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Some Facts About California Wine

I'm not sure how much anyone cares, but here are some interesting current facts and figures about the California wine industry, as reported by the Wine Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the California wine industry. Some of them were news to me. For instance I had no idea that Southern California held our highest altitude vineyard.


California makes 90 percent of the wine made in the United States, and also ranks first in consumption -- we drink 20% of the wine produced in the US. If California were a country, it would be the fourth leading wine-producing country in the world behind France, Italy and Spain.

California wines accounted for 64 percent of the total 668 million gallons — both foreign and domestic — consumed in the U.S. in 2004, or roughly two out of every three bottles sold in the country.

California winery shipments comprised roughly $15 billion of the $23 billion estimated retail value of all wine sold in the U.S. in 2004.

Wine is California's most valuable finished agricultural product. The overall economic impact of the wine industry on the economy of California exceeds $45.4 billion.

The expansion of exports of California wine over the last decade has dramatically increased from $196 million in 1994 to $794 million in 2004.

Wineries and vineyards are the second most popular tourist destination in California after Disneyland. A total of 14.8 million tourists visit the state's wine regions each year.


Chardonnay, with 96,500 acres, is the wine type variety with the most acreage planted in California. Lagrein (a red Northern Italian varietal) with 56 acres is the variety that has the least acreage.

Cabernet Sauvignon was the second most planted wine grape in California with 74,900 total acres.

For the first time in recent history, the red wine category edged out white wine by volume in food stores in 2004. Red held a 40.5 percent market share; white, a 40.4 percent share; and blush/pink/rose accounted for 19.1 percent share of case volume, according to ACNielsen.

Chardonnay remains the leading varietal wine, followed by Merlot, White Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Together these four varietals made up over half (55 percent) of wine sales in grocery and food stores.

Last year, California winemakers crushed 70,000 tons of Pinot Noir, the most ever, and a roughly 20% increase from the previous year.

in 2004 Sonoma County held the most acreage of pinot noir in the state (nearly 10,000 acres) followed distantly by Monterey County with only 3,300.


Wine-type grapes are grown in 46 of California's 58 counties, covering 513,000 acres in 2004.

There are more than 93 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in California (distinct wine grape growing areas recognized by the U.S. government. California has 93 of the 165 AVAs established in the U.S.

The highest vineyard in California is the Shadow Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard located at an elevation of 4,400 feet above sea level in the mountains of San Diego.

California has 1,300 commercial wineries with a physical presence, and most of these are family-owned and operated.

There are more than 60,000 registered California wine labels (each label, even from the same winery, must be registered before it can be put on a bottle).


It takes about six to eight clusters, or approximately 600 to 800 wine grapes (2.4 lbs), to make a bottle of wine.

One barrel of wine contains 740 lbs of grapes, equivalent to 59 gallons or 24.6 cases of wine.

It is theorized there are approximately 44 million bubbles in a bottle of sparkling wine/champagne.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud