Top produced wines: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

Although they’ve been in the top 10 for more than two decades, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot had been bringing up the rear back in 1990. But now, they’ve catapulted to first and second place when it comes to top produced wines.

Other wines such as Syrah made even bigger jumps, with that varietal running up the ladder from 35th to 6th, according to a December study from the Wine Economics Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.

The top 10 of 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon
Merlot
Airen
Tempranillo
Chardonnay
Syrah
Garnacha Tinta
Sauvignon Blanc
Trebbiano Toscano
Pinot Noir

 The top 10 of 1990

Airen
Garnacha Tinta
Rkatsiteli
Sultaniye
Trebbiano Toscano
Mazuelo
Merlot
Cabernet Sauvignon
Monastrell
Bobal

So what happened? Why did some wines move up the chain, and others such as Bobal and Sultaniye fall off the chart, and I’d say out of public knowledge, at least in the U.S.?

Well, according to the study a few things to note:

1. Six of the most common wine grape varieties back in the 1990s fell off the popular scale, especially Airen and Sultaniye, which were considered low quality wines. At the same time, the popularity of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay beamed as “regions sought to improve the quality of their wine grapes.” I might note also that I went to several weddings last year and this trio was the only wine offered at all of them.

2. Wine areas in country’s across the globe started to grow more of just their top variety.

3. Between 2000 and 2010, French varieties–such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon– dominated New World and Old World Vineyards, increasing from 53% to 67% and  20% to 27%, respectively in those regions.

Not surprisingly, most vineyards are in Spain France and Italy. The “big three” accounted for more than half of the world’s wine grape vineyard area in 2010, according to the study. The United States and Argentina are fourth, but they each account for less than 5%.

Read the whole study here.