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Record California Wine Grape Harvest

4.23 million tons crushed, according to preliminary grape crush report

by Andrew Adams
california crush report
Source: Preliminary 2013 California Grape Crush Report

San Rafael, Calif.—California followed up the bumper harvest of 2012 with an even larger one in 2013. At 4.23 million tons, it was higher than analysts expected.

According to the preliminary grape crush report released today by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, California growers produced 2.41 million tons of red wine grapes and 1.83 million tons of white wine grapes).

Red wine grape production was up 5%, and the white wine grape harvest came in 6% higher than in 2012. The state’s entire grape harvest, which includes table and raisin grapes, was expected to total 4,685,075 tons, which is 7% more than in 2012.

The average price of all wine grapes was $745. The average price for red wine grapes was $842, which is 4% less than 2012. The average price for white wine grapes dropped less than 1% to $620.

Napa County grapes still brought the highest prices on average, and District 13 (in the San Joaquin Valley) produced the most grapes at 1.59 million tons.

Chardonnay continued to account for the largest share of the state’s harvest at 16%, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon at 11% and Zinfandel at 10%. Total Pinot Noir production grew by 3% to 256,974, and the variety now accounts for 6% of the state’s total production.

california crush report
Source: Preliminary 2013 California Grape Crush Report

District 3 and 4: Sonoma and Napa
Napa County, or grape District 4, earned the highest average price of $3,691 per ton, followed by Sonoma County in District 3, which had an average of $2,249 per ton. The average price for Cabernet grapes in District 4 was $5,499 per ton, which was a 8.7% increase over 2012's average price of $5,059. The average price for Cabernet in District 3 was $2,489 in 2013 and $2,313 in 2012 an increase of 7.6%. Pinot Noir received an average of $3,118 per ton in District 3, an increase of 3.5% over 2012's average of $3,014.

Wineries crushed 65,757 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from District 4, while District 3 wineries crushed 54,141 tons of Pinot Noir.

Expert opinions
Greg Livengood, president of the wine and grape brokerage Ciatti Co. said the preliminary numbers were largely in line with expectations. He noted it was discouraging to see that the state’s production of Pinot Grigio dropped by a little more than 9% to 178,732 tons.

Pinot Grigio recently surpassed Merlot to take the No. 3 spot in off-premise sales, and Livengood said that popularity needs to be supported.

Livengood was happy to see that the Lodi AVA, or District 11, posted good production totals with producers there crushing 144,381 tons of Cabernet, 177,738 tons of Zinfandel and just less than 95,000 tons of Merlot. The average price in the district for both Zinfandel and Cabernet was around $710. The state’s total Zinfandel harvest grew by more than 4% over 2012 to 467,337 tons.

Brian Clements, vice president and partner at Turrentine Brokerage, said the large harvests in 2012 and 2013 came just when the inventory of bulk wine was at record low levels. “It’s a special event when this happens,” he said. “In this rare case Mother Nature gave us two big crops when we needed it.”

He said there’s around 17 million gallons of bulk wine on the market now, and that could possibly grow to more than 22 million gallons.

He expects prices to remain stable despite the large production numbers and pointed to Sonoma County Chardonnay as an example. The county crushed about 81,000 tons of Chardonnay in 2012 and followed that with 87,344 tons in 2013, yet prices have stayed stable at around $1,900 per ton. Statewide the average price for Chardonnay was $863, which is 2% above the 2012 average price.

Clements said he expects the 4 million-ton mark to be the new baseline for California wine grape production, and it would be more surprising if state grape production were to fall below that point.

Planting and bulk wine
He said more than 100,00 acres have been planted under contract in the San Joaquin County, and those acres are just beginning to become fully productive. “We may see record crops for the next few years,” he said.

The bulk wine and grape market for 2014 is already pretty active, and Clements said that possibly could be explained by the industry-wide concern over drought. Despite the recent rains, Clements said the 2014 and 2015 harvest could be at risk from drought, and producers may be locking in supply now. While one may have thought two large harvests would have slowed the bulk market, the opposite has been true. “I think some of that has to do with the lack of rainfall.”


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