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restaurant wine list awards

About the Award Levels

Wine Spectator's Restaurant Wine List Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.

To qualify for an award, the list must present complete, accurate wine information. It must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines available by the glass. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, while the overall presentation and appearance of the list is also taken into consideration. After meeting these basic requirements, lists are judged for one of our three awards.

Award of ExcellenceAward of Excellence
2,564 winners
Our basic award, for lists that offer a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Typically, these lists offer at least 90 selections.

Best of Award of ExcellenceBest of Award of Excellence
973 winners
Our second-tier award, created to give special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. These lists typically offer 350 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions.

Grand AwardGrand Award
81 winners
Our highest award, given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine program. These restaurants typically offer 1,000 selections or more, and feature serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu and superior organization, presentation and wine service.

Have a favorite restaurant wine list that we've missed? Let us know here.

Other Information

Wine Director/Sommelier: Provided by the restaurants, these are the people responsible for managing the wine list and assisting diners with their wine selections. (As staff turnover in the restaurant industry can be high, this information is subject to change.)

Wine Strengths: Determined by our judges, this indicates the emphasis of the list, not all the regions from which wines are offered. Wine strengths are listed in descending order of their prominence.

Wine Selections: Indicates the number of selections on the restaurant's list at the time the award is conferred. For Grand Award winners, this information is followed by the total number of bottles in the restaurant's inventory.

Wine Pricing: Determined by our judges, this describes the overall pricing of the wine list, taking into account both the general markup of wines offered and the number of wines at high and low price points. Inexpensive lists offer many bottles for less than $50, while also employing a below-normal markup (generally considered to be 2 to 2.5 times the wholesale bottle price). Moderate lists use the industry norm for markup, with a range of both less expensive and expensive offerings. Expensive lists offer wines at a greater-than-normal markup, along with many selections for more than $100 a bottle. Wine pricing is not a judging criterion, it is provided merely as a guide for the reader.

Corkage: Provided by the restaurants, this indicates the corkage fee charged per bottle to customers. Corkage fees, which can range greatly, are typically charged per 750ml bottle, so plan to pay double if you bring in a magnum. Some restaurants do not permit diners to bring in their own wine; others are simply prohibited to do so by state or local regulations. If you plan to bring your own wine to a restaurant, always call ahead to confirm its corkage policy.

Cuisine Type and Menu Prices: Provided by the restaurants, these list the style of food served and the price range for dinner entrées, respectively. Restaurants that offer only a prix fixe menu are indicated accordingly, with the price (or range of prices) per menu.

It's important to note that our awards evaluate wine lists, not restaurants as a whole. While we assume that the level of food and service will be commensurate with the wine lists entered by award winners, this unfortunately is not always true. We cannot visit every award-winning restaurant (although all Grand Award winners and many others are inspected by Wine Spectator editors), so we encourage our readers to alert us to discrepancies and disappointments. If you have any comments regarding your experience at one of our award-winning restaurants, contact us at restaurantawards@mshanken.com.


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