Wine & Spirits Magazine’s 22nd Annual Restaurant Poll

While many factors influence wine choices in restaurants, the most powerful of late has been the economy. Many sommeliers participating in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Restaurant Poll reported that, as of the end of last year, the buyers of high-end, high-priced wines are back. But while they may be less shy about spending, it isn’t on the trophy wines of previous periods. Cabernet’s share of the Most Popular Wines held steady, but many noted that the sales of power Cab – “the wine that confers status and attracts attention” – have all but disappeared, as have sales of expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy; this year’s most popular French wines focus on value with pairing potential. In fact, the editors noted, for the past decade, sommeliers have been noticing a trend towards an increasing list of global, esoteric varieties – wines they sell not by the variety name but by a “stronger and more immediate connection to food.” That said, many reported that they are selling a lot more red than white – regardless of what’s on the plate. “People are back to the mindset of wanting to drink red wine with everything,” remarked Raj Vaidya, sommelier, Restaurant Daniel, New York, NY. Within the red category, Pinot dominance is fading in favor of more obscure choices in the light- to medium-bodied flavor spectrum. Perhaps the biggest story in reds is the rise in popularity of Malbec, which now accounts for over 16% of the top-selling wines in restaurants listed in the poll.

Wine drinkers and restaurants have had to be flexible over the last few years, focusing on value and embracing options such as half-bottles and wines by the glass and half glass – a legacy of the recession that may remain. Respondents listed an average of 26 wines by the glass, at an average price of $12.06, up from $11.53 last year. For more info on Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Restaurant Poll, visit

Chart Source: Wine & Spirits Magazine’s 22nd Annual Restaurant Poll, April 2011 issue.

Chart Note: Restaurants surveyed were compiled from more than 40 of the most popular in Zagat Survey restaurant guides nationwide; 216 completed the poll. Top-selling wines are compiled from participating sommeliers, who listed the wines that sold the best during the last three months of 2010.