Wine & Spirits' annual restaurant poll shows more than just the same old wines

Wine & Spirits magazine reveals the results of its 26th annual restaurant poll in the April issue.

What are the top selling wines in restaurants? Wine & Spirits magazine finds out in its 26th annual Restaurant Issue. That’s the April edition, which has just hit the stands.

To create the issue, the magazine sent a questionnaire to 2,691 restaurants — although, by the deadline for this issue, only 242 restaurants had completed the poll.  From the respondents, the magazine gleaned a list of 2014's top 10 best selling wines by the bottle and by the glass. 

2014's top selling wine by the glass is Meiomi California Pinot Noir (average price $14). The number two spot goes to Chateau Ste. Michelle for its Columbia Valley Indian Wells Chardonnay ($12) and its Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc ($6). In the number three spot is historic Louis Martini Winery for its Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($10). Next comes Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon at $16. These are all well-known brands that have been around for a long time.

It’s a surprise, though, to find a Grüner Veltliner from Graham Tatomer out of Santa Barbara County at number 26 ($12) and a thrill to see some smaller wineries such as Copain, LIOCO and Sandhi represented on the list. Wines from Argentina, Australia, Italy, and France pop up from time to time, but are far outnumbered by California wines.

As for top selling bottles, like last year’s list and the year before that, familiar labels dominate the list. 

Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Sonoma nabs the top spot — with an average price of $95. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars comes in second at the same price, followed by Sonoma-Cutrer at $48, Duckhorn Vineyards at $72 — and Cakebread Cellars at $88. You'd think the top selling wines might have more modest price points.

In terms of diversity, Marchesi Antinori from Italy makes an appearance at number 20, Catena from Argentina at number 30, Ornellaia from Italy at 37, and another Italian, Ruffino, at 40.  Veuve Clicquot debuts well up at the top, at number 9, but we have to wait until number 43 for the next French wine, Lucien Crochet from the Loire Valley, and finally Billecart-Salmon Champagne at number 50.

No Burgundy. No wine from the Rhone. And just one wine from Spain, La Rioja Alta. But a Greek wine squeezed onto the list, too, in the 22 position. That would be Gaia Estate from the island of Santorini.

In a section that shows which varietals are more popular, given that there are so many Syrahs on local lists, it’s a surprise to find that Syrah garners just 1.4% of the placements on respondents’ lists of top selling wines. And yet French wine's share of the placements rose 5% in 2014, to 22%. (American wines make up 46%.)

To get a broader perspective on trends, Wine & Spirits interviewed some of the country’s top sommeliers for the issue, and this is definitely the more interesting part of the survey. Sparkling wines are gaining ground and not just as celebratory drinks, but all through the meal. Italian wines are coming up, too. And while Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are still the most popular, this year's survey included many more varietals than ever before -- 131.

All in all, the results of Wine & Spirits' 2015 restaurant poll seem to show that Americans are getting more adventurous in their wine drinking.

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