Home Wine Business Editorial Three Tier Talk Wine Spectator Top 10 Does Not Represent the American Drinker

Wine Spectator Top 10 Does Not Represent the American Drinker


Like clockwork every November Wine Spectator publishes their Top 100 wine list. When I was a retailer this list made customers go crazy, they would scramble for the wines, and call every day from around America to see what we have in stock. As a retailer we did not like the list because:

  1. the list was sprung on Sam’s, so we didn’t always have appropriate inventory
  2. it brought out cherry pickers as shoppers, and that seemed to alienate loyal and repeat customers.
  3. it filled our phone lines with assistants calling for their bosses searching for wine and that created a lot of “we need to call you back” conversations.

The same can be said for the Wall Street Journal wine picks, the USA today wine picks, the Wine Enthusiast wine picks, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the Spectator Top 100 list is great and people generally look forward to the list every single year. We know the top 10 wineries do for sure. It is a representation of the hard work from the vineyards all over the globe in producing quality wines that the consumer loves and are perfect holiday gifts for people universally. Wine Spectator has done an amazing job of showcasing wines that might not be on the general public’s radar. Kudos to Marvin and the crew.

Here is the reality of this year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 list and specifically the top 10 wines selected. The wines are not representative of the drinking populations consumption habits. We know, and data shows, that the average bottle of wine purchased in America is right around $11.49. The range is actually $10 to $14.99 that occupies the mass selling segment from retail to consumer. But looking at this year’s top 10, the number one wine is a staggering $245 a bottle. Only two wines on the list are under $35 dollars a bottle, one of them being $26.

In the space where the millennial wine drinker meets the average spender in a wine shop, is how is this list should look and feel and materialize. The mass wine drinker is not spending $245 dollars on a bottle of wine no matter who makes it and no matter how good it is. This is the reality of the USA wine consumer. We need to celebrate wines that match the profile economically of the consumer that buys it.

Would it be such a novel idea to create a list that is representative of the US wine drinker? A list that has a top price of say $50 a bottle going down to $10 a bottle. A list of daily drinkers? Not a list of trophy wines. The rub of the wine business in the 80s and 90s is that it was elitist and unapproachable. Over the last 10 to 12 years that has subsided with the internet making wine research, wine education and accessibility prevalent all over the globe. Winemakers, and to some extent spirit and beer makers, should be crafting products that match the general population of drinkers. We have gone a long way from the stereotype of the ascot wearing man sniffing a wine in a burgundy glass while smoking a pipe. It is our feeling that this year’s top 10 list does not accurately represent the demographic of the American wine consumer. It sure does not represent the supplier that rings our call center looking for support.

The end of the any calendar year is absolutely littered with top 10 lists. Top 10 sports moments, top 10 foods, top 10 vacation spots and of course top 10 wine, beer, spirit lists. Everyone with a laptop and a blog/vlog makes a top 10 list of something. It is our feeling that the globe is a very small place. With technology, access to information, goods and services and like-minded thinkers is a shrinking tool. We would love to see a national publication put out a list of top 10 approachable and accessible wines, beers and spirits that you do have to smooch a retailer’s ass to get. That would be an incredible top 10 list!

Congratulations to all the winners and wines that were and are mentioned!

Brian Rosen

Three Tier Talk

by Brian Rosen, www.BevStrat.com

Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.
EMail: brian@bevstrat.com
Phone: 800-953-1312
Web: www.BevStrat.com

More information and articles by Brian Rosen



  1. True, it does not represent the average American wine drinker. Neither does Wine Spectator. My guess is that the list probably does represent the average WS subscriber.

  2. Don’t think WS meant to have their top 100 to be the most popular 100. It’s no different than the top 10 of any category. Authorities for example.

  3. Good article! One thing I noticed is that there were no Cabernets or Red Blends from the Napa Valley in the top 10 list. These are two of the hottest selling wines yet they were omitted. I agree, this list may not match what the average US wine buyers are looking for.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.