For wine aficionados the world over, the existence of an animal on a bottle’s label is as good as a Do Not Drink sign, and is considered by the industry to be the proverbial lipstick on a container of subpar contents. These gimmicky vinos are known as “Critter Wines,” and though some may be best used for making a giant vat of sangria or braising a brisket, we recently set out to discover some exceptions to the rule (Bionic Frog, anyone?).

Because a delicious bottle of wine with a horse on the label makes a fantastic hostess gift for anybody with an affinity for a cloven companion, we devoted ourselves to finding some delightful, equine-specific Critter Wines, and painstakingly researched (read: drank) as many as we could. We combined our findings with thousands of [very entertaining] consumer reviews from Vivino, as well as professional ratings and tasting notes from Wine Spectator. The results are below.


White(ish) Wines

The Reserve Chardonnay
Price: $22
Wine Spectator: 90/100
Vivino: 3.2/5
Professional Notes: Polished, spicy and expressive, showing layers of pear, tobacco and cocoa as the finish lingers. Has presence and a distinctive profile. (2014)
Best Consumer Review: “Damn fine for a cheap chard.” – Steve

Chardonnay Reserva
Wine Spectator: 88/100
Vivino: 3.3/5
Professional Notes: Juicy apple and fresh-cut pear flavors give this good verve and balance, with delicate spicy notes midpalate. The finish is filled with minerality. (2014)
Best Consumer Review: “Great as a third bottle.” – Kurtis

Price: $21.95
Wine Spectator: 89/100
Vivino: 4.3/5
Professional Notes: Distinctive and zesty, with orange zest and smoky spice aromas and crisp dried cherry and candied ginger notes. Mourvèdre and Grenache. (2016)
OR Tasting Notes:“Yay for Bandol-inspired rosé! It’s like the south of France without all the attitude.”
Best Consumer Review: “Wildhorses & oysters!” – Stacey

Price: $20
Wine Spectator: 87/100
Vivino: 3.4/5
Professional Notes: Delicate but pretty, with perfumed watermelon and strawberry aromas. Carignane, Grenache and Syrah. (2013)
Best Consumer Review: “Crisp with a bit of fruit, dry but not bone dry; great for first night of yoga retreat.” – Rachael

Iron Horse

Brut Classic Vintage
WS: 91/100
Vivino: 4.0/5
Professional Notes: Supple and richly styled, with aromas of tart apple and spiced hazelnut, followed by Meyer lemon, brioche and zesty cinnamon notes. (2010)
Best Consumer Review: “Killer killer brut. Very light, small and playful bubbles. Notes of fried yeast, popcorn, very ripe star fruit.” – Danny

Ocean Reserve – Blanc de Blancs
Wine Spectator: 91/100
Vivino: 3.9/5
Professional Notes: Sleek and expressive, with baked apple, spice and mineral aromas and lovely, precise lime, kiwifruit and almond flavors. (2013)
OR Tasting Notes: We don’t care what it tastes like if we can sip bubbles and save whales at the same time…but this is a good bottle, and definitely worth the investment.
Best Consumer Review: “It was my favorite from Iron Horse Vineyards so far, and money from the sale goes to helping protect the Ocean.” – Michelle

Red Wines

Pinot Noir English Hill
Price: $51.95
Wine Spectator: 89/100
Vivino: 4.4/5
Professional Notes: Very charming, with delicate, understated cherry, fresh earth, dried herb and cedar flavors, ending with a touch of toasty, smoky oak. (2013)
Best Consumer Review: “Very light, delicate aromas and texture, none of which come through very strongly on the nose. However, the flavor is simply extraordinary, especially when paired (in our case) with duck or filet mignon. One of the best Pinot Noirs that I have ever had, and a bargain at $45 retail.” – Brian

Wild Horse

Cheval Sauvage Pinot Noir
WS: 92/100
Vivino: 4.0/5
Professional Notes: A refined red, with a silky mouthfeel and flavors of cherry, plum tart and dried currant that are creamy and plush. The spicy finish is pure-tasting and filled with lively minerality. (2013)
Best Consumer Review: “Beautiful juice. A wine blanket for the pallet.” – Colleen

Director’s Cut Merlot
Wine Spectator: 84/100
Vivino: 3.5/5
Professional Notes: A solid Merlot, if a bit rough around the edges. Aromas of baked cherries and roasted dill lead to rustic plum, herb and mineral flavors. (2010)
Best Consumer Review: “Love the label!” – Kimberly

Hussonet Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva
Wine Spectator: 90/100
Vivino: 3.7/5
Professional Notes: This offers a crisp, fresh-tasting mix of dried green herbs and crushed red fruit flavors that are supported by firm acidity. The minerally finish offers slate and white pepper notes. (2013)
Best Consumer Review: “Solid weeknight wine.” – Patrick

Cabernet Sauvignon Library Reserve
Wine Spectator: 88/100
Vivino: 4.4/5
Professional Notes: Fresh and vibrant, with earth- and forest floor-scented wood and herbal touches. Dried berry and sage notes factor into the mix. Ends with drying tannins. (2012)
Best Consumer Review: “The triumphant Cab of Hawk & Horse, which year on year continues to please. A dense rich basket of juicy red berries, full of life and energy with the personality of Little Red Riding Hood. The licorice and slight peppercorn kick flows into smooth tannins for a beautiful finish. Voila baby!” – Adrian

Big Red Blend
Wine Spectator: Not Rated
Vivino: 3.5/5
OR Tasting Notes: “Nine bucks, and it doesn’t give me a hangover.”
Best Consumer Review: “Sure, you could cower in your flimsy shelter as the bombs scream down and burst their guts on your rusty city, tearing it apart one bleeding I-beam at a time, or you could park it in a lawn chair atop the rubble and enjoy the light show while sipping this.” – Lucas