The Changing Landscape of Napa Valley

California’s Napa Valley is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Its top bottlings come with three-figure price tags. It is America’s Cabernet Sauvignon capital, a worthy rival of Bordeaux.

So why are 15% of the valley’s vineyards designated for replanting over the next several years, as Decanter reported last week?

Three words: red blotch disease. The affliction is described in this report from the University of California at Davis, home to America’s most acclaimed viticultural program. In very simple terms, red blotch disease lowers the level of sugars in red wine grapes. This can limit full ripening and, ultimately, flavors in the finished wines.

To put it mildly, it’s a problem.

A problem complicated by the fact that replacement materials for replanting are on back order. After years of “great recession” austerity, wineries once again have money to invest in their vineyards but, in some cases, are being delayed in their replanting plans.

Winston Churchill once observed, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

In Napa Valley, it’s definitely a good time to be an optimist. After all, while replanting may be a pain in the posterior (and other body parts), it also gives growers and winemakers a chance to re-think what is planted where. For instance, a vineyard presently devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon may be better suited for Pinot Noir… or vice versa.

While it will still look basically the same, the Napa landscape could be in for big changes.

Churchill may not have said it, but we all know opportunity knocks but once.

Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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