The Grapevine

The Lack of Varietal Diversity

August 3rd, 2015

If you examine the major wine-growing regions of the world, you’ll see a stunning lack of diversity in varietals. [level-members]

This is both shocking and totally understandable. On the one hand, most major wine regions have, at some point in their past, experienced a calamity that has devestated the grape crop. A lack of diversity only makes that a) more likely, and b) more economically damaging.

And yet, the condition persists because of economic realities. Short-sited as it may be, certain regions are known for certain varietals. It’s tough to make a living bucking the trend of market expectation. And those local preferences are frequently well founded. Not all grapes grow well in all regions; it makes sense to plant what works.

We’ve read recently that nearly two-thirds of France’s wine crop is planted to just eight varietals. You might be tempted to write this off as a legacy of a long history of wine production and regional preferences, etc. But things aren’t any better in the New World. In fact, in some areas, they are worse. In northern California, for example, more than 90% of the wine grape crop is planted to just eight varietals!

Great risk, great reward, but if things go south, they could go south in a hurry. (And yes, we do recognize that many of the possible problems wouldn’t be varietal-specific. It still stunning that there is such a lack of diversity on any level.)