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Lodi has become ‘a hotbed for experimentation’

While Napa and Sonoma steal most of the limelight, Lodi in California has become “a hotbed for experimentation”, according to one key player in the region.

Gnarly old Zinfandel vines in Lodi, California, which has become a hotbed for experimentation

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to California, Stuart Spencer, executive director of Lodi Winegrape Commission, said:

“While best known for its old vine Zinfandel, there are 100 different grape varieties in the ground in Lodi, including Italian varieties like Aglianico, Sangiovese and Nero d’Avola.

Top seller Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel from Delicato Family Vineyards features grapes from 80-year-old Zin vines

“One grower has 50 different German varieties planted in Lodi, from Kerner to Dornfelder. There’s a lot of interest in planting Albariño in Lodi at the moment. You’d be a fool to plant it in Napa, as you can get a much higher return on Cabernet, but the economics makes sense here.

“The region is a hotbed for experimentation at the moment as land and grapes are cheaper here than in Napa and Sonoma, so it’s attracting younger winemakers who are keen to try new things.”

Lodi produces 40% of California’s entire wine output. There are 750 growers in the region, 85 wineries and 110,000 acres of vines across seven sub-AVAs.

The current wave of experimentation is being fuelled by Lodi’s bounty of different soil types, from gravel, clay and sand to loam, which makes it suited to a broad range of grapes.

There’s also a strong sense of camaraderie and winemakers working together in the region. Spencer believes Lodi Zinfandel is experiencing an evolution in style.

“Lodi can do the fruit bomb style of Zinfandel very well but the market has matured and producers are making a wide range of Zins now with lower alcohol levels.

“We’re starting to see a stylistic evolution of Zinfandel as the market becomes more accepting of other styles. More distinctive single vineyard Zinfandels are coming to the fore,” he told db.

“The region has a foot in two worlds at the moment as it produces both commodity and premium wines. Our goal is to transition more into the premium side of the business and we will encourage growers in the region to do the same. It’s an exciting time for Lodi – the future is bright.”

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