Diversity and internationalization of wine grape varieties: Evidence from a revised global database

Aim: To quantify the extent to which national mixes of wine grape varieties (in terms of vineyard bearing area) have become more or less diversified, and ‘internationalized’, since wine globalization accelerated from the 1990s. 

Method and Results: In addition to bearing area (in hectares), shares and indexes are estimated for each of 53 countries in an updated global database involving 700+ wine regions that account for 99% of the world’s wine grape vineyard area and 1,700+ DNA-distinct prime wine grape varieties and 1350+ synonyms, for 2000, 2010 and 2016. This global database (Anderson and Nelgen, 2020) is a major revision, extension and update of Anderson (2013). Its prime varieties are linked to their country of origin and synonyms are as nominated by Robinson et al. (2012) or otherwise JKI (2019).

Conclusion: These results reveal that vignerons’ wine grape varietal choices are narrowing across the world. That is, they are becoming less diversified as many countries converge on the major ‘international’ varieties, especially French ones. This is not inconsistent with the fact that wine consumers are enjoying an ever-wider choice range, thanks to far greater international trade in wine associated with the current wave of globalization. Nor is it inconsistent with strengthening vigneron interest in ‘alternative’ and native varieties in numerous countries, including Italy (D’Agata, 2014) and Australia (Higgs, 2019). That interest stems in part from a desire to diversify their varietal mix to differentiate their offering – including through the terroir-driven use of minor varieties in blends – and to hedge against increasing weather volatility. It just happens that in recent decades the latter centrifugal forces are dominated by the centripetal force of embracing the most popular varieties for ease of marketing and presumably higher profits. Moreover, the quality of the current global mix of varieties is arguably substantially above the average quality of the top half-dozen varieties as of 1990.

Significance and Impact of the Study: The apparent paradox of reduced diversity and greater internationalization in the world’s vineyards is partly explained by major changes in a few national bearing areas. This new database provides many other insights in addition to those highlighted in this paper. For example, it includes for the first time numerous climate variables for each of its 700+ regions, prepared with the assistance of Gregory Jones of Linfield University, Oregon. That allows one to examine the varietal mix in regions whose climate in recent years is similar to what other regions will endure in the decades ahead thanks to on-going climate changes.

Authors: Kym Anderson1* and Signe Nelgen2

1 Wine Economics Research Centre, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 5005, Australia
2 Research Associate, Geisenheim University, Germany 

Email: kym.anderson@adelaide.edu.au

Keywords: Index of similarity between national and global varietal mixes, index of internationalization of prime varieties

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