Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 1 (GLRaV-1) is one of the causal agents of grapevine leafroll disease (GLD). To investigate the prevalence and genetic variation of GLRaV-1 in China, 132 grapevine samples from 14 Chinese provinces and regions were tested using reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) and reverse transcription nested PCR (RT-nPCR). The samples included symptomatic and asymptomatic cultivars, and 36.4 % of them tested positive for GLRaV-1. ‘Beida’ samples, previously identified as virus-free rootstocks, were also found to be infected with GLRaV-1 with an incidence of 40 %. GLRaV-1 coat protein (CP) genes and heat-shock protein 70 (HSP70) genes from 43 GLRaV-1 isolates were selected and sequenced. Phylogenetic analysis of global CP and HSP70 gene sequences showed that all variants belonged to eight and seven groups, respectively. For CP gene sequence variants, group 4 was a new group that included only Chinese isolates. The results also showed that natural selection, rather than random processes, led to the evolution of variants belonging to CP gene sequence variants in group 2 and group 8. Furthermore, three new recombination events were identified in the GLRaV-1 CP gene population. This is the first report on the genetic variation of GLRaV-1 isolates in China, and this study will benefit grape clean-plant programs in China.