California hails record breaking harvest

California has confirmed a record 2012 grape harvest both in terms of volume and price, thanks to global supply pressures and a vintage of widespread high quality.

California harvestPreliminary data released by the California Department of Food and Agriculture measured the state’s total grape crush at 4.38 million tons, a 13% increase on the 2011 harvest. Within this, wine grape volumes showed particular growth, with a 19% rise for red wine grapes and a 21% rise for white wine grapes.

Despite this significant uplift in volume, prices also soared to their highest ever recorded level. Red wine grapes sold for an average price of $879.04 per ton, a 24% increase on 2011, while white wine grape growers enjoyed a 15% price hike on last year at $623.50/ton.

Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon topped the chart for both volume and price, representing 16.8% and 11.3% of the total grape crush. The highest average grape price was paid in Napa County, at $3,578.79 per ton, an increase of 5% on 2011.

Following the relatively small harvest of 2011, producers welcomed the quality and quantity of grapes available in 2012. As positive reports flooded in during the harvest, Robert P. Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute, remarked: “The 2012 vintage will offer consumers in our growing national and international markets fantastic choices.”

With California accounting for around 90% of total US wine exports, the country is seeing exports growing to record levels. Figures for 2011 US exports show a 22% value increase on 2010 to reach $1.39 billion.

Among the fastest growing markets for US wine are China, which grew by 42% to reach a value of $62m, while exports to the more mature market of Japan rose by 39%.

The state’s bumper harvest may help to alleviate growing concerns about a global wine grape supply shortage as soaring demand combines with a recent series of small harvests in key growing regions, including much of Europe.

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