Over 320 different grape varieties were registered to the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB) in 2018 (compared to 290 in 2017). The judges awarded both international and native varietals. Medals for international varieties prevail – they have experienced significant growth across the globe.  

“Nowadays quality wine is produced in many different parts of the world”, Thomas Costenoble, Director General of CMB, comments. “Varieties that were once native, have become international and are of similar excellent features. Chardonnay originates from Burgundy. Our judges awarded not only “the usual suspects” France, Italy and China, where that variety is the most-planted one, but also producers from the Check Republic, Belgium and Romania. Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Bordeaux. But Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon won the highest number of medals in that category”, he continues. The top ten varieties awarded by CMB in 2018 are: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Chardonnay, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Touriga Nacional, Pinot Noir, and Primitivo.

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France is at the top for awarded varieties: the country got the highest number of medals for 6 varieties produced there – Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Merlot is the top grown variety in France. Originally from Bordeaux, it is now planted in 37 countries. France got the highest number of medals for Merlot (214), followed by China (15), Spain (13) and Italy (10). Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon gained the highest number of medals for that international variety. Fifty one percent of the medals for Cabernet Sauvignon come from the 3 countries where that variety is the most widely planted: China (62 medals), France (38) and Chili (33). In China it is planted on 60 000 ha[1] – the largest global vine area with this variety cultivated. In Chili, it is about 20% of the country’s vineyard area.Ninety eight percent of the medals for Tempranillo went to Spain, and 2% – to Mexico. Tempranillo is the 5th most cultivated variety in the world, but 88% of it is cultivated in Spain[2].Originally from the Rhône valley in France, Syrah is now a famous international variety. The countries whose Syrah got the highest number of medals are France (66), Portugal (32), Spain (26), and Australia (14) – where it is the most-planted variety.

France won the greatest accolades for its Chardonnays (59 medals), followed by Italy (14) and China (13). Originating from Burgundy, Chardonnay is widely grown in France (51 000 ha) and Italy (20 000 ha). Cultivated on just 3 000 ha, it is the most planted white grape variety in China.    France and Spain got the highest number of medals for their Grenache (147 – for the former, 52 – for the latter). 67% percent of all medals for Grenache went to those two countries that produce 87% of the global variety.Sauvignon Blanc’s medals went to France, South Africa, Spain, Chili, Italy, Slovakia, Greece, Romania, New Zealand…This white grape variety, grown in France for centuries, is now an international one. It is the top planted white grape variety in Chili and the most cultivated variety in New Zealand.  

All 80 medals for Touriga Nacional went exclusively to Portugal. The two countries with the highest number of medals for Pinot Noir are France (35) and Switzerland (10). Italy, Australia, Bulgaria and China got 3 medals each. Originating from Burgundy, this variety is widely grown in Europe and “the New World”.  Pinot Noir is the most common red wine variety in Switzerland. One hundred percent of the awarded Primitivo comes from Italy, regardless of the fact that Primitivo is not among the most planted varieties there. There aren’t any significant differences in the awarded grape varieties between 2017 and 2018. Last year, when CMB was held in Spain, Tempranillo was the variety with the highest number of medals. In 2017 Carménère got more medals than Primitivo and was ranked 10th in the list, whereas in 2018, Primitivo took the position of Carménère.

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“CMB judges recognized also the authenticity and quality of indigenous wines. Countries which grow mostly local varieties and entered their best local products in the contest, were distinguished”, Thomas Costenoble elucidates.

According to OIV, “Italy’s vineyards are primarily planted with native varieties”. Its indigenous varieties Sangiovese (34 medals) and Montepulciano (30 medals) came 2nd and 3rd in the CMB list of awarded varieties, preceded only by Primitivo (58 medals). The Italian Glera variety (which tripled from 2000 till 2015) was also distinguished.  Portugal and Greece have the highest share of medals for their country-specific wines. The two countries cultivate hundreds of indigenous varietals. Over 75% of Greece is planted with native varieties, though the trend is for the international varieties to increase.

The top 3 awarded indigenous wines from Greece are Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and Savatiano, followed by the international Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Touriga Nacional, Castelão, Touriga Franca and Baga are among the native red varieties from Portugal with a reward from CMB.   Switzerland’s indigenous Chasselas got the highest number of medals for that country. Originating in the north of the Geneva Lake, it is the most common white grape variety, occupying about 27% of Switzerland’s vineyards. Pinot Noir is the top red grape variety in Switzerland, planted on some 30% of its area, and it ranks 2nd in terms of medals for that country.

The next edition of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles will be in May 2019, in Aigle, in the Swiss “canton” of Vaud. The indigenous Chasselas is the Cépage-roi (“King of grapes”) of exactly that canton, representing 60% of the wine production.

[1] The top table grape varieties in China are Kyoho (44%) and Red Globe (18%)

[2] Facts and figures about the varieties, other than the CMB statistics, are from the “Focus OIV 2017: Distribution of the world’s grapevine varieties”: http://www.oiv.int/public/medias/5888/en-distribution-of-the-worlds-grapevine-varieties.pdf