Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
What is the most widely planted grape in the United States?
—Gil, Annandale, Va.
The bad news is that outside of California, statistics about grape plantings aren’t easy to come by. The good news is that California represents about 90 percent of the nearly seven million tons of grapes grown commercially in the country, so if we look at California’s figures, we can answer your question with some confidence.
Switching from tons to acres, nearly 766,000 acres of grapes are planted in California. To be clear, that’s all kinds of grapes—wine grapes, table grapes and grapes grown for raisins. Wine grapes account for about two-thirds of this figure. The most widely planted wine grape? Chardonnay, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and French Columbard. I’m sure I threw some of you for a loop with that last one, but it’s a grape that’s relatively easy to grow and high-yielding to boot, and used in a lot of blends and jug wines.
Red wine grape acres outnumber white wine grape acres, and there are more than twice as many raisin grapes than table grapes. Surprising no one, the most widely planted raisin grape is Thompson Seedless, and the most widely planted table grape is Flame Seedless, also known as Red Flame.
A huge Vinny shout-out to my new friends at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for helping me figure some of this out, and for helping me avoid some serious math.