In 2012, Bergamot Wine Co. and a small group of winemakers got together to talk about farming. Roughly 93% of Northern California Appellations were planted to only eight grape varieties, the remaining seven percent home to hundreds of lesser known grapes. You know the eight well:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Petite Sirah.
(In 2019 Pinot Gris was added to this Mega-Grown list of grapes…)
The remaining seven percent, we deduced, was home to handfuls of lesser known grapes. A small, steadfast force of winemakers and growers were championing these grapes, tending terroir, replanting vineyards, and producing wines akin to Old World practices. When we noticed the scarcity and rarity of these 7% varieties, we came up with a solution: to bring these growers, winemakers, and wines together in one place for folks to taste and learn: in 2012 Bergamot Wine Co presented the first year of the event SEVEN % SOLUTION.
Each year since we have watched the numbers grow: more acreage planted to the “Seven %” grape varieties, more wines made from “Seven %” grapes, and more winemakers and growers attached and dedicated to the “Seven %” movement. This acceleration of change is exactly what the Seven % Solution tasting event is dedicated to. Which grapes would you like to see more of?
THE SEVEN % CIRCLE
Land Owners have financial considerations when choosing what to plant. But they also hold the first and final card. In this movement small quantities really move the needle. Two or four acres planted to a Seven % grape makes a big difference!
Climate & Soil play a key part in what is chosen to grow. There are interesting pockets of potential for specific grape varieties all over California.
The Growers are the experts that know how to assess what is appropriate to plant. And they also know how easy it is to switch over to a new grape! Essentially you chop the ‘heads’ off of the current vines, graft the DNA of the grape you want it to be, and the next year you have a full new crop of grapes.
Winemakers are the crux of this circle- they spend countless hours sourcing the grapes they want, creating partnerships with growers and land owners, considering pre-plant contracts (sometimes even paying for 1st year losses!), moving the grapes at harvest, and finally, making the wines.
Sommeliers & Buyers for restaurants and wine shops fuel the Seven % celebration. Their passion and specialty of offering the precise bottle for your enjoyment is paramount to this Seven % circle. How else would you be able to taste, purchase, and share these wonderful outlier wines?
Journalists have one of the most interesting roles in the perpetuation and celebration of the the Seven % movement. There are Long-Time heralders of grape varietal diversity (our heartfelt nod to you), and there is press new to the story. And every piece written generates more awareness and enthusiasm for the movement.
Consumers, you are the keystone. Buy this wine, take a chance, listen to your Somm, do your homework, expand your mind, broaden your palate, know what to expect in a certain grape, why that is cool, and why you should care. Your support, your curiosity, and your willingness to expand your palate, are the reason we gather and celebrate.
And now back to the Land Owners – perhaps more might take a risk and replant a few more acres?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE & WHY IT IS COOL
You might know what we’re talking about when we yawn at Pinot. For reals, Pinot is one yummy grape, when it is made in a varietally correct way. But Pinot is overgrown, overmade, and we’re over it. (That doesn’t mean we don’t have a few cases in our cellar- we’re still talking about the movement here, folks.) So what is next? What grape is going to turn the heads of the next generation of wine lovers? Definitely not one of the Big Eight (or as it is in 2019, the Big Nine, having adding Pinot Gris to the lineup of Big Over-Planted Production). We know the answer.
ALL OF THEM.
Aglianico, Albariño, Barbera, Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Pfeffer, Carignan, Charbono, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault, Clairette, Corvina, Counoise, Dolcetto, Dornfelder, Falanghina, Fiano, Freisa, Friulano, Gamay, Gewürztraminer, Graciano, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Malbec, Malvasia, Marsanne, Melon de Bourgogne, Mondeuse , Montepulciano, Mourvèdre, Nebbiolo, Négrette, Orange Muscat, Picpoul, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Refosco , Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, Roussanne, Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Sémillon, St Laurent, Tempranillo, Teroldego, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Trousseau, Trousseau Gris, Valdiguié, Verdelho, Vermentino, Viognier, Zweigelt…
…to name a few.
Though rare to California, these grape varieties are all native to the Old World and enjoy healthy reputations, along with hundreds of other grapes; vines that have usually found ideal climate, terroir, and folks with generations of fine-tuned winemaking practices to bring out the personality of each variety.
A handful of winemakers here in the US, and most specifically the California ‘Seven Percenters’ are making great strides to match their Old World mentors. Each micro-production of these grapes, whether single varietal or blend, are what is next. Because they come from organic and biodynamic farming practices. Because they present the unique personalities of each grape variety (varietal correctness). And most importantly, they bring us a diversity of flavors and textures well above and beyond the 50 different options of Pinot that are currently taking up precious room on the shelves.
Now that is cool.