We all know that the US loves Cabernet Sauvignon, but what does the rest of the world think?
If you were asked to guess the world’s most popular grape variety, you’d come up with a few options, right?
Well, the answer is exactly that – a few grapes blended together into what we know and love as the Bordeaux blend.
There is something about the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot that acts as catnip on the tastebuds of so many of the world’s wine lovers. It is the „grape“ of choice in 18 out of the top 25 countries on Wine-Searcher by search volume, a whopping endorsement of the style, and proof that, for the majority of consumers, blends are best.
After we studied the grape preferences of the US on a state-by-state basis a couple of weeks ago, we thought it would be fun to get a sense of how diverse the world’s wine thirst really is, so we ran a query on our database for grape preferences in our top 25 markets.
Perhaps the oddest information to emerge from this exercise was to show how obsessed the US seems to be with Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet topped the US list by a small-but-comfortable margin of 14 percent of searches, ahead of Bordeaux blends (13.5 percent), Pinot Noir (11.5 percent), Chardonnay (7.1 percent) and Rare Red blends on 3 percent. It is the only country in the top 25 where Cabernet is the most popular grape.
In fact, the rest of the world seems to make a point of eschewing Cabernet as a varietal. in the UK, our second-largest market, Cabernet is in seventh place with just 2.5 percent of all searches. The top five there consists of Bordeaux blends (22.3 percent), Pinot Noir (12.4 percent), Chardonnay (7.4 percent), Champagne blend (4.4 percent) and Southern Rhône Red blends on 2.9 percent.
In China, Cabernet sits in fourth place with 4.6 percent of searches, behind Bordeaux blends (25.5 percent), Pinot Noir (17.2 percent) and Chardonnay (5.8 percent). Hong Kong is similar (Bordeaux blends on 34.8 percent, Pinot Noir on 17.8 percent and Chardonnay on 8.1 percent), but Cabernet is pushed into fifth place by Champagne blends.
Even the home of Cabernet Sauvignon prefers it in a union with Merlot and others rather than as a varietal wine. France’s top five varieties are Bordeaux blends (30.7 percent), Pinot Noir (19.1 percent), Chardonnay (9.4 percent), Southern Rhône Red blends (3.3 percent) and Syrah on 3.1 percent. Cabernet sits in 13th place with 1 percent of all searches, behind Merlot (1.7 percent), Sauvignon Blanc (1.1 percent) and Grenache (1.1 percent). It even trails Nebbiolo (1.2 percent). In France!
It fares even worse in Italy, where native grapes make a healthy proportion of searches, as you would expect. Nebbiolo tops the list with 12.1 percent of searches, followed by Sangiovese with 10.1 percent. It’s international grapes that round out the top five, however, with Pinot Noir (8.5 percent), Bordeaux blends (8.2 percent) and Champagne blends (6.6 percent) rounding out the top positions. Cabernet as a variety is in 15th place on the list, with just 1.2 percent of searches.
Local preference doesn’t count for much in Germany, however, where Riesling only makes third place on the list, with 5.1 percent of searches. The rest of the top five is made up of Bordeaux blends (24.1 percent), Pinot Noir (8.7 percent), Chardonnay (5.1 percent) and Nebbiolo with 3.4 percent. Straight Cabernet is ninth on the list with 2.4 percent of searches.
In Austria, where you’d expect Grüner Veltliner to do well, things look very different. GV doesn’t get a look in until 15th place on the list with just 1.5 percent of searches. However, it does top the list of wines on offer at retail stores in Austria, suggesting that it is common enough that people don’t have to get on Wine-Searcher to track it down.
Australia offers more fertile ground for varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, however, with the grape being third most popular among Wine-Searcher users, with 8.2 percent of searches. That’s behind Shiraz (inevitably), which has 22.2 percent of searches, and Pinot Noir (9.9 percent), but ahead of Bordeaux blends (7.2 percent) and Chardonnay with 6.5 percent of searches.
Asian markets seem to have developed a taste for Pinot Noir, with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan all finding the grape fascinating. South Korea’s top five is Pinot Noir (19.9 percent), Bordeaux blend (16.1 percent), Chardonnay (11.7 percent), Cabernet (6.7 percent) and Champagne blends (4.1 percent). In Taiwan, the order is the same, but Pinot accounts for an even higher proportion at 27.5 percent of all searches. Japan has the same order, but Pinot makes up a slightly smaller share of the total searches, with 23.9 percent.
So Bordeaux blends take the crown as the world’s favorite „variety“, but it’s important to remember that Cabernet Sauvignon features strongly in that particular blend, so it isn’t time to start ripping out Cabernet vines just yet. It might be worth thinking about planting some Merlot and Malbec to go with it, though.