What is the most-planted grape vine in the United States? Thereby hangs a tale.
California keeps good grape growing records, other states do not. Fortunately, California grows about 90 percent of the seven million-plus tons of grapes harvested annually in U.S., so we have enough data to make good guesses.
Another issue is tons vs. acres, two ways to measure production. Depending on variety and planting techniques, a smaller vineyard can produce more tons of grapes than a larger vineyard. That’s why Spain often has most grape acres, but Italy and France produce more tons of grapes.
In any event, acres is most common measurement because measuring land is easier and more exact than weighing baskets of grapes.
There are about 770,000 grape acres in California. That’s all grapes—wine, table, and raisin. Wine grapes make up about two-thirds of the acres, raisin grapes about 20 percent, table grapes the remainder.
Chardonnay is most-planted, followed by cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, and French columbard. You may not be familiar with columbard, but you almost certainly consume it: grape is easy to grow and produces very high yields. It is in a lot of blends and jug and boxed wines.
Thompson Seedless, called sultana in native Turkey, is most common raisin grape. Flame Seedless is most common table grape. Famed for sweetness and long shelf life, Flame Seedless is hybrid of Thompson Seedless, Cardinal, and a few other varieties.
Which country grows most grapes? China with almost 10 million metric tons in 2012, followed by the U.S. with 6.6 million, Italy with 5.8 million, France with 5.3 million, and Turkey with 4.2 million. But that is another tale for another time.
• Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Big, tasty, smooth; pomegranate, cherry, smoke, oak, vanilla; mild tannin, robust value. $20
• Qupé Maxtap Cuvée 2011: Syrah-grenache-tempranillo-mouvedre blend; Southern Rhone meets Spain; plump fruit, soft tannin, cherry-berry very nice. $22
• Perrin & Fils Gigondas La Gille 2009: Famed vintage, hedonistic, full-bodied delight; red, black fruit, plum, black tea; finish smolders. $40
Last round: Unlike milk, it is perfectly acceptable to cry over spilled wine.