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California Wine Region

Knowing the Popular Wine Grapes and Styles of California

California, the largest producer of wine in the United States, is accounting for almost 90% of the total wine production in the country.

This makes the state the fourth-largest producer of wine in the world.

The history of wine production in California can be dated back to the 18th century when the state’s first vineyards were planted to make wine for Mass.

Now, there are over 1200 wineries in the Californian state.

Wine grape varieties

Although there are more than 100 grape varieties in California, only a few are more popular.

As you all know the primary grape varieties grown in the state are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Here, let’s see about these two wine grapes, as well as other most popular wines of California

Alcohol and Distilleries

Cabernet Sauvignon

Without any doubt, this is the most popular among the Californian red wine grape varieties.

This popularity of the wines that are made from Cabernet Sauvignon is mainly because of its intense flavour, longevity, as well as the complexity.

The flavour of this grape is often described as:

  • Jammy
  • Pepper
  • Spice
  • Berry
  • Blackcurrant
  • Cherry
  • Chocolate
  • Tobacco
  • Nut
  • Cinnamon
  • Coffee
  • Peppercorn
  • Pimento
  • Plum
  • Herbaceous

Apart from the above-mentioned flavours, with oak and bottle aging, this grape can provide many more flavours like cedar, mushroom, vanilla, smoke, and so on.

Most of the Californian red wines will be made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

However, this can also be seen blended with some of the Bordeaux-style wines. In general, this is full-bodied and dry.


This is the most popular white wine grape that is produced in the California state.

I would say that the special characteristics of this grape variety are the key factors for its extended popularity.

The special characteristics are that this grape variety gives a higher amount of extract, this is more versatile, and can be grown under a wide range of conditions.

Chardonnay grape variety is often said to have the following flavours:

  • Buttery
  • Nutty
  • Creamy
  • Toasty
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Tropical fruits
  • Butterscotch
  • Honey
  • Lemon

In addition to these flavours, oak or barrel aging could give the wines made from Chardonnay a variety of other flavours like hazelnut and spicy flavours.

Due to the higher levels of acidity, this grape variety is most popularly used in the making of sparkling wines. In general, this is full-bodied and dry.


In ancient times, Merlot was only used as a blend for the grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to get Bordeaux-style wine types.

It was from the 1970s, Merlot has become a popular wine grape variety and the key factors that can be attributed to its popularity are its higher levels of sugars, lower levels of tannins, higher alcohol content, and lesser longevity.

The high-end wines that are made from Merlot will be medium to dark red in colours with the following flavours:

  • Cherry
  • Currant
  • Black pepper
  • Licorice
  • Black olives
  • Vanilla
  • Berry
  • Nut
  • Clove

Not only these, this grape can give you with so many other flavours with bottle aging.

In general, this grape varietal will be velvety, soft, as well as dry.

Pinot Noir

Yes, this is the same red grape variety of Burgundy region of France that is more famous for its variations in terms of taste, as well as quality.

Some of the well-known flavours exhibited by this grape variety are:

  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Plums
  • Ripe tomato
  • Rose pedal
  • Spice
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon
  • Caraway
  • Peppermint
  • Oregano

With oak aging, this grape could give you some other beautiful flavours too.

With aging, the wines that are produced from this grape variety would become more and more complex.

It is due to these characteristics; this is widely used in the making of sparkling wines.

Other Popular Grape Varieties of California

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Zinfandel
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Carignan
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Chenin blanc
  • French Colombard


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