Results from the Book’s On My Table Survey

I’ve found that best way to expand your wine horizons is to first hear about what other people drink. So I set out to discover what some of the world’s most interesting and accomplished wine lovers drink at home, in restaurants, and wherever else corks are popped. The result: Oldman’s Guide is filled with responses from the On My Table survey, which arethe personal wine preferences of oenophiles around the world. Interspersed throughout the book, these profiles are designed to inspire the development of your own wine passions. They comprise a veritable Noah’s Ark of prominent wine enthusiasts: winemakers, winery owners, star chefs and restaurateurs, awarding-winning sommeliers, leading importers, academics, auction house legends, merchants, wine educators, and celebrity collectors. Survey respondents range in age from 23 to 95 and represent 13 countries and over 20 wine regions therein, from the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest to the grandest chateaus of Bordeaux to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, the “bread basket” of ancient Rome.


  • Champagne (35 citations)
  • Rhone Valley (31)
  • Red Bordeaux (30)
  • Red Burgundy (26)
  • Riesling (25)
  • White Burgundy (21)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (19)
  • Pinot Noir (16)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (16)
  • Sangiovese/Chianti (13)

Champagne wins: the vast majority of survey respondents put Champagne – the real stuff from France – on their list of favorites.

Triumph of the Rhone Valley: In a surprise upset, the Rhone Valley emerged as the most popular source of non-sparkling wine, edging out more famous red Bordeaux and red Burgundy. Northern Rhone was cited 16 times, while wine from the southern Rhone had 15 mentions.

Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon lead, Chardonnay lags: The top varietal wine was Riesling – reflecting the fact that insiders continue to relish this wine, while most casual wine drinkers ignore it. Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon came next, occupying the 7th spot, while varietal Chardonnay lagged behind with only 10 votes. (In fairness to this wonderful grape, Chardonnay from France’s Burgundy region – i.e., White Burgundy – rated the 6th most popular).

Chambolle-Musigny tops in red Burgundy: The most cited appellation of Burgundy was Chambolle-Musigny, the Côte de Nuits village known for expensive, elegant wine such as the premier cru Les Amourueses.

Gigondas popular in Southern Rhone: Among those who cited the Rhone Valley as a favorite region, the sub-appellation of Gigondas was mentioned several times. An affordable alternative to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas is a sturdy, spicy wine with plenty of the region’s characteristic dark berry earthiness.

New Zealand wins for Sauvignon Blanc: The most popular country for Sauvignon Blanc was New Zealand – beating out the old-guard of France and America.

Languedoc Beats Merlot: In one of the more dramatic upsets, the backwoods locale of the Languedoc-Roussillon (6 citations) triumphed over the world-famous varietal Merlot (4). This reflects the fact that experts increasingly view the Languedoc as one of the world’s most exciting regions for value, where much of the wines are soft, spicy reds from Rhone-style grapes.

Did somebody say Madiran?: One of the biggest surprises was the popularity of wine from Madiran, an obscure area of southwestern France that makes rich, earthy, full-bodied red wine. It was mentioned four times – the same score as varietal Merlot.

From Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine