Wine & Spirits Magazine Reports on its 32nd Annual Restaurant Poll

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Wine directors across the country share their struggles—and successes—as they navigate a year like no other.

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"We sold more bottles at $500 and up for the first three months than we have for the past three years combined" - Dominick Purnomo, Wine Director & Co-Owner of Yono's

In a year of darkness for restaurants across America, there were pockets of light, thanks to innovators and visionaries who found new ways to nourish their guests and themselves.

Throughout the past 12 months, restaurateurs have had to change their business plans to survive. Following the initial lockdowns, there were partial re-openings followed by unexpected closings. Many poll respondents found innovative ways to sell wine out the door of their restaurants as they variously turned to take-out, meal kits and alfresco dining.

For the 32nd Annual Restaurant Poll, the Wine & Spirits team set out to gain a perspective on the current state of the restaurant industry. Some wine directors jumped at the chance to participate; others were working remotely and didn’t have access to data; many wanted to forget about the year altogether.

Data from those willing and able to look back on 2020 was often bleak: 48.3 percent of respondents reported that wine sales had decreased as a percentage of total sales, the steepest decline in the history of the poll. On the positive side, there was a rise in rosé sales—up from 1.6 to 2.7 percent of respondents’ top-selling wines. In follow-up interviews, respondents noted an increased interest in chillable reds—due, in part, to the emphasis on outdoor dining—and they also reported selling more cocktails than usual—some canning their own cocktails for guests to take away for a walk around the neighborhoods.

Cabernet sauvignon held the strongest position on respondents’ lists of top-selling wines, with a 13.5 percent share, while pinot noir took second place with 11.3 percent (down from 15.1 and 13.9 percent, respectively). Overall, the focus this year was on inexpensive wine, with a median price of $60 for respondents’ top-10 best-selling wines, down from $72 in 2019. There are always some exceptions to the rule, however, as Dominick Purnomo at Yono’s in Albany, New York, confirmed. “We sold more bottles at $500 and up for the first three months than we have for the past three years combined.” Respondents reported that their guests were looking for unique bottles they didn’t have at home and some were willing to splurge.

Among the Restaurant Top 50 this year, there are a number of familiar names: Brands like Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Heitz Wine Cellars, Rombauer Vineyards and Duckhorn Vineyards have secured their place on the Top 50 every year for the past 10 years. Even so, there were a lot of new brands on the list, as guests sought out inexpensive wines from their favorite restaurants.

Our in-depth report follows the seasons of this pandemic year and the powerful impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. In addition to presenting the data from the poll, our report chronicles the year in a photo essay, presented by Wine & Spirits’ creative director Nick Mrozowski with photographers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and New York. Our editors also present personal stories of wine directors from around the country. “This has been a devastating year for the restaurant community, though the year did highlight how central that community is to our social fabric,” says Joshua Greene, editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine.

The complete results and findings of our exclusive report appear in the April 2021 issue of Wine & Spirits, available nationwide on March 16, 2021. Copies of Wine & Spirits’ April 2021 issue featuring the Restaurant Poll report are available by mail for $9, including postage and handling.

Members of the press interested in receiving the publication or scheduling an interview with editor Joshua Greene may contact marketing manager Louise Nightingale at (213) 629-0200 ext. 101 or lnightingale@wineandspiritsmagazine.com.

About Wine & Spirits:
Founded in 1982, Wine & Spirits is published seven times a year and read by more than 200,000 members of America’s wine community. Consumers and wine professionals join our community for information on established and up-and-coming regions and producers, the art of viticulture, and food and wine pairing. Wine & Spirits, the only wine publication to win the James Beard Award five times for excellence in wine writing, evaluates more than 11,500 bottlings every year.

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Louise Nightingale
Wine & Spirits Magazine
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