California Crushed About 3.9 Million Tons of Winegrapes in 2019
February 11, 2020
California crushed fewer wine grapes last fall than in 2018, according to the preliminary 2019 grape crush report released Monday.
California crushed roughly 3.9 million tons of grapes in 2019 – or 8 percent less than in 2018, according to data the California Agricultural Statistics Service report. Red wine varieties totaled 2.1 million tons, down 12.8 percent from 2018. White wine varieties crushed totaled 1.75 million tons, down 4.3 percent.
“It’s still a lot of grapes,” said Steve Fredricks, president/partner at Turrentine Brokerage, referring to the 2019 crush.
Turrentine Brokerage cautioned that the tonnage and prices included in the 2019 grape crush report can be deceiving. The report does not include grapes left on the vine statewide as wineries face a glut of grapes from 2018 and a slowing customer demand for wine.
Allied Grape Growers president Jeff Bitter said the crush report confirmed that more grapes hung on the vine than previously estimated. Close to 200,000 tons could have been left behind – about twice as much as previously thought, he said.
The tonnages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir crushed in 2019 were down significantly from 2018, Bitter noted. Yet Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir had been two of the most widely planted varieties in recent years, indicated that tons were unharvested. Yields on those varieties were not off.
Bitter last week said 30,000 acres of vines need to be pulled in order for the market to be in balance.
Ciatti Company noted that red wine grapes were down by 12.8 percent while white grapes declined by 4.3 percent, compared to 18. That indicates that such varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel were the varietals left on the vine.
North Coast wineries crushed 511,133 tons of grapes – or 17 percent less than in 2018, according to Turrentine’s analysis. The Central Coast crush totaled 474,347 tons – or 18 percent less than in 2018. The Northern Interior crushed 1 million tons of grapes – or 7 percent less than a year ago while the Southern Interior crush totaled 1.8 million tons – or 5 percent less.
Again, numbers can be deceiving. Napa’s grapegrowers harvested 78,146 tons in 2019 – or 12 percent less than in 2018, according to Turrentine. However, that’s still the second biggest harvest after 2018, Fredricks said.
Audra Cooper, partner/grape broker at Turrentine, said the demand for Central Coast grapes hit an all-time low in 2020 due to “a structural oversupply across most growing regions and varieties.”
Many Central Coast grapes sold on the spot market in 2019 fetched lower prices than historical average prices, Cooper reported. In some cases, the grapes were sold below farming costs, she said.
Ciatti broker Todd Azevedo said the “overarching theme for the 2019 Central Coast harvest will be “what was left on the vine.’”
Bulk inventories remain high from the 2018 harvest, Azevedo said. A large portion of the market is still nervous about taking on more inventory, he said.
The Central Coast’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes account for 68 percent of the total crop, according to Azevedo.
Wine grape prices altogether declined by 7.8 percent, according to a Ciatti analysis. Pinot Noir’s crop totaled $440 million, according to Ciatti.’s analysis. However, prices were down 12.7 percent, a decline for two years in a row for one the state’s most popular variety. One question is whether Pinot Noir prices will continue to drop in 2020, he said.
Glenn Proctor, partner at Ciatti Company, said 2020 remains challenging as wineries continue to give notices to growers under contract.
The company has seen some activity on the bulk market over the past 4 to 6 weeks, Proctor said. Whether or not that translates in the grape market is unclear. The grape market has remained quiet, he said.
Both Turrentine Brokerage and Ciatti Company also cautioned that grape prices listed in the grape crush report do not reflect market dynamics.
“The spot market price in 2019 in some cases was $0 per ton due to the lack of demand,” Fredricks said.
Altogether, Cooper said the total value of the Central Coast crop decreased to $717 million – or 17 percent from 2018.
Napa Cabernet Sauvignon was listed at more than $8,000 per ton – or 2 percent more than in 2018.
However, Bitter said the Napa prices listed in the crush report only increased because of pre-existing contracts; the prices for fruit left unharversted in 2019 were not included.
Turrentine Brokerage estimated that spot market weighted average prices actually dropped by 50 percent in 2019.
More fruit in Napa is still probably under contract than grapes grown in other regions, Bitter said. “As we move forward into the future, if the market remains weak, more and more Napa grapes may be out of contract and subject to spot market pricing, which would effectively lower averages,” Bitter added.
Price per ton for Sonoma Pinot Noir was nearly $3,900 per ton – or 3 percent more than in 2018.
Statewide, the average price for a ton of Cabernet Sauvignon did not change, according to Turrentine’s and Ciatti’s analysis. However, the costs per ton for most popular varieties decreased.
The average price per ton of Pinot Noir statewide declined by 13 percent in 2019 while average prices per ton of Chardonnay, the most crushed wine grape variety, declined by about 7 percent. Prices per ton for Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot, decreased as well.
California crushed more than 4.28 million tons of winegrapes in 2018 – about 7 percent more than in 2017.
The full report is available at: https://bit.ly/2UBQ43P