The California Agricultural Statistics Service released its annual Preliminary Grape Crush Report, summarizing the size and value of the 2015 California grape crush. Allied Grape Growers estimated a 3.7 million ton winegrape crush, as did most industry observers, prior to the release of the report. There will be few surprised by the crush size, as the shorter California crop was widely recognized at harvest.
The exact winegrape tons reported as crushed in California in 2015 was 3,699,242. Despite the “smaller” crop, the amount of winegrapes crushed has materially exceeded 3.7 million tons only four other times in state history. “We can easily recognize crop years with small or large yields per acre, but the underlying bearing acreage base has only grown over the last decade. We estimate there are now over 550,000 bearing winegrape acres in the state. Even with short crops, we will continue to push close to 4,000,000 tons crushed annually”, states Jeff Bitter, vice president of Allied Grape Growers. In addition to the winegrape crush, 70,711 tons of table type grapes along with 92,432 tons of raisin type grapes were crushed, bringing the total California grape crush, of all types, to 3,862,385 tons, a 6.8 percent decrease from the 2014 total. Of the total grape crush in 2015, 11.3 percent, or 434,612 tons, were crushed for grape juice concentrate.
Even amidst the shorter crop, the weighted average purchase price of California winegrapes dropped significantly (10.2 percent) from $747.58 per ton in 2014 to only $671.39 per ton in 2015, portending the reality of ample wine supplies coming into the 2015 crop year, as well as the shortness of the coastal (and relatively higher-priced) California crop. The shorter crop will serve to balance inventories overall, particularly at the mid and upper end of the business, as the combined eight district coastal region was collectively down by a whopping 29.5 percent in production when comparing 2015 to 2014.
Year-on-year production changes for major California varietals was mostly down and included Chardonnay (the largest single variety crushed annually) at 633,005 tons, down 12 percent; Muscat of Alexander at 180,210 tons, up 13.7 percent; Pinot Grigio at 184,985 tons, up just 1.7 percent; Sauvignon Blanc at 88,163 tons, down 20.6 percent; Cabernet Sauvignon at 454,695 tons, down 11.6 percent; Merlot at 252,549 tons, down 10.9 percent; Pinot Noir at 184,233 tons, down 25.4 percent; and Zinfandel at 387,958 tons, up 9.2 percent from 2014. Rubired, a red grape variety used predominantly in red grape concentrate production came in at a record 279,516 tons, up 15.4 percent from 2014.
The real story from the 2015 winegrape crush remains the shortness of the coastal crop and respective varieties grown heavily in those regions, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.