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 April 2011  Features at Wine & Spirits

22nd Annual Restaurant Poll
You’ll find Wine & Spirits Magazine’s complete, exclusive report on wine trends and hot brands in America’s top dining rooms in our April 2011 issue. Here, you can access information on trends in wine sales and the most popular wines in restaurants today.

How we conduct the Poll
For our annual Restaurant Poll, we survey America’s favorite restaurants, a list compiled from more than 40 Zagat Survey restaurant guides nationwide. We don’t focus on the restaurants most acclaimed for their wine lists or their food, though many of these are included. Instead we hold to the restaurants chosen by Zagat Survey’s thousands of restaurant reviewers as the ones they enjoy most. This year, we mailed 2,592 questionnaires. By our deadline, 216 restaurateurs had completed the poll, providing a list of their ten top-selling wines in the last quarter of 2010; lists of their top-selling by-the-glass selections; and answers to our questions about how their guests order and enjoy wine.
   A quick scan of the participants (see the Restaurant Directory) will give a good perspective on the results. You’ll recognize a range of extraordinary restaurants among our respondents, places like A16 in San Francisco, The Herb Farm outside Seattle, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and Le Bernardin in New York. All are experts when it comes to the question of what wines people are looking for today.
   After analyzing our survey data, we interview a number of participants for their perspectives on the trends we find. Since the Poll tracks the top end of the market for fine wine—both in terms of who we survey, and the wines they list—the results do not represent actual sales figures. Instead, the significance of the Poll lies in the fact that the overall wine market continues to take its cues from the top.

View the Most Popular Wines here (April 2011).

New York City’s New & Notable Restaurants & Bars 2011
There are plenty of places in New York to get a drink. And there are plenty of places to get a decent bite to eat. But of the 157 restaurants that Zagat Survey deemed “notable” in 2010, which are the ones where you’ll find the best of both worlds? We sent our editors to find out. It wasn’t all fun—at some much talked-up restaurants they endured glasses of wine spewed from dirty taps, surly sommeliers, food acrid with freezer burn and some crashingly boring wine lists. But the 17 restaurants and bars listed here served up nothing but pleasure, in the glass and on the plate.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Dry Tokaji
   Redefining A Region
Tokaji is the most famous Magyar wine, produced for some 500 years from the vineyards around the town of Tokaj in northeastern Hungary, and still an essential part of the national character. As a second-generation Hungarian living abroad, there was always a bottle of Tokaji aszú on my family’s table for significant occasions. Yet beyond us Hungarians, few people are drinking sweet wines—and there’s only so much even we can celebrate. But having weathered countless invasions, occupations and viticultural hardships, the growers of Tokaj would hardly let a temporary shift in fashion compromise their business. So a number of producers have begun to focus on something more contemporary: dry white wines.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

A Reason to Morgonne
   Behind the Fervor for Beaujolais’s Long-lived Cru

“I haven’t seen anything get as big this quickly since, well, California cabernet,” says Levi Dalton, beverage director at Alto in New York, talking about cru Beaujolais. When Dalton began his career at Restaurant Daniel in March of 2005, he recalls how the list was focused on Bordeaux. “Burgundy was esoteric,” he says. “Then Burgundy took over New York with the 2005 vintage. It was huge for breaking into the market.” When the 2006, a lesser vintage, was priced higher, Dalton turned to Morgon, the second-largest cru in Beaujolais. “People started to realize that Burgundy wasn’t where the smart money was,” says Dalton, especially after the economic crash of 2008. “They wanted the Burgundian aromas and kirsch-like flavors that can be found in things like Morgon and Etna Rosso.”

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Shifting Sandstone
   The Meanders and High Plateaus of Rioja

In one of the lost Road Runner tapes, Wile E. Coyote has the idea of planting a vineyard. His brown paper package from the Acme Grape Company arrives and he carries it to the top of a mesa, where he digs holes for each of the vine cuttings. He carts buckets of water up the narrow trail that hugs the side of the cliff, watering the vines until the grapes ripen. Then he hides behind his hunter’s blind, waiting for the Road Runner to discover the feast of ripe fruit. The bird arrives, the chase ensues, drawing increasingly close to the edge of the mesa…

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Truth in Tuscany
   The Simpler the Better

Is it possible that Tuscan food—that glittering but illusion-laden construct of American foodies, that humble, homey cuisine no one in Italy outside of Tuscany craves very much—is actually starting to get some authentic play in America?

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.