Tag Archives: grapes

2011 California Wine Sales Sets Record

Western Farm Press.  23 March 2012.Sales of California wine within the U.S. in 2011 grew to a record 211.9 million cases, up 5.6 percent in volume compared to the previous year. The estimated retail value of these shipments was $19.9 billion, according to wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside. Global 2011 California wine sales to all markets in the U.S. and worldwide also increased 5.6 percent to 256.6 million cases.

“California’s vintners grew the wine market with creative, innovative offerings at all price points,” said Wine Institute President and CEO Robert P. (Bobby) Koch. “Our wineries are in sync with consumer tastes and California wines have increasingly become a preferred lifestyle choice.” Wineries worldwide competed for consumer attention in the U.S. with thousands of brands– 120,000 new wine labels were approved by the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau last year. Wine sales expanded as Americans were treated to a diverse array of classic and new wine choices including Moscato, sweet reds and other easy-drinking wines with unpretentious packaging. Restaurant business recovered somewhat and value-oriented wines were still key for on-premise offerings. Many marketers focused on new opportunities in the direct-to-consumer channel as the number of states that now accept these shipments has expanded to 39, and apps and other technologies have made it easier for consumers to use these online options, according to Fredrikson.

Wine sales in U.S. off-premise measured channels from all domestic and foreign production sources grew 2 percent on volume and almost 4 percent on value, according to Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy. Most of the growth was with wines from California and other U.S. states, up 4 percent in volume, while imports shrunk 1 percent in volume. Within Table wine, Chardonnay remained the most popular with 21 percent of the volume, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent volume share; Merlot, 10 percent volume share, Pinot Grigio/Gris, 8 percent market share, and White Zinfandel, 7 percent market share. The most impressive percentage gains were Muscat/Moscato now up close to 4 percent market share, and growing by 73 percent on volume, and sweet red wines, close to a 1 percent share, with growth over 200 percent. Also of note among varietals with double digit gains were Malbec, holding a 1 percent share, up 33 percent in volume and Pinot Noir, a 4 percent share and growing 12 percent in volume. Blended Red wines also grew at double digit levels and moved up close to a 5 percent market share.

“Wine consumers are adventuresome by nature so Muscat/Moscato became a popular new flavor to try, experiencing the largest varietal volume gain of the year,” commented Danny Brager, vice president of client services for beverage alcohol at The Nielsen Company. The “millennial” consumer, aged 21-34 who make up 26 percent of legal drinking age Americans, continue to be a wine sales growth driver, while Baby Boomers continue to be the largest generations contributor to overall wine sales. Even with the volatile economy, consumers are finding high quality and value in the wine category, and continue to experiment with sweet reds, unoaked wines, wine blends, and other diverse offerings, he explained. read more

California Wines Can Expect Growing Demand

Wines and Vines.  16 March 2012.  The California wine market is experiencing a structural shortage and likely won’t return to balance for at least four years, according to Matt Turrentine, who spoke Thursday during the Central Coast Insights Conference. The partner with Turrentine Wine Brokerage said, “We’ve undisputedly entered a period of shortage for all areas and varieties.” Turrentine said that in 2011 California shipped out 257 million cases of wine, while the 2011 harvest only yielded the equivalent of 210 million cases—a disparity of 47 million cases, or 750,000 tons.

Turrentine said vineyard plantings did not keep pace with demand, and the recession had winery owners clearing out inventory. With actual inventory of bulk wine is at its lowest point in more than a decade, Turrentine described the situation as a structural shortage. “There’s not enough grapes for everyone to get what they want,” he said. “We’ve all kind of run dry at the same time.”

Speaking to a crowd of about 200 Central Coast winery owners and grapegrowers, Turrentine detailed how the area’s 2011 harvest was especially bitter. An ill-timed frost and disease pressure trimmed the Central Coast harvest by nearly 30%, a loss of about 25 million gallons, an amount he likened to the highest point of the bulk wine glut in 2002. Today bulk wine inventories are below 5 million gallons, and Turrentine said he expects no additional flow of wine to enter the market. “We’re below 5 (million gallons), and we expect to stay there. That’s not a balanced market, that’s a short market.”

In the past 12 months, Turrentine said most prices for the bulk wine have doubled. “The limited supply is being allocated by price,” he said. The global market is also tight. Turrentine said there is no wine-producing nation with an untapped reservoir of wine. Spain—traditionally a good market for affordable, quality wine—is effectively sold out, he said. Growers and wineries will need to plant more, but Turrentine said it would take four to six years to equalize the market. Plus, the challenges to planting more vineyards—tight credit, lack of nursery stock, land costs regulations and water—are ever present. Long-term contracts vital Mark Couchman, president of Silverado Premium Properties, recalled a negociant winery that was having trouble trying to sell just two years ago. At the time, he said, long-term grower contracts were viewed as a liability; today those same contracts are seen as vital to surviving the changed market. Couchman’s comments came during a panel discussion about the future of the Central Coast wine industry. Joining Couchman on the dais was Jeff Menashe, president of Demeter Group, and Jean-Charles Boisset, president of Boisset Family Estates. Boisset had nothing but enthusiastic praise for the Central Coast. He said the drive from Napa to San Luis Obispo reminded him of the drive from Burgundy to the south of France.

The Central Coast is home to an exquisite terroir, Boisset said, and the name “Monterey” is known throughout the world as a top tourist destination. “We’re all sitting on the future gold rush,” he said. Boisset Family Estates formed a partnership with Lockwood Vineyard in 2011, and Boisset said the winery’s 1,850-acre vineyard is a testament to the audacity and hopefulness that he finds so inspiring about American entrepreneurship. Yet Boisset also cautioned that people must not forget the terroir of the Central Coast and not deviate from varieties that are best suited for the area. Producers also should focus on making the finest wines possible. “My advice is to always focus on premium or super premium grapes. That’s where America belongs,” he said. “America does not belong in selling $2.99 or $3.99 wine in an emerging market.” Menashe said the United States is on track to consume 500 million cases of wine per year by 2025. To meet that growing demand, he said vineyard planting needs to take “a gigantic leap forward.”  read more


Growing Produce.  March 2012.  One of the important characteristics of soil when it comes to supplying nutrients is its “cation exchange capacity,” or its ability to supply the nutrients that come in cation form (cation = ion with a positive electrical charge). In the realm of plant nutrition, the cations we usually talk about are potassium, magnesium, and calcium (K, Mg, Ca). Of the three, magnesium is required in the smallest amount in the vine, but that small amount serves some very important functions.

Like most of the other essential nutrients, magnesium has a few different roles in the plant. One of the primary ones is as the central atom in the chlorophyll molecule, which explains why leaves in deficient vines have leaves that are chlorotic, or yellowing, between the veins of older leaves. Magnesium is also important in the formation and functioning of ATP, the plant’s cellular energy source, the synthesis of DNA and RNA, and many other enzymatic reactions.

How Much Does The Plant Need? While categorized as a macronutrient, along with nitrogen, potassium, calcium, sulfur, and phosphorous, vines do not require as much magnesium as the others in this group.

The generally accepted standard for magnesium in petiole samples is about 0.3% to 0.5% at bloom, and 0.35% to 0.75% in samples taken 70 to 100 days after bloom.  Because the vine does not require as much magnesium as other nutrients, it also does not lose as much when the fruit is harvested — about 0.2 pounds per ton of grapes harvested.

Magnesium is taken up by the vines in its ionic form, Mg2+, like other cation nutrients. Because its valence, or charge, is similar to that of other cations, primarily potassium (K+) and calcium (Ca2+), it competes with these other nutrients for uptake by the vines’ roots. In other words, if there is an excess of any of these three nutrients in the soil, it can induce a deficiency of one or both of the others.

We usually see this antagonism played out between potassium and magnesium. For example, dolomitic limestone (limestone with both magnesium and calcium carbonates) is often applied in vineyards with acidic soils to maintain or raise soil pH because magnesium is less accessible to the roots at lower pH. However, if large amounts of lime are applied at once, it is possible to create a potassium deficiency later on because of the presence of so much magnesium relative to the potassium content of the soils.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms generally show up in late summer and fall, when the tissue between the primary veins on basal leaves will start to turn yellow, while the tissue near the veins remains green. In red-fruited varieties, the leaves may turn a reddish color more than yellow. The deficiency will first appear on basal leaves because the vines will mobilize nutrients like magnesium from older leaves to younger ones when they are in short supply.

Correcting Mg Deficiencies. Magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) is usually used to address magnesium deficiencies, especially if soil pH does not need to be adjusted.  It can be applied either as a foliar spray or to the soil. Foliar applications can be used to correct small deficiencies in a single season, but soil applications are more appropriate for longer-term correction. Foliar applications should be made two to three times around fruit set, using a rate of 5 to 10 pounds of MgSO4 in 75 to 100 gallons of water per acre.

If soil pH needs to be raised, dolomitic limestone can be used to increase pH and add magnesium to the soil simultaneously at a rate of 1 to 2 tons per acre. Adding higher amounts may trigger the potassium deficiencies mentioned earlier. If using magnesium sulfate, we usually recommend applying 300 to 600 pounds per acre as a band under the trellis.  read more

California’s 2011 Winegrape Crush Down 7%

Growing Produce.  10 February 2012.   California’s 2011 winegrape crush totaled 3,342,689 tons, down 7% from 2010, according to the official USDA preliminary grape crush report, which was released today. The total grape crush, which includes grapes for concentrate, totaled 3,869,894 tons, down 3% from the 2010 crush of 3,986,314 tons.

Both red and white winegrapes were down by the same percentage. Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 1,917,132 tons, down 7% from 2010. The 2011 white wine variety crush totaled 1,425,557 tons, down 7% from 2010. Tons crushed of raisin type varieties totaled 372,551, up 36% from 2010, and tons crushed of table type varieties totaled 154,653, up 25% from 2010.

The 2011 average price per ton of all varieties reached a record high of $588.96, up 8% from 2010 and 3% above the previous record high set in 2009. Average prices for the 2011 crop by type were as follows: red wine grapes, $702.70, up 12% from 2010; white wine grapes, $541.11, up 8% from 2010; raisin grapes, $265.15, up 23%; and table grapes, $219.20, up 26%.

In 2011, Chardonnay accounted for the largest percentage of the total crush volume with 14.4%. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for the second leading percentage of crush with 9.9% of the total crush. The next eight highest percentages of grapes crushed included wine and raisin grape varieties. Thompson Seedless, the leading raisin grape variety crushed for 2011, held 8.4% of the total.  read more

CA Wine Production Down in 2011, While Demand Grows

Western Farm Press.  26 January 2012.  After two consecutive years of light grape crops, and a dry start to the 2012 growing season, a standing room crowd of 2,200 packed the Hyatt Regency Ballroom on Tuesday morning to mull the state of the wine industry at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.  On the upside, attendees learned the overall domestic wine market posted positive gains last year. U.S. wine shipments rose to 345 million cases in 2011, a 4.4 percent increase over 2010.

Now comes the tough part: Keeping up with consumer demand. Inventories of bulk wine remain at an 11-year low, due to a string of smaller-than-expected harvests and a shift by some California farmers to other crops.  According to Allied Grape Growers, a Fresno-based grape growers association, 3.25 million tons of grapes were crushed statewide in 2011, a 10.4 percent drop from the previous year. Locally, the Lodi/Clarksburg area crop was off 5.2 percent with 670,000 tons of grapes crushed in 2011. On California’s Central Coast, grape crops were down a whopping 34.3 percent.  read more

Calif. Wine Grape Supply Limited

Sacramento Bee.  19 September 2011.  The sluggish economy and unusually cool weather have dramatically tightened the supply of wine grapes according to Robert Smiley, dean and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management. Smiley also said the situation is likely to continue for several years.

Smiley will present findings from two recent surveys of wine industry professionals and executives Tuesday during the 20th annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel in Napa.

“Even though we have technically been out of the recession for two years, growers have been reluctant to expand their plantings or replace older vineyards that are moving into declining production,” Smiley said.

Smiley also noted that cooler-than-usual weather in the state’s wine-growing regions has “compounded the problem by significantly reducing this year’s wine grape yield in California.”

Even so, Smiley predicts that consumers are likely to find that discounted prices on high-quality wines will continue to be available. “Most of the (wine) executives seem to feel that discounting is here to stay,” Smiley said.


Growing Produce. 18 July 2011.  The California winegrape industry is as strong as it has been in many years, and growers are enjoying strong prices across the board, says an industry leader. Nat DiBuduo, speaking at the annual meeting of the grower cooperative, Allied Grape Growers, could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “What a difference a year makes,” DiBuduo crowed during a luncheon at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel in Santa Rosa. “We can not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but in parts of California, we are out of the tunnel.”


The industry’s downturn in demand and prices due to an oversupply of grapes in the early 2000s has been balanced out by pulling excess vineyard acreage and bolstering sales. “We appear to be heading in the right direction for the California wine industry for both the vintners and the growers,” he said. “With wine sales up domestically, accompanied by strong exports, demand for California’s quality wines has much improved and is reaching exciting profitable levels for wineries and hopefully growers, as well.”

Of course, the 2011 growing season has been far from perfect, DiBuduo noted. Paso Robles sustained some serious frost damage, and North Coast growers are facing some smaller crops due to shatter and other weather-related issues. But that’s part of farming, said DiBuduo, a member of American/Western Fruit Grower’s editorial advisory board, a GrowingProduce.com-associated publication. “Mother Nature continues to trump all marketing efforts by having the final say on what tonnage and quality will be delivered by the end of harvest,” he said. “This year’s unusual spring weather has already delayed harvest and given us less than desirable conditions for the development of powdery mildew and associated disease and pest pressure.”  read more


CFBF. June 2011.  California grape growers have something to smile about as spring finally begins its transition into summer. Until this week, farmers battled the nagging cool weather as it slowed grape growth, causing mildew and fungus to spread. Farmers say they still expect a high-quality grape crop if weather cooperates from here on out. In addition to the weather, growers closely monitored populations of the European grapevine moth. According to a report, compared to last year, the moth’s numbers have been much lower.

Calif. Grape Growers Happy For Dry Weather

CFBF. 15 June 2011. Grape growers have something to smile about as spring finally begins its transition into summer. Until this week, farmers battled the nagging cool weather as it slowed grape growth, causing mildew and fungus to spread. Farmers say they still expect a high-quality grape crop if weather cooperates from here on out. In addition to the weather, growers closely monitored populations of the European grapevine moth. According to a report, compared to last year, the moth’s numbers have been much lower.

Scientists Say New Grape Varieties Imperative

BBC News. 17 January 2011.  The future of wine-making depends on developing new varieties of grape, scientists say – and maps of the grape genome can help provide them.  Disease is a constant issue for growers; but new regulations are likely to curb the use of chemical treatments.  US researchers have made genome maps of more than 1,000 vine samples.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they say this type of data plots the way to disease-resistant grape varieties.  The grape varieties whose wine we like to drink – merlot, chardonnay, semillon, riesling and the rest – have mainly been developed from one species, Vitis vinifera vinifera.  It was probably “domesticated” about 5,000 years ago, in or close to what is now Turkey.  Since then, it has become the staple for wine-making as far from its homeland as Australia, Chile, the US and South Africa.  We can’t just go on using the same cultivars for the next thousand years”

Vinifera has been honed into hundreds of varieties, red and white; but the grapes are all still members of the same species, with limited cross-breeding between different varieties.  “The degree to which that was done seems to have been extremely limited,” said Sean Myles, lead author on the new study.  “Once we found good cultivars that were working for us, we adopted them and as a result they’re sitting ducks for pathogens.”  Dr Myles is affiliated to Stanford University School of Medicine, but was based at Cornell University while this project was running.  read more