Assessing the California Crush of 2010

The 2010 California winegrape crop weighed in at 3.58 million tons.

That’s down about 3 percent from the 2009 tonnage, but still ranks as the third largest harvest in history – trailing 2009 and 2005.

Why is this important? Because grape tonnage determines the amount of wine produced, and available supply is one key factor in wine pricing. In general, larger harvests tend to be better for consumers, including members of the wine clubs of Vinesse.

Here’s a selection of observations on the harvest from representatives of Turrentine Brokerage:

* “Perhaps the most important news for the California wine industry is that interior region Cabernet Sauvignon production declined by almost 13,000 tons – the equivalent of almost a million cases – while sales of this value-priced Cabernet are growing at a fast rate. Some of this shortfall is balanced by a larger crop of Cabernet Sauvignon on the Central Coast.” – Steve Fredricks

* “The best news for the California wine business was the lighter crop of Chardonnay in the Central Valley, which was down 62,000 tons, or 10.5 million gallons. That decrease should help Chardonnay inventories move toward balance as case goods sales continue to increase – especially at the value end of the market.” – Brian Clements

* “Overall, Chardonnay, the largest variety, was down a substantial 10% statewide in 2010 compared to 2009, which is a decrease of 12 million gallons or almost 60 million bottles (over 5 million cases). The lower yields were mostly in the areas supplying value-priced brands, which are growing but face competition from low-cost imports.” – Steve Fredricks

* “According to proprietary research conducted by Turrentine Brokerage, the overall inventory position of the industry is much better today than it was a year ago. Many brands have successfully pared inventories and are now in need of wine to satisfy growing sales. Wine consumption continued to grow through the recession, but some consumers ‘traded down’ to less expensive wines. We’re starting to see those consumers trade back up, which is good news for wineries and growers.” – Steve Fredricks

* “The North Coast region experienced a decrease of 5% in crop size overall, which was generally bigger than expected. The growing season was especially challenging in 2010, with relatively cool weather, interrupted by one intense heat spike, and then heavy rains as harvest approached.” – Audra Cooper

* “Although the winegrape crop was down statewide, we had an above-average crop on the Central Coast – up 5% from average. Several red varieties were well above average, led by Cabernet Sauvignon (up 22%), Syrah (up 22%), and Merlot (up 16%). Pinot Noir was down 8% from 2009, but was by far the second largest Pinot Noir crop in history on the Central Coast, due to newly planted acres coming into production. Demand remains strong for grapes and wine on the Central Coast; however, average prices are still well below the pre-recession levels.” – Matt Turrentine

Posted in The Wine Business
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