Restaurants in Auburn, Birmingham, Fairhope, Huntsville, Montgomery, and Orange Beach are among the world’s best places to enjoy wine, the experts at Wine Spectator say in the publication’s 2023 Restaurant Awards.
The awards “recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers,” Wine Spectator’s news release says.
Fifteen Alabama restaurants made the cut among more than 3,500 singled out for the annual awards, which rate wine selection and staff expertise.
Four of them – Acre and 1856 Culinary Residence in Auburn, The Hope Farm in Fairhope, and Galley & Garden in Birmingham – receive the “Best of Award of Excellence,” the second of three tiers in Wine Spectator’s ranking system.
The Hope Farms and 1856 are newcomers to that group. Galley & Garden has carried that status since 2016, and Acre since 2019.
The others won this year’s third-tier “Best of Award.” Here are those restaurants and when they first made that list:
- The Depot, Auburn (2016)
- Bellini’s Ristorante, Birmingham (2020)
- Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille, Birmingham (2017)
- Seasons 52, Birmingham (2014)
- Char Restaurant, Huntsville (2020)
- Domaine South, Huntsville (2023)
- Le Petit Bijou by Domaine South, Huntsville (2022)
- Ravello Ristorante, Montgomery (2022)
- Vintage Year, Montgomery (2019)
- Villaggio Grille, Orange Beach (2010)
- Voyagers, Orange Beach (2014)
No state restaurants made Wine Spectator’s top tier, the “Grand Award,” typically reserved for wine lists with more than 1,000 different choices that include top producers, mature vintages, and large-format bottles. Offering the highest level of wine service, they represent less than 3 percent of Wine Spectator’s honorees this year.
About 40 percent made the “Best of Award of Excellence” group, generally restaurants with more than 350 selections from a wide range of wine regions and producers.
Garden & Galley, for example, offers more then three-dozen wines by the glass including a broad selection of ports. Half-bottles include top Champagne producers. Standard bottles, with prices ranging from $35 to $800, are divided by vintners from the United States, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere.
“These restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team,” says the publication’s explanation of its rankings.
Restaurants in the “Award of Excellence” group offer a smaller, but still extensive wine menu designed to match the restaurant’s food.
At Ravello, which specializes in food from Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the wine selection leans heavily toward Barolos, Spumantes, and other Italian wines. Wines from the U.S. and France also are prominently represented in Ravello’s wine menu.
“Whether compact or extensive, focused or diverse, these lists deliver sufficient choice to satisfy discerning wine lovers,” Wine Spectator says.
Other criteria considered for the awards include whether the restaurant has a wine director or sommelier, the number of wines priced under $50 and over $100, price markup over retail, and corkage fees.
The 2023 winners are featured in the July issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, which bills itself as the world’s leading authority on wine from grape to glass, including its role in contemporary culture.