Grape Prices Flat in Finger Lakes

Wineries still have surplus inventories, reduce purchasing

by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee
Among white hybrid varieties Traminette experienced the biggest price decrease.

Geneva, N.Y. -- The surplus of grapes that was responsible for a drop in prices in New York’s Finger Lakes region in 2009 has eased, but prices this year remain close to where they were last year. Hans Walter-Peterson, viticulture specialist with the Finger Lakes Grape Program, told Wines & Vines that while sales at many Finger Lakes wineries have increased this year, wineries have not completely worked through their backlogs. Some wineries have cut back their purchases in order to control inventories.

Most price changes announced for 2010 were slight, whether moving up or down. For the major red vinifera varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon was up $13 per ton to an average of $1,618; Cabernet Franc was $4 higher to $1,246; Pinot Noir was up $33 to $1,565; Merlot was down $28 to $1,778. Price changes for the major white vinifera varieties were also minimal. Chardonnay was down $13 to $1,225; Riesling was up $42 to $1,459; Gewürztraminer was $43 higher to $1,483. The two biggest gainers in the vinifera were in less widely planted varieties. Pinot Gris was up an average of $106 per ton to $1,646, and Lemberger was up $81 to $1,350.

White hybrid varieties were mostly down. The biggest move on the downside was Traminette, which fell to $850 from $935. Seyval was down $24 per ton; Aurore, $23; and Vidal and Cayuga White both $17. Among the red hybrid varieties, Chambourcin was up $57 to $745, and Maréchal Foch up $16 to $625. Chancellor dropped $33 to $667. The three recently named Geneva varieties moved both ways: Corot Noir up $21, Valvin Muscat down $47, and Noiret down $81.

Prices of native American varieties were also little changed. Concords were down $3 per ton, Catawba up $7, Delaware and Diamond both up $8. Two of the larger moves were in double digits:  Isabella down $17 to $475, and Ives down $15 to $400.
Prices for grapes not only fell in 2009, but for many varieties had dropped from 2007 to 2008. This led Walter-Peterson to comment, “Flat is the new up. Not seeing prices going down any more is a happy thing. It’s certainly less discouraging.”


The list of grape prices in the accompanying table was furnished to Wines & Vines by Walter-Peterson. New York state wineries that purchase more than 5 tons of any grape variety are required to publish the prices they will pay by Aug. 15 of each year. According to Walter-Peterson, some of the prices reported are prices paid by wineries for their own fruit. Others may be contracted prices between growers and wineries.

Because the weather in the Finger Lakes this summer was warm and wet, harvest is expected to be two weeks ahead of normal. What is needed now is sunny and dry weather for the remainder of the season. If this happens, Walter-Peterson believes that there is the potential for a really good crop along the lines of 2007.

For a list of grape prices including table grapes from 1999-2010, visit: flg.cce.cornell.edu/GrapeHarvestPrices.html.

Posted on 10.14.2010 - 07:47:23 PST
Thank you Linda, Hudson, and all of the Cornell Viticulture Specialists. Your work benefits the entire wine industry and we appreciate it. Sharing purchase prices reduces the chaos grape sellers and buyers dealt with years ago. Some people don’t know what that was like and reminds me of the quote - before you criticize walk a mile in my moccasins. Anyway, the NY wine industry knows the reality of why grape prices are lower. We all know it’s due to the absurdly limited markets to sell wine to consumers who live in cities in towns in NYS.
Carol Doolittle
Trumansburg, NY USA

Posted on 09.06.2010 - 14:22:44 PST
While I agree that these prices are accurate for the few wineries reporting, It's a big leap to a conclusion about FL grape prices based on a sample of 18 large and 4 small wineries out of 300 in NY (not counting out of state purchasers). Your article implies that overall grape prices are flat in the Finger Lakes. Your comments take the implication state wide with reference to "The NY pricing" (equating it to "The Ontario Pricing"). Ontario prices are published and valid.

Wineries in NY have to report pricing to NY if they buy more than $10K in grapes that will not be sold direct to consumer. This price data is not shared with Cornell - that is done by the wineries if they choose to. It would be meaningful (and helpful) if NY ag/mkts would share their aggregate data with Cornell.

I believe that you believe these are valid NY prices (as you call them), but they are not. The data is seriously flawed.
Duncan Ross
Lockport, NY USA

Posted on 08.30.2010 - 16:08:28 PST
There may have been a time when this list indicated something useful, perhaps when the State had only 30 wineries. Today, the response is statistically insignificant - 21 total respondants with 14 for Riesling. With about 300 wineries in the state, it's a fair bet to say that well over 100 buy Riesling from the Finger Lakes. Out of state buyers are also ignored by this "survey". It's a shame that Cornell associates their name and logo with this and a larger shame when media picks it up and prints it without giving some thought to the plausability of the numbers.

To be fair, The author acknowledges that the pricing also includes wineries who buy their own fruit and there is also a disclaimer on the list regarding the lack of a "weighted average. But even with a weighted average, the sample size is too small reflect the actual grape market in NY (or even the Finger Lakes).
Duncan Ross
Lockport, NY USA

Posted on 08.30.2010 - 19:26:54 PST
I dunno, I find it useful and appreciate this info being shared by Hudson and Linda. The real shame is there is no national source or annual accounting of true prices from every region...north, south, east and west. I have met so many folks fleeced by growers who overcharged small winemakers. Keep the info coming!
Three Sisters Vineyards
Dahlonega, GA USA

Posted on 08.31.2010 - 11:27:33 PST
It’s important to furnish growers and wineries with grape prices in time for them to make use of the information. The requirement by the NYS Dept. of Ag. & Markets that wineries publish grape prices by Aug. 15 with a penalty if a winery violates their pricing structure, is a step in providing some integrity to the process.
How accurate are the prices? More accurate than one might think. At Wine East, we published grape prices for 25+ years, including the NY prices, prices in Ontario (established by direct negotiation between wineries and growers), and prices from Presque Isle Wine Cellars in North East, PA. It was remarkable how close prices were.
We think Cornell U. is providing a service by disseminating the prices, especially when those prices come from wineries that range in size from Constellation to small farm wineries. Publishing price information gives a sense of the market, and that is far preferable to not publishing anything at all.
Hudson Cattell and
Linda Jones McKee
Linda Jones McKee
Lancaster, PA USA