Picking the best wine for yourself or a dinner party can be really hard—just look at all those bottles lining the shelves! Red, white, sparkling... it's easy to pick the same bottle over and over, but variety is key when hosting. To help you narrow the choices, we've listed the most popular types of wines so you can find something everyone might like, plus provided a few of our favorites. Bonus: they're all under $20.
1. Pinot Grigio
Quintessential pinot grigio, particularly from Italy, is known for being dry and easy-drinking, making it one of the world's most popular wines. It's also known by a few different names around the world, including "pinot gris" in France, the U.S., Chile, Australia and Argentina, and "Ruländer" in Germany.
Styles of pinot grigio and pinot gris wines vary depending on where they're grown and how they are made. Italian, Austrian and German pinot grigio is most often produced in stainless-steel tanks, so is light and fruity with lower alcohol levels (10-12.5% ABV). These acidic pinot grigios pair easily with fish, chicken and shellfish. Pinot gris, on the other hand, may be aged in wood and have some malolactic fermentation, meaning a fuller-bodied wine with less acidity and peach undertones.
Two Pinot Grigios to Try:
Cantina Riff Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, $10
Sokol Blosser Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, Oregon, $19
Chardonnay is the most planted grape in the world and the U.S., though many either love it or hate it. That's because wine with the chardonnay grape can be produced in two very different ways: one aged in oak and with malolactic fermentation, and the other in stainless steel and no malolactic fermentation, also known as unoaked chardonnay. The latter process results in clean, crisp wines that taste nothing like the buttery, oaky chardonnays you may be used to.
For chardonnays that tend to be less buttery and oaky, look to Chablis, a region in Northern Burgundy making wines of the same name, though they can be pricy. For oaked chardonnays with flavors of ripe pineapple, lemon curd and toffee, look to California and South America.
Two Chardonnays to Try:
Alamos Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina, $10
Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay, Washington State, $15
3. Pinot Noir
Lighter than other grapes, such as merlot, malbec and cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir is fruity and soft, making it a crowd pleaser for red-wine drinkers. Depending on where it's made, the flavors found in a pinot noir range from dark fruit and earthy mushrooms to spicy horseradish. French Burgundy is the most famous, and generally the harshest on the wallet, but ideal for special occasions. For more affordable versions, look to the U.S., New Zealand and Germany, where pinot noir is called Spätburgunder.
Two Pinot Noirs to Try:
The Pinot Project California Pinot Noir, $12
Oyster Bay Pinot Noir, New Zealand, $16
A style of winemaking versus a grape, rosé wines are made when red grape skins are left in contact with the wine for a short time, allowing a little color to be imparted but not as much as for red wine. Rosé has soared in popularity over the past few years due to its quaffability and ease of pairing with pretty much everything. Flavors can range from strawberry to citrus to melon. For the driest rosés, look to the most famous rosé-producing region, Provence.
Two Pinot Noirs to Try:
Chateau Peyrassol Côtes de Provence Rosé Commanderie de Peyrassol, $20
Birichino California Vin Gris 2016, $18
5. Cabernet Sauvignon
With flavors of black currant, anise and black pepper, cabernet sauvignon is the most popular red wine. Bold and rich, cabernet sauvignon is grown in almost every wine-growing region in the world. Most famously coming from Napa and Bordeaux, cabernet sauvignon is also widely grown in South America. Cabernet sauvignon is your wine if you're serving red meat, but if it's a little too strong for your palate, look for wines labeled Meritage, meaning a blend of two or more Bordeaux grapes, which can be merlot, malbec, cabernet franc, petit verdot and, of course, cabernet sauvignon.
Two Cabernet Sauvignons to Try:
Doña Paula Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina, $14
Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, $15