The Rising Tide of Cabernet

Grapes & BinsCabernet has reigned as king in Napa for some time. With the onset of the “cult wine” movement in the mid to late 90s, and the boom of producers that have tried to follow suit to cash in on the trend, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon solidified its position as the end-all be-all. To that end about 40% of all grape plantings in Napa are Cabernet Sauvignon, according to the Napa Valley Vintners1. That does leave room for an additional 60% for other varieties but indications are that Cabernet could be making up more of a majority share sooner rather than later.

Chardonnay is the next most-widely planted variety however Cabernet has a lead of around 13,000 acres planted according to the California Wine Institute2. With that in mind there is not another variety in Napa that can even come close to the dominance of Cabernet. Hence the skepticism of some when I said, “I think I am going to champion Merlot.”

With the prevalence of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon the big question looming for me is: “Could that bubble burst?” It is a question that rolls through my head more often as I see more Cabernet move up the pricing food chain into the triple digits or more per bottle.

With how quickly trends change my initial guess would be that it might not burst but there could be something that deflates a bit. For one – as much as I love Cabernet it isn’t the only thing that I want to drink. Trends have shown that us consumers are willing to explore and try new wines. I don’t know about you but Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely a regular in my consumption regimen however would be bored out of mind if it was the only thing I had at home.

My own personal concern is that there are other varieties that grow really REALLY well in Napa. While Cabernet will probably always be king it is sort of sad (to me anyway) that other varieties are being torn out and replaced with one or two popular varieties. To play devils-advocate with myself it the people want more Napa Cabernet and Chardonnay then we should probably try and fill that demand.


I am truly torn between Napa Cabernet Sauvignon’s success and the monoculture-ish attitude that folks are starting to take. My inner businessman is jumping for joy while the artist is face-palming.

So will the Cabernet bubble burst? Time will tell. I would totally let you know but my crystal ball is on the fritz.


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