We took a look at ten of the most popular sit-down dining chains in America, perusing their wine lists. We ranked them according to the number and quality of wines offered, the number of wines offered by the glass, the price range for both glasses and bottles, and the appropriateness of the wines listed to the food that’s served.
In cases where wine selections vary according to location, we used the New York City lists.
Frankly, most of the lists were pretty uninspiring, though we managed to find at least a few wines we wouldn't mind drinking of all of them. A few of the lists, though, pleasantly surprised us. Take a look at our ranking of 10 top chain restaurant wine lists.
Er, could we just see the beer menu, please? Red Robin serves 10 wines by the glass, ranging from $4 to $9 per glass and $18 to $30 per bottle. Yes, the prices are low, but there's not much we'd be interested in drinking with our Bleu Ribbon Burger.
Red Lobster offers a boring assortment of standard wines from large-scale producers. No brilliant matches for lobster or other seafood. They serve 16 wines by the glass, ranging from $6 to $10. Per bottle? $20 to $40.
The Cheesecake Factory has a pretty conventional selection, with branded house wines from Robert Mondavi. They offer 22 wines by the glass for about $5 to $7 each, nice pricing. Bottles range from $30 to $40.
The usual suspects land on Outback’s list, lighter than you'd expect on Australian bottles (we count four). Not a standout anywhere. They offer 18 wines by the glass for about $6 to $10 a pop. Bottles have a pretty wide price range, from $20 to $40.
This list is better than you'd expect, especially among the reds, which include Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva, Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, and, for big spenders, Col d'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino ($75 a bottle) and Bertani Amarone ($130). The Porta Vita house wines are way overpriced at around five times retail. Other than that, tariffs are reasonable; there are 28 wines by the glass that go for $7 to $10.
Romano’s has a wide range of choices, from drinkable plonk to some really good bottles. Extra points for including Gruet Rosé Brut, an excellent pinot noir-based sparkler from New Mexico. They have 36 wines by the glass for $6 to $10. Bottles range from $40 all the way to just under $100.
Very nice list, full of good wines, well chosen for the food. Some big names here for splurgers (Duckhorn, Jordan, Bonny Doon, Treana, etc.) at fair prices. 26 wines by the glass, ranging from $5 to $14 in price. Bottle prices start at $12, but big spenders can shell out hundreds.