I’m in the middle of writing a class on California wine, so I’m going through acreage statistics (2014), and found some things I thought were interesting.
#1- Chardonnay, 97k acres. I just thought this was kind of interesting because I would have assumed Cabernet would be #1. And, while red wine acreage does outpace white, 310k acres vs 185k, Chardonnay is still the #varietal for the state.
#2- Cabernet, 87k acres. No surprise here.
#3- Zinfandel, 47k acres. Not a shock, although I would have assumed Merlot would be ahead of Zinfandel.
#4-Merlot, 44k acres.
#5- Pinot Noir, 42k acres. Again, no surprise, Pinot Noir is extremely popular. But what stands out to me is the change in relative plantings. In 2004, Pinot Noir was still the #4 red grape, but with 24k acres, compared to 51k for Zinfandel and 54k for Merlot.
#6- French Colombard, 22k acres. This one caught me off guard. I had heard of the former glory of French Colombard in California, it was the most widely planted white grape in the state until it was usurped by Chardonnay in the 70s and 80s (Thanks, Chateau Montelena). Colombard has been on a steady downward trend since the height of its popularity (that 22k is down from 29k in 2004), but I thought it interesting that the 5th most widely planted wine grape in the state is one which most consumers aren’t even aware exists. The grape is rarely bottled itself, and is used primarily for blending or distillation.
#7- Syrah, 18k acres. I feel like Syrah has had a rough road among American consumers. A group of passionate and dedicated winemakers in the central coast lead the charge in planting Syrah, along with other Rhone varieties in the late 90s and early 2000s, but consumer response has been mixed, and the grape is currently experiencing a downward trend in total planted acres.
#8-Sauvignon Blanc, 15k acres
#9- Pinot Gris, 15k acres
#10- Rubired, 12k acres. This was one I hadn’t heard of before, it’s kind of interesting. It’s a hybrid of two Portuguese varieties, and it’s a tienturier grape, meaning it has both red skin and red flesh. Most red wine grapes are only red on the outside, their flesh is white. As a result, Rubired can produce extremely deeply colored juice, and can be added by winemakers wishing to produce more deeply colored wines.