SAN FRANCISCO February 8, 2002 - California winegrowers harvested 3.0 million tons of winegrape varieties in 2001, according to preliminary figures issued today by the state's Department of Food and Agriculture. This is down nine percent from 2000's record 3.3 million tons of winegrapes, but is still the second largest crush for wine varieties in California. The farm gate value of the wine tonnage was nearly $1.8 billion, with an average statewide price of $591.06 per ton, up from $570.80 per ton in 2000.
Red wine varieties came in one percent lower to 1.7 million tons, while white wine grapes accounted for 1.3 million tons, down eight percent. Chardonnay was the top wine variety crushed, with 19 percent of the wine tons, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent; French Colombard, 12 percent; Zinfandel, 11 percent; and Merlot, 9 percent.
Although nearly 30,000 new bearing wine acres came into production in 2001, the crush was still less than the previous year's total tonnage. A rare spring frost and summer heat spikes reduced yields in many vineyards across California's wine regions. This allowed the remaining fruit to develop concentrated flavors and colors, with wine quality expected to be very high, according to a panel of vintners speaking at Wine Institute's harvest press conference last fall.
"Wine inventories are abundant right now. The industry needed a low-yield, high-quality vintage and that's what Mother Nature provided," commented Bill Turrentine of Turrentine Wine Brokerage. Turrentine explained that it is a "quality-driven market," with consumers continuing to trade up. "Wineries have the opportunity to enhance the quality of what they are doing."
"The real surprise is the overall strength of average statewide pricing," stated Barry Bedwell of Joseph W. Ciatti and Co. "More higher-value varieties, particularly for red wines, are being crushed, keeping the industry in a healthy state. California is making better and better wines that consumers like. There is no change in the long-term optimism for the industry."
Winegrapes (not including raisin and table varieties) are the third leading agricultural crop in revenues to farmers in California, a state where more than 350 crops are grown. California produces 92 percent of U.S. wine. If it were a nation, the state would be the fourth leading wine-producing country in the world. California wine has an economic impact of $33 billion on the state, counting revenues to the wine industry and allied industries, direct, indirect, and induced economic benefits. It provides 145,000 full-time equivalent jobs throughout California.