Short California 2011 winegrape crop spurs grower prices

01/25/2012 10:11:00 PM
By Vicky Boyd, Editor

Much of that acreage was replanted with other permanent crops, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios and pomegranates.

Even today, winegrapes continue to see competition from other commodities that may bring higher rates of return, says Bill Pauli, a Potter Valley winegrape growe and chairman of the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

A grower can develop 2.5 acres of almonds in the Central Valley for the same amount as it takes to develop only 1 acre of vineyard, DuBudio says.

Despite today's higher winegrape prices, almonds still net the grower more, he says.

Nurseries that concentrated in producing grapevines five years ago also have changed their product mix, increasing other permanent crop propagation and decreasing vine propagation.

Based on an annual survey of grapevine nurseries conducted by Allied, DiBuduo says only 17,000 to 23,000 acres worth of grapevines were sold and planted in 2011.

Nurseries are sold out for 2012 and few plants are left for 2013 delivery.

Despite the tight supply, DiBuduo, Fredricks and Jon Fredrickson, president of Woodside, Calif.-based Gomberg, Fredrikson and Associates, say California wine sales will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate than the 4 percent seen in 2011.

In the next few years, Fredrickson predicts a rate of 2 percent to 2.5 percent growth.

Consumers also will see retail discounting subsiding, Fredrikson says.

On the bright side, they point to the triple-digit growth in sweet moscato wines and sweet red blends.

Some have compared these sweet wine trends to earlier ones that involved white zinfandel and Portuguese red wines.

"This means new people are coming in and starting out in these products and some of them are going on to other varietals," Fredrickson says.

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