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Wine grape diversity narrows to a few international varieties

Published:  07 January, 2014

The diversity of grapes worldwide is narrowing to a few international varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot leading the charge.

That's according to a new paper from the University of Adelaide, which has developed a free database in order to better compare wine growing areas. The paper, "Where in the world are various winegrape varieties grown?" was written by Kym Anderson and Nanda Aryal and published in December 2013.

The authors point of that the decreasing diversity of grapes being planted is "an area of concern" adding that "some vignerons in the Old World are beginning to respond by reverting to neglected local varieties, while in the New World a small but growing group of producers are exploring alternatives to the dominant varieties."

Since 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have more than doubled their shares, moving from eighth and seventh place to first and second places respectively. Meanwhile Tempranillo and Chardonnay have more than trebled their shares to take fourth and fifth places, while Syrah has jumped from 35th to sixth. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the other two to move into the top ten. These have all been at the expense of Airén which has fallen from first to third, Garnacha from second to seventh, and Trebbiano from fifth to ninth.

The study looked at plantings in 2000 and 2010 and notes that Spain, France and Italy, account for 54% of the world's winegrape vineyard area at both times. Next on the list is USA, but its share is less than 5%. These four countries also "dominate global wine production volume and value, accounting for 60% in aggregate".

The report also identifies that the global area of winegrapes has declined by almost 6% between 2000 and 2010, on top of the 8% fall in the 1990s. This is "despite increases of around 30% in the United States and Georgia, 40% in the Czech Republic, and 220% in New Zealand in the most recent decade". The biggest declines were in Spain (13%) and Portugal (20%).