Napa Chardonnay grapes
Chardonnay grapes remain the top white wine variety grown in California.

California grape crush reveals stability within the sector

Wine grape industry leaders see current trends supporting stability in production and acreage across California as vineyards continue to be pulled in the Central Valley

With the recent release of California’s grape crush report, stability  describes the state of the wine grape industry as last year’s crush was up a statistically-insignificant 0.5 percent to just over 4.2 million tons.

The report includes total number of tons crushed for concentrate production--just over 404,000 tons, or less than 10 percent of total crush.

Raisin types crushed in 2017 totaled just over 94,000 tons, up 4.6 percent from the previous year.

Jeff Bitter, vice president of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno, believes the average crush in California should hover around 4.2 million tons based on planted acreage and yield analysis data. That figure includes all wine, raisin and table grapes. Last season’s catastrophic fires on the North Coast and in Santa Barbara had little-to-no impact on crush figures, as much of the crop was harvested before the conflagrations began.

Bitter was little surprised by the crush report and says vineyard acreage in the Central Valley continues to decline in the face of diminishing demand for Valley-grown wine grapes.

As the national economy improves the idea of premiumization – consumers seeking higher-priced wines – should drive wine sales, though Bitter believes reports that suggest the growth in premium wine sales is slowing.

In his report at this year’s Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, Bitter suggested supply stability will be the case through at least 2020 as average yields remain flat at about 7.2 tons per acre, and planting at attrition rates remain almost evenly split within coastal and interior growing regions.

Also in Bitter’s report was an accounting of the 19 million vines sold by California nurseries in 2017. Growers favored red varieties by about 2:1 over white varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay lead the two varietal categories.

By the Numbers

While the full report is available online, an overview reveals that red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed at over 2.24 million tons, down 1.4 percent from the previous year.

White wine varieties crushed totaled just over 1.76 million tons, up 0.8 percent from the previous year.

Red varieties climbed 5.1 percent in price to an average of $965 per ton, while whites were down 1.8 percent to nearly $588 on average. This average includes the District 4 (Napa County) all-grape average of $5,225 per ton, which was an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

Grape prices in Sonoma and Marin counties received the second-highest returns at over $2,800 per ton, an 8 percent boost from the previous year.

Leading varieties crushed in the state last year include Chardonnay (14.5 percent of the crush), Cabernet Sauvignon (14.2 percent of the crush) and Zinfandel (8.6 percent of the crush).

TAGS: Vine Crops
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