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California Wine Harvest Tops 4 Million Tons

March 2017
 
by Paul Franson
 
 

Sacramento, Calif.—The 2016 wine grape harvest totaled 4.0 million tons, up 8.5% from the 2015 crush.

Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 2.26 million tons, up 10.5% from 2015. White wine varieties crushed totaled 1.75 million tons, up 4.9% from the previous year.

Raisin-type varieties accounted for 98,205 tons, a 6.2% increase, and table grape varieties totaled 97,729 tons, up 38.3% from 2015.

Glenn Proctor of Ciatti Brokerage said, “It was kind of an average crop, in line with what we expected.”

The price for 2016 red wine grapes was up 13.9% from the previous year, while white wine grapes increased 9.9% in price during the same period.

The average price paid for all varieties was $750.27 per ton, up 11.7% from 2015. Average prices for the 2016 crop by type were as follows: red wine grapes, $899.44, up 13.9% from 2015; white wine grapes, $594.01, up 9.9% from 2015; raisin grapes, $213.64, down 13.7%; and table grapes, $153.05, down 39.4%.

In 2016, Chardonnay continued to account for the largest percentage of the total crush volume with 16%. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for the second-highest tonnage percentage with 13.3% of tons crushed.

Napa County crushed 146,558 tons, up 18.5% from 2015, with wineries crushing 105,093 tons of red grapes and 41,464 tons of white grapes. Sonoma County crushed 221,379 tons of wine grapes in 2016, an increase of 21.5% from the previous year; 127,149 tons of red grapes and 94,231 tons of white grapes were crushed in the county.

The next eight most-crushed varieties included only wine grapes. Thompson Seedless, the leading raisin variety crushed for 2016, held 2% of the total crush.

District 13, (Madera, Fresno, Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties, plus Kings and Tulare counties north of Nevada Avenue) had the largest share of the state’s wine grape harvest at 1.33 million tons. The average price per ton in District 13 was $301.59.

Grapes produced in District 4 (Napa County) garnered the highest average price of $4,666.35 per ton, up 7.3% from 2015. Cabernet Sauvignon was up 12% in price, from $6,224 to $6,943.

District 3 (Sonoma and Marin counties) received the second-highest return of $2,584.87 per ton, up 5.9% from 2015.

The most expensive lot was $59,375 per ton of Cabernet Sauvignon for 7.7 acres in Napa County. The highest price for Pinot Noir was $13,074 per ton for 2.4 acres in Sonoma County.
The average price paid for Chardonnay in 2016 was $880.51, up 11.7% from 2015. The average price for Cabernet Sauvignon was $1,432.73, up 8.8% from 2015.

The 2016 average price for Zinfandel was $603.14, up 4.9% from 2015, while the Merlot average price was up 3.3% from 2015 at $765.34 per ton.

Jeff Bitter, vice president of Allied Grape Growers, found the size of the 2016 crop unimpressive. “Even though the 2016 wine grape crush was larger than either of the previous two years, it still fell slightly short of what we consider an average-sized crop in California. Based on bearing acreage estimates and multi-year yield analysis, an average crush would have landed at right about 4.2 million tons,” he said in a news release.

Not every region was up equally. CEO Steve Fredricks of Turrentine Brokerage noted that the Central Valley was impacted by vine removal and lack of water, though there was a needed rebound in the coastal areas.

He also observed a big increase in Cabernet Sauvignon from District 11, Clarksburg and Lodi, probably from new plantings. Tonnage of Petite Verdot was also up by a surprising 43% statewide compared to the previous year, with more than a third of the crop coming from District 11.

Pinot Grigio also saw large growth in the interior and 32% statewide, though Muscat varieties fell. Speaking of the increase in Pinot Grigio, Proctor noted, “We’d been at 185,000 tons to 195,000 tons for the past four years, and it jumped to 243,000 due to the new plantings.”

Proctor also observed good strength in pricing across the board. He said it was surprising to see the strength of Cabernet Sauvignon, up 11% in both Napa and Sonoma. “Statewide, it was up more than 10%.”

That amounts to 100,000 tons more Cabernet statewide—part of that from Paso Robles, which had water issues. “Lodi was up 23%. Clearly the variety of choice for new plantings is Cabernet,” Proctor said. “The demand is there.”

He guessed that the 2017 Cabernet harvest would be closer to 600,000 tons (up from 557,195 in 2016).

Proctor said he was surprised that Chardonnay prices were up 10% statewide. He also noted that Petite Sirah, which is in great demand as a blender variety, hit 100,000 tons. “It’s a real variety now,” he commented. 

The entire Grape Crush Report is available online at nass.usda.gov/ca.

 
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