Will Napa re-plant to varieties other than Cabernet Sauvignon?

November 21, 2016

Tom Wark recently expressed some hope in his Fermentation Blog that Napa growers who, according to a Wines & Vines article, are going to be doing a lot of replanting in 2017, will replant their vineyards to more varietally diverse configurations.  I hope so - I find Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to be getting to be really boring and I love to taste the minor varieties.  But the pessimist in me does not think this will happen.

 

Since 1994, tota, bearingl wine grape acreage in Napa has risen at a compounded annual growth rate of just under 2%.  For Cabernet Sauvignon, that figure is just under 4%.  The economics for a grower selling grapes - which are not always the same as an estate operation - provide few, if any, options that are as beneficial as planting Cabernet Sauvignon, in terms of revenue per acre.  Malbec is competitive with Cabernet Sauvignon on a per-acre revenue basis, for instance.  On the other hand, Napa contains roughly 400 bearing acres of Malbec so, even if it were to become slightly more profitable, a few dozen additional acres could shift the supply-demand dynamics.

 

Anecdotally, I'm hearing of new Cabernet Sauvignon plantings, even in areas that are not viticulturally appropriate, an indicator that Napans seem to be bullish on Cabernet Sauvignon.  On the other hand, there is one data point that should give some hope to Tom and I:  Cabernet Sauvignon, according to the Acreage Report, saw bearing acreage drop by 1% between 2014 and 2015.  I am assuming that is a blip but, who knows, maybe Tom's article is heralding in a new era of more diverse plantings in Napa.

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