PARLIER, Calif. -- Researchers at the University of California's Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center here are having some success with growing unique winegrape varieties.

Nearly half the 55 unusual varieties in a plot at the center displayed enough promising characteristics to prompt a cooperating vintner to make 25 small lots of wine, according to a UC news release.

The research is aimed at expanding the industry's options in the San Joaquin Valley, which leads other regions in production but lags in terms of price, the university explained.

Viticulturists at the Kearney center are growing winegrape varieties that were collected from countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy, where the climate is similar to the valley's hot days and warm evenings.

Currently, four-fifths of California wines are made with fewer than 10 types of winegrapes, with Chardonnay being the most popular white and Cabernet Sauvignon the most popular red, the UC notes.

-- Tim Hearden

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