Charles Gill is the CEO of Winemetrics LLC, a company providing on-premise market intelligence to the wine and restaurant industries. Winemetrics recently released The 2007 On-Premise Wine Distribution Report, which summarizes varietal, brand and product distribution from of over 10,000 U.S. restaurant wine lists. This report is the source for the content referenced in the article below.

Before revealing our brand ranking, it is important to realize how different the wine market is from other alcoholic beverages or consumer goods.

Wine, by its nature, is a very fragmented market, dependent on varietal and regional definition. Unlike the beer market where Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, Bud Light) commands over 40% of sales, no equivalent exists in the wine market. Even the wine conglomerates of Gallo and Constellation Brands don’t capture more than 25% of the total market and their share is disbursed among dozens of brands in different segments.

Breakdown by Wine Type

Still or table wines make up 94% of distribution in our survey with sparkling wines accounting for the remaining 6%. (Fortified wines make up less than 1% of the total).

Winemetrics: Roster of Restaurant Superbrands

Overall Brand Leader: Beringer
Beringer is found in over 50% of our 10,588 account sample, the only brand to do so. Kendall-Jackson follows with ¾ of Beringer’s distribution, followed closely by Napa-based Robert Mondavi and Beaulieu Vineyard. A surprising 5th place showing was delivered by Washington State powerhouse Chateau Ste. Michelle, a testament to that region’s consistent quality and value.

Still Wines
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is the country’s overall favorite wine variety on-premise with 16% of all restaurant listings. This is a category where you would think Napa Valley would sweep the top spots. What a surprise to see Silver Oak and Jordan, both of the Alexander Valley appellation taking the #1 and #2 spots respectively. Don’t feel sorry for Napa as its producers round out the top 5 with Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu Vineyard, and Beringer following Jordan in that order.

Chardonnay accounts for nearly half of the varietal wine consumed in the U.S., but on-premise it has just 15% of listings. Its presence there is ruled by Kendall-Jackson which has a Chardonnay in 40% of our account sample. Chardonnay specialist Sonoma-Cutrer is #2 a Kendall-Jackson, with Napa’s Cakebread ranked #3. French Burgundy negociants Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin complete the top 5.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is now the 2nd place red varietal wine based on wine list placements. With 10% of all placements, it edges out Merlot by a mere 1%. La Crema takes top honors with a commanding lead over #2 Saintsbury. Oregon’s Domaine Drouhin captures the #3 position; Acacia and Robert Mondavi round out the top 5. Keep an eye on Oregon, it has 17% of Pinot Noir placements to France’s 28%.

Merlot has 9% of on-premise placements and there is a tie for first place here between Sterling and Blackstone, each with 1789 accounts. Clos du Bois is third with iconic producer Duckhorn taking fourth. Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle breaks the California Merlot monopoly by securing the #5 spot.

Cabernet Blends
Cabernet Blends, aka Bordeaux Blends, account for 8% of the listings in our sample, a number probably inflated by multi-vintage library wine selections appearing on fine-dining wine lists. Opus One takes top honors in this category, appearing in 2489 of the 10,500 accounts in our survey. Impressive, considering its average wine list price is over $250. Niebaum-Coppola is a distant #2, followed by Joseph Phelps, Cain, and Quintessa .

Syrah (Shiraz)
Syrah (or Shiraz) accounts for 5% of placements on-premise with Foster’s Wine Estates’ brands Rosemount and Penfolds, capturing the top 2 positions.. Rhone producer E. Guigal is a distant #3 followed by California’s Qupe and Australia’s Wolf Blass.. Interestingly, while Australia dominates the top 10 brands, overall US Syrah placements outpace Australia 43% vs 39%.

Sauvignon Blanc
Also labeled as Fume Blanc in California, this varietal segment comprises 4.5% of all listings and has two California brands, Ferrari-Carano and Cakebread, neck and neck at the top of the roster. Both are found in over 1100 accounts, or 10% of our sample. New Zealand producer, Brancott, checks in at #3, not surprising given the value and consistent quality of NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Despite accounting for just 1% of listings, NZ has 17% of distribution in Sauvignon Blanc putting it in 2nd place behind the US.

This variety accounts for 4% of listings and is a safe haven for U.S. producers as no imported Zinfandels were detected in our survey. (Italy’s Primitivo is alleged to be the same variety but the genome jury is still out on that decision). Constellation Brand’s Ravenswood is the heavyweight champion of this division, with nearly double the distribution of #2 brand, Gallo’s Rancho Zabaco. Ridge, St. Francis, and Seghesio round out the top 5.

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
This variety captures 3% of all listings in our survey. But whether you use the Italian or French name the result is the same, Santa Margherita rules. Nearly ¼ of all accounts in our sample carry its Pinot Grigio. Gallo’s Ecco Domani is #2 with a little more than 1500 accounts. The surprise in this category is #3, Oregon’s King Estate, whose Pinot Gris has nearly twice the distribution of # 4 Mezzacorona. (It is the only US entry in the top 20 producers in this category). Banfi rounds out the top 5.

Riesling has slightly more than 2% of the listings in our sample. Germany and the US each possess nearly 40% of this category, but the US clearly controls the top 5 spots. Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle dominates this category with a presence in 5 times the number of accounts than second place Trimbach, an Alsatian brand which is part of the Diageo Chateau & Estates portfolio. #3 Schmitt Sohne is the only German producer in the top 5. California’s Jekel is #4 and Washington is again represented by #5 Hogue.

Pink wines represent just 1% of all our survey’s listings and Beringer White Zinfandel accounts for a significant portion of those. It has 5 times the number of accounts as #2 Sutter Home. In fact, it has greater distribution than the rest of the top 10 products combined.

Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wine represents 6% compared to the nearly 94% of distribution attributed to still wines in our sample. This category is far more brand driven. Moet-Hennessy USA’s triumvirate, Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, each have approximately 4000 accounts (DP is #1 with over 4200). In no other category do the top 3 producers each achieve nearly 40% distribution. The fact that 70% of our sample consists of casual-dining accounts validates the power of these brands.

In our next article: Leaders by Country and Region