free run juice

by the glass, by the numbers

btgWhat do you drink when you’re out and just grabbing a glass? Everyone has their go-to’s. I know people who don’t even look at the wine list and just order “Pinot Noir” or “Sauvignon Blanc” – something that drives me crazy and was part of the reason I started this whole blog. I know a list full of grapes and producers you’ve never heard of can be daunting or confusing, but it’s also the biggest opportunity you have to experiment. I always advise checking out the list and asking to try one or two to see what you like, or asking the bartender what their favorite is (they obv know what the best bottle is).

Anyway, this study just came out with the most popular wines people order by the glass (BTG, as they call it in the industry) by percentage, plus the rank it was last year to see which went up and which went down:


  1. Cabernet Sauvignon      31.6%    1
  2. Pinot Noir      19.9%    3
  3. Merlot          15.3%    2
  4. red blend       8.8%    6
  5. Malbec           8.6%    5
  6. Zinfandel        3.0%    4
  7. Sangiovese       2.9%    8
  8. Tempranillo      1.5%    10
  9. all other reds   8.3%    9


  1. Chardonnay      44.8%    1
  2. Pinot Grigio    23.2%    2
  3. Sauvignon Blanc 15.5%    3
  4. Riesling         7.1%    4
  5. white blend     1.8%    6
  6. Pinot Gris       1.8%    5
  7. Muscato          1.8%    10
  8. Chenin Blanc     1.1%    8
  9. all other whites          2.9%    9

If I want a red, I usually try to look for the more interesting regions that don’t cost as much – you’re never going to get a good Cab for $12, but Tempranillo and even Malbec can be ok. Pinot Noir is a gamble – some BTGs they serve are light and inoffensive, some are just horrible. If I’m at a good wine bar I taste 2-3 and see what’s good – had a great Nebbiolo the other day and Grenache is usually dependable too.

Whites are much easier since there are lots of good inexpensive options, and I tend to explore a lot more. Viognier, Aligoté, Romorantin – the weirder the better so I can taste stuff I’ve never had before.

What do you usually order BTG? And is it always the same or do you mix it up based on mood, season, if you’re eating or just sitting at the bar?


33 thoughts on “by the glass, by the numbers

  1. If I’m just at any ol’ bar, I’m a Cab girl, but if the place has a nice selection, I always check out the list so I can try something new!

  2. Not to mention that the generic “variety” approach fails to account for grapes that are fairly versatile, like Chardonnay for instance

  3. I tend to ask what’s local in the whites. It lets me know whether I want to visit that winery.If I see the name of a winery I know, I will order it knowing it’s safe. Red stains my clothes and face so I stick to white generally Pinot Gris or Grigio, Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Chardonnay. If I’m in Nova Scotia, Muscat, Seyval or Tidal Bay.

  4. I agree with your observation, and I always ask for a wine list, and I do cringe at times, if I am told that “we have a red and a white,” which means that I will have a cocktail instead. Thankfully I am finding that response less and less. I also look for a different wine, and hope that they are not just pouring the top ten wines across the country in terms of sales receipts.

  5. I agree – Malbec is typically a good go to wine for me. I have had some really good pinot noirs and some really terrible ones. Like Joeyfullystated I like to explore too and so I typically ask the bartender what they like or recommend. (Most don’t really know)

    • Ah, I feel like when I ask bartenders they’re always pretty knowledgeable but I guess it totally would depend on the place. Like not at a sports bar, but at a restaurant I feel like they usually know a lot or at least have one or two to recommend.

  6. Love this! Ordering “Merlot” was the safe thing to do when I was just starting out with wine, way back when…

    But now, I like to try something new every time I order wine in a restaurant. If it’s HH, then sometimes I would order a house cab, but it ends up tasting sweet and generic! BLECH. I agree, whites are easier to get by the glass, when it comes to quality.

  7. It all depends on my mood. But I usually never have to go to glass on a menu. I always look it over, maybe try 1 or 2, and decide. I agree, it’s a good time to try something new.. something you have never had before!!

  8. I usually ask for a list or what reds they have by the glass (or whites in the summer). With reds I tend to try the more unusual varieties if available, but Sauvignon Blanc is pretty much my go-to on whites. I totally agree with the commenter who said she always tries to sample something local (a proposition that’s become less risky in Colorado) and with the one who hates house Cabs at cheap bars. I’ve definitely learned that lesson way too many times!

    • Yeah, house Cabs are probably one of the worst things you could order BTG. I love experimenting with whites though. If you’re solid on your choice, totally respect that but if you want to play around the whites are often better choices and more fun to play around with.

  9. I’m doing something in London at the minute where I can only drink wine in pubs and bars. Basically trying to see what selection they have, how good it is, value for money, and all that. Went into one pub the other day, white wine selection (no exaggeration) was 5 NZ Sauvignon Blancs, that was it. What can you do, eh?

  10. I agree with your thoughts in this post. I also venture off the beaten path for value and experience reasons. I always taste (for freshness) if it’s a bar or restaurant I am not familiar with, or have never been to before. If they don’t have anything that interests me, I won’t order wine at all and will opt for craft beer or a cocktail.

  11. Reblogged this on Somm of a Fritch and commented:
    Some great thoughts and comments on buying patterns of consumers when it comes to wine by the glass. My suggestion, step out of your comfort zone, try something new, and don’t hesitate to ask for a taste.

  12. I switch it up. I always ask the waiter or bartender their recommendations and have found some amazing ones that I later purchased for home. I also toss it up a good bit depending on the season and my food selections. I really enjoy some of the meals where the wine is chosen for you. That has been an enlightening experience in more ways than one…depending on who has done the choosing!

  13. I’ve always been extremely sensitive to reds that have been opened for too long. As you know Pinot will turn the fastest, so I will only order a pinot btg if it’s a label I love, and I know it’s fresh. You’re right when you say BTG Cab is normally crap. For the most part I stick with whites when ordering BTG, my go-to is usually a dark, hearty, stick to your ribs, BEER! Call it snobby, but I need the freshness! Now, the caveat would be restaurants with great wine lists, and great BTG selections that have a nice preservation system! The sky is the limit in these places… It’s an opportunity to taste all of those fancies that I would never shell out the BTB price for. Opus One, Kistler, Domaine Serene, all the good ones!

    I really enjoy your blog! Thanks!

pour out your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s