To understand California wine you must first grasp the sheer size and variety of the region. Covering a greater area than the whole of Italy, this single state is the world’s fourth-largest wine producer. Exploring California’s wine regions is akin to discovering an entirely new country, with almost 250,000ha of vines, 110 grape varieties and 139 distinct appellations. California’s wine scene is constantly evolving and rediscovering itself in new and unexpected ways, spurred on by the same spirit of collaboration and resilience that inspired its first wine pioneers.A region that once struggled to garner the critics’ attention is now responsible for some of the world’s most highly valued ‘cult’ wines, as well as some of the best-selling global brands. It accounts for 95% of US wine exports to 138 countries and draws over 20 million wine tourism visitors each year.The number of wineries has grown from 227 in 1966 to more than 4,000 today, forming a complex ecosystem where large historic estates farm vines cheek-by-jowl with garage wine startups using custom crush facilities. As vintners continue to push the frontiers of viticulture and terroir expression, new appellations are emerging all over state – from Santa Barbara’s Los Alamos Valley, as yet unofficial, to the recently established West Sonoma Coast AVA. It’s clear California wine country still has a lot to give. But, beyond expansion and development, wineries are looking towards a sustainable future. Founded in 2003, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has worked with growers to meet environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable standards. Today 85% of the state’s wine production is certified sustainable, supported by passionate local organisations such as Lodi Rules and Napa Green.
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