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California Sees Record Grape Harvest

Preliminary report puts total above record haul in 2005

by Andrew Adams
california preliminary crush report
Preliminary Grape Crush Report, Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, California Department of Food and Agriculture.
San Rafael, Calif.—The total 2012 grape harvest in California is expected to be a record 4.38 million tons, 13% higher than 2011 and about 1% higher than the harvest of 2005, which had previously been the all-time record for the state.

Grape prices also reached record highs, with the average price for red winegrapes 40% higher than in 2010.

The totals were included in the preliminary crush report issued today by the state office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Subtracting table and raisin grapes from the total, California produced 4,013,904 tons of winegrapes in 2012. Most industry experts had predicted the winegrape harvest would come in at around 3.8 million tons, but the official estimate surpasses those predications and confirms the record year predicted by many growers and vintners. 

Red wine varieties accounted for 2,289,783 tons, which was the largest share of the 2012 harvest and up 19% from 2011. White wine grapes were up 21% from 2011 and totaled 1,724,121 tons.

Prices for winegrapes saw double-digit growth from 2011. The average price for all grape varieties reached the record high of $734.35, a 24% increase over 2011 figures. Red winegrapes were up 24% to $879, and white winegrapes were up 15% to $623.50.

The vintage’s favorable growing conditions pushed yields higher because total vineyard acreage in California has stayed relatively flat. A short market of bulk wine helped boost prices.

Grape and wine broker Ciatti Co. attributed the record harvest to “historically high yields” in the Central Coast, Napa County, Sonoma County and Lodi area. The Central Valley’s crop was just slightly larger than last year.

"We experienced yields per ton on Pinot Noir in many areas that were not thought possible,” Ciatti broker and partner Glen Proctor said in the statement released by the company. With the grape and wine market coming into balance, there may be wine price increases in the future to offset the high grape and bulk wine prices of 2012. “Wineries are now trying to decide if they will pass these costs of goods increases to the consumers or adjust their margins."

Cabernet Sauvignon remained the top red variety in the state, accounting for 11.3% of the total, followed by Zinfandel at 10.3%; Merlot at 7.6%; French Colombard at 7.1%, and Pinot Noir with 5.6%. Chardonnay accounted for 16.8% of the total grapes crushed, followed by Pinot Gris at 4.5%.

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