It seems to me that wine buying in restaurants will differ to some extent from wine buying at wine/liquor stores. One major factor in the differences would be that wine prices in restaurants are generally much higher. A person who might buy a specific wine at a wine store might not be willing to pay two to three times the price for that same bottle in a restaurant. Another factor may be the types of restaurants that people frequent, which could tend toward a certain type of wine, such as how steakhouses seem to be a place for many for a Cabernet.
It is interesting each year then to read the Wine & Spirits Annual Restaurant Poll, to see which wines are selling the best in restaurants all across the country. This is their 19th annual poll. The poll presents results from the past year as well as marking trends over an extended time period. Wine & Spirits sent out 2444 questionnaires to restaurants across the country, though they only received 309 back.
One trend is that over the last ten years, people have been seeker more lighter wines, both red and white. They have also been seeker many different white wines, from less common grapes, moving beyond the standard Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc. They have been trying others such as Gruner Veltliner, Albarino and Cortese. Thin skinned Pinot Noir has also been increasing in popularity. I think it is good news to see that more and more people are willing to experiment with different grapes, to try new wines.
Another interesting trend is that though red wines make up 62.1% of restaurant wine sales, this is a slight decrease over last year. Almost all types of restaurants, except Asian, have seen a slight decline in red wine sales. Why Asian? They saw about almost a 5% increase in red wine sales. Could Asian teppanyaki steak houses be fueling this increase?
Curiously enough, the average price of a couple varieties of wine has decreased over the past year. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot saw price decreases with Chardonnay seeing the largest price increase.
Wine & Spirits then presents their Top 50, the list of the top selling wines of the year in restaurants. The list is by winery and not by specific wine. It is probably not a surprise that 7 out of the top 10 are California wines. Two Italian and one French Champagne fill out the top 10. There is not one Spanish or Portugese wine on the Top 50. And 36 of the 50 are from California. So, it seems difficult to non-Californian wines to really break into that Top 50. With the current problems of the Dollar vs. Euro, likely leading to increased prices on wines from Europe, it does not look like those wines will break the Top 50 anytime soon. There is also a list of the top 33 wines sold by the glass. Again California controls that list.
The magazine continues with a breakdown of best selling wines by variety and country. For each variety, they provide info on their % as a top selling wine, with a graph for a number of years, as well as a list of the most popular wines of that variety from the past year.
Which varieties have increased in popularity? Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling Wines, Pinot Noir, Italian wines (only a tiny increase), Argentina wines, Australia wines and New Zealand wines. Which varieties have decreased in popularity? Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay (which had only a slight increase after ten years of decline), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (continuing a ten year decline), French wines, and Spanish wines (a slight decrease). Zinfandel, Syrah have basically stayed the same.
Check out Wine & Spirits to see the rest of the intriguing article.