Finger Lakes Grape Prices Swell

Riesling averages $1,479 per ton as prices for 31 of 56 varieties increase

by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee
Ithaca, N.Y.—In 2012, for the first time in several years, grape prices in the Finger Lakes region of New York are higher across the board. The list of prices in the accompanying table was furnished to Wines & Vines by Hans Walter-Peterson, viticulture extension specialist with the Finger Lakes Grape Program. Of the 56 varieties listed, 31 increased in price, 10 moved slightly lower, and 15 were unchanged.

The strongest demand this year is for Riesling. The average price per ton is $1,479, up from $1,362, an increase of 9% from 2011. Walter-Peterson said Riesling is in such short supply that it’s impossible to find any for sale. Other white vinifera prices included Chardonnay, up 7% from $1,169 to $1,252; Gewürztraminer, 4% from $1,444 to $1,503; Viognier from $1,650 to $1,700; and Pinot Gris, up 3% from $1,572 to $1,619.

Among red vinifera, Lemberger gained 7%, from $1,325 to $1,417 and Pinot Noir went up from $1,605 to $1,677, or nearly 5%. Smaller increases were posted for Merlot, $1,783 to $1,819; Cabernet Franc, $1,250 to $1,269; and Cabernet Sauvignon, $1,620 to $1,653.

White hybrid prices were not as strong although Verdelet was up 17%, from $472 to $550. Aurore increased from $370 to $385, Cayuga White from $560 to $571, and Traminette from $858 to $866. Seyval was unchanged at $613 while Vidal Blanc went down from $621 to $607. Also on the minus side was Vignoles, moving down from $739 to $718.

The three newest varieties introduced at Geneva had good gains: Valvin Muscat from $763 to $865 (13%); Noiret, $628 to $680 (8%); and Corot Noir, $590 to $631 (7%).

Red hybrid varieties also showed price increases. Baco Noir rose from $557 to $569, Chambourcin from $785 to $789, and Maréchal Foch from $638 to $642. Two less prominent varieties were among the biggest gainers: Rosette, up 20% from $375 to $450, and Rougeon, 12% from $494 to $552.

With the exception of Niagara, which went down from $334 to $326, the four major Native American varieties posted increases. Concord went from $304 to $324, Isabella, $450 to $475; Delaware, $394 to $414; and Catawba from $337 to $338.

New York State wineries that purchase more than five tons of any grape variety are required to publish the prices they will pay by Aug. 15 of each year. Walter-Peterson said some of the prices reported by wineries are for their own fruit. Others may be contracted prices between growers and wineries.

The weather in the Finger Lakes was warm and dry, but to a lesser extent than last year. The rain that fell from late summer to the beginning of harvest did not continue on as it did in 2010. Late spring frosts in some areas and uneven fruit set are responsible for yields being average to below average for the vinifera and Native American varieties, and average for the hybrids. The harvest is two to three weeks ahead of normal.

Walter-Peterson summed up this year’s grape prices as encouraging and the potential for a quality crop as “fantastic,” at least as good as 2010.

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