2021 Seen Through 12 Unforgettable Wines

Regardless of where I am in the world or what’s happening, one thing is constant: I’ve got a bottle of wine to try.

So many memorable experiences have occurred on the wine road, as I’ve discovered new regions and producers or seen what old acquaintances were doing.

Not this year. While 2021 permitted steps toward normality, most of my adventuring with wine took place at home. The wines themselves took me on journeys.

No matter the circumstance, good wines can create indelible memories. Here are the 12 most memorable wines I drank in 2021, from youngest to oldest.


Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times


Cacique Maravilla Pipeño País Bío Bío 2019

This bottle is a thirst quencher, an uncomplicated $19 liter of red from the Bío Bío region of Chile. So what’s memorable about it? For me, it epitomized how wine is evolving.

Chile once seemed to export a lot of cheap, mediocre wines from big companies, interspersed with the occasional polished trophy bottle, mostly from familiar international grapes. Old vineyards of país, known as mission in English, were dismissed as rustic and uninteresting. They were the province of old farmers, who turned the grapes into pipeño — fresh, rough wines that were consumed locally.

It turned out, though, that an international market existed for exactly these sorts of lively, refreshing wines, like this one, by Manuel Moraga, a vigneron who farms organically and captures the spirit and energy of the place in every bottle. All over the world, old vineyards like the source of this wine have been re-evaluated as treasures to be cherished. And we have people like Mr. Moraga to thank for not allowing them to disappear.