In The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell refers to “the level at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”

There are signs pointing to a paradigm shift, with restaurateurs more intent than ever on courting wine-lovers in this economic downturn.

#1 A new survey of restaurants in 10 major regions reveals a significant increase in the number that now permit customers to bring their own wine (BYO). More than 50,000 restaurants were surveyed by DiningInfo, with about 15,000 now allowing diners to bring their own wine. (In Wine Country many assume bringing a bottle to a restaurant is commonplace, but in much of America this isn’t the case.) The www.gobyo.com website lists restaurants that are BYO-friendly. There are hundreds in Northern California, including Syrah in Santa Rosa and Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa.

#2 More restaurants across the country are serving wine from a keg (as they do with beer) to make pours by the glass more economical. The keg system, which also keeps pours fresher, has surfaced in Napa, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Traverse City in Michigan Wine Country, and soon in New York City. Two area restaurants using mini-kegs from locally-owned MAS Wine Co. are East West Café in Santa Rosa and Hop Monk in Sebastopol.

#3 By the end of the month restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday is expected to have Fred Franzia’s Coastal Vines on the menu of its 850-plus eateries across America for $10 a bottle. In January the Ruby Tuesday chain began a pilot program in various parts of the country, including Massachusetts, Minnesota and Georgia. In California, there are two near Sacramento and three in Southern California.

These three trends make wine much more the accessible for those on a budget. Yes, I’d say the momentum for change is unstoppable. Many restaurateurs realize wine is the bargaining chip to coax the cost-conscious to dine out and this is a good thing. If restaurateurs don’t act swiftly, the cash-strapped will simply uncork a bottle at home with leftovers.

Do you sense the tipping point is near? Do you agree it’s a good thing for the American wine drinker?