, and Wallace calls them “sexy as hell.” Good, affordable options include those from Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and Dunham Cellars.
MUSCADET FROM THE LOIRE VALLEY (FRANCE)
This bone-dry, light-bodied white wine pairs well with salads and lighter fare thanks to its earthy flavors and acidity. Especially on a hot summer night, this is going to be a refreshing pleaser—one without the kind of sweetness or bold flavors that could turn her off. It’s not an adventurous wine, but it’s a very safe bet. Bonus: Muscadet tends to be affordable. Good options include Jeremie Huchet, Pierre Luneau-Papin and Domaine de la Bregeonnette.
PINOT NOIR FROM THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY (OREGON)
Not sure what’s on the menu? If you’re hunting for a lighter-bodied, nuanced red that pairs well with many types of food—but can also stand on its own—Pinot Noir wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley are a slam-dunk. You’ll spend a few bucks. But these are as close as you’ll get to a sure-fire hit. Some excellent picks include those from Hazelfern, Eyrie Vineyards and Penner-Ash.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON FROM PASO ROBLES (CALIFORNIA)
“It’s almost too easy to drink a bottle of this wine,” Wallace says. Big and bold with flavors of cola and spice, these Cabernets are best if you’re eating red meat—or enjoying your wine without any food. “They’re lady killers,” Wallace adds. Good, affordable options include those from Concannon, Robert Hall Winery and J. Lohr Estates.
While Paso Robles rocks, if you’re shopping for a special occasion and looking to splurge, Cabs from Napa Valley remain America’s signature red wine. Corison, Silver Oak and Seavey Vineyards are stand-outs.
RED BLENDS FROM MONTSANT (SPAIN
“Spain is my first choice when it comes to sure-fire wines, and this region can’t be beat,” Wallace says of Montsant. Especially if you think your date would appreciate something unusual and exotic, this is your go-to. “These wines are redolent of lusty fruit and massive fleshiness,” Wallace adds. Some great options, if you can find them, are Touton & Torres and Joan d’Anguera.
If you can’t lay your hands on a Montsant, plenty of easy-to-find domestic red blends offer good bang for your buck. Believe it or not, Dave Matthews’s Dreaming Tree Winery makes a solid (and affordable) blend called Crush. If you’re looking for Napa appeal at a lower price point, Mullan Road Cellars produces an excellent Cabernet-focused blend.