California Wine Industry: Fewer Grapes, More Demand

Posted by | Posted in Sponsored | Posted on 01-07-2013

A vineyard in Monterey County. From Wikimedia Commons.

Please note that this post, authored by wine writer Ben Moss, is sponsored by CellarVie Wines, an independent online wine and spirit retailer. 

For people looking for truly unique wine gifts or simply interested in wine production, the North Coast Wine Industry Expo was held at the Sonoma County Fair Grounds in Santa Rosa, California, on December 5.

The expo put on by the Wine Industry Network was attended by 200 exhibitors and more than 2,000 attendees. The event was aimed at supporting the northern California wine industry, which has recently been squeezed by a shortage of grapes.

California’s wine industry
For years, California has been the nation’s dominant wine producing state. There are about 850 wineries in California, the largest 25 of which export about 90% of all California wine worldwide. Grape prices used to be in decline due to an enormous range of vineyards that flooded the market with wines. A number of farmers even switched to vegetables, nuts and other fruit instead of grapes to get more revenue. 

Turning tables: shortage of grapes and growing prices
As American wine lovers kept drinking California wine, the situation has gradually begun to change. The recent recession is responsible for the present-day California’s grape squeeze as wineries had to hold off planting new grapes longer than usual. Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers representing 600 growers from California, admits, “Right now, I don’t have enough grapes of any variety in any part of the state”.

The prices of Cabernet red grapes as well as Chardonnay and Muscat have almost doubled in the past few years, though. Pauli Ranch, a bulk wine producer from the North Coast, has already contracted all of his Merlot until 2015. 

What’s next?
California supplies about 90% of domestic wine production but provides only 10% of the global wine output. The shortage of grapes in the U.S. means that Americans might be drinking a lot of imported wines in the years to come.

Despite industry changes, wine leaders state that this record wine industry crush in California shouldn’t prevent wine producers from supplying quality wines. 

Coping with the problem
Jeff Bitter, vice president of operations for 600-member Allied Grape Growers, comments, “Factors that drive wine grape prices have been in the grower’s favor lately. The market is always looking for equilibrium and it feels like we are there, at least for now.”

To cope with the present day issues, Bitter gives all grape growers a tip, “Don’t plant on speculation; get a contract for the grapes you’re about to produce.”

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