Fifteen Thousand Net Acres of California Wine Grapes Were Pulled Following the 2019 Harvest
The California Agricultural Statics Service (CASS) released the 2020 grape acreage report last week.
The report pegs 2020 grape acreage at 620,000 acres, with 40,000 acres non-bearing.
It indicates roughy 30,000 acres of vines were removed in 2020 and that 15,000 acres were planted, for a net decline of 15,000 acres compared to what CASS reported for 2019. Wine grape acreage fell 2.4 percent with bearing acreage declining 1.9 percent and non-bearing acreage down 12.1 percent. Cabernet and Chardonnay were the most planted grapes.
CASS freely admits that the voluntary survey of approximately 8,900 grape growers is unlikely to ever attain 100 percent completeness and that it is difficult to detect growers who are planting grapes for the first time.
The report also evaluates grape acreage on a calendar year basis, which can affect things on the pullout side. Grapes are pulled in the off-season - generally between September and sometime in the Spring - so depending on whether a vineyard is pulled before the New Year or after, it will get reported accordingly.
For these reasons, Allied Grape Growers developed an annual Nursery Survey and does an analysis harvest-to-harvest to more accurately gauge producing acreage for a specific vintage. Allied uses the Grape Acreage Report as a starting point for estimating acres by analyzing yields, using the crush report up against the acreage report to determine where missing acres are. That’s more challenging for 2019 and 2020 because of grapes left unharvested due to oversupply in 2019 and wildfires in 2020.
The state report for 2020 shows 15,461 non-bearing acres reported and indicates 45,000 non-bearing acres as an estimate. AGG's numbers for 2020 based on what nurseries sold to growers for planting over the last three years, however, indicate the number is actually 56,000 non-bearing acres for 2020 (see the table, below).
More acreage was removed in 2020 than any other year since the early 2000s. The conclusion that 30,000 acres was removed while 15,000 acres come into bearing is in line with AGG's numbers presented in January diuring the 2021 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.
"California’s net loss of bearing acres following the 2019 crop was 15,000. This loss in acreage compounded by the short crop, and then the wildfires/smoke issues ultimately contributed to the smallest crush in 2020 that we had seen in a decade," AGG President Jeff Bitter told WBM. Bitter said the net effect was the same as what's reflected in the Grape Acreage Report (losing 15,000 bearing acres in 2020), but that his numbers differed from the state in that there were 35,000 acres removed in 2020 and 20,000 new acres that came into bearing for the first time. Same result, slightly different math.
Back during the 2020 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, Bitter called on the industry to remove 30,000 acres.