About California Region Wines

California, in terms of the wine industry, is a baby! Production only really began to flourish in the 1960s. As is synonymous with all things American, the area isn’t small! The region covers over 1100km north to south and is divided into three sub regions – North Coast, Inland Valleys and the Central Coast.

Key California Grape Varieties
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Petit Sirah
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Facts About California Wines

Because the area is so vast and the Americans aren’t afraid to experiment or break the rules, you can find just about any grape variety grown in California; however, of course, there are some classics that they consistently produce very well. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are very strong examples of this.

Although the area is large and this clearly creates a variety of climatic differences, the region as a whole does hold one thing in common. Rain is almost non-existent in the ripening season so drip and sprinkler irrigation is permitted and widely used.

Zinfandel likes to hide under many guises. White Zinfandel being the rosé example – made from red grapes with minimal skin contact and often showing a level of sweetness. The red variety is full of baked red fruits and spice. You’ll find it over in Italy known as Primitivo.

The term ‘Meritage’ on a label indicates a Bordeaux Blend so it will be made of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Grapes are often given a ‘long hang time’, this is particularly true for Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. The purpose behind this technique is to give the grapes an extended period to gather a higher level of sugar and ripeness.

The term ‘Fumé Blanc’ indicates that it’s a Sauvignon Blanc which has been oak aged.

Classifications (the technical bit)

Due to many microclimates in California, The University of California set up a classification system based on ‘degree days’. These base the climates on a scale that runs from the coolest to the highest and from 1 to 5 respectively.

This breaks the region down to make it easier for winemakers to grow the best suited grapes in the best climate. Zones 1-3 tend to produce the highest quality.

Hennings Wine says

Certain sub regions produce an outstanding quality of wines. Look out for Russian River Pinot Noir, Caneros Chardonnay and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

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