In 1990, most of the world’s most widely planted grape varietals were either generally unknown, unpronounceable or both.  Twenty years later, Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Merlot is queen and Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Syrah are powerful princes. And what of Rkatsiteli, Sultaniye, Mazuelo and Bobal? They’re now somewhere down the food chain with the common folk. In fact, only one of the top three grapes in 1990—Airen, an obscure (in the U.S., at least) Spanish white wine grape—remained among the leading trio in 2010, though falling from first to third behind Cabernet and Merlot.


These are just some of the findings of a recently released database of the world’s wines compiled by professor Kym Anderson of the University of Adelaide. Among the report’s other findings:


·                   The fastest-growing varietal in the world is Tempranillo, the chief grape of Rioja and increasingly blended with other red wine grapes, which since 1990 has gone from constituting 5 percent of Spain’s vineyards to 20 percent.


·                   Wine drinkers worldwide are drinking more red wine and growers are planting more red wine grapes. From 2000 to 2010, the global share of red varietals has gone from 49 percent to 55 percent.


·                   The amount of land given to winegrape production in the U.S. has increased by 30 percent in the 2000-2010 time period, the largest increase in terms of acreage, though New Zealand and Australia have put new land into production at a faster rate.


The report doesn’t hazard a guess as to why any of these development have taken place, though it lists terroir, marketing and the ability of the most popular winegrapes to grow well in a variety of locations as possible explanations.