The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Final Grape Crush Report for 2021 demonstrated an increase of 9.2 percent from 2020. “We weren’t overly surprised by what we saw,” said Jeff Bitter, President of Allied Grape Growers. The 2021 crush totaled 3,877,584 tons, which was the approximate expectation detailed in the preliminary crush report.
“At least when it was released it didn’t provide any surprises. What it did show was that we had a below average crop,” Bitter noted. “Probably to the tune of about 10 percent off of what would have been an average crop of 4.1 million tons or so. Slightly up from the previous year and that’s specifically due to the fact that we did not lose very much if any at all winegrapes to smoke exposure in 2021.”
The report compiled by CDFA and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service notes that average prices also increased. The 2021 average price of all varieties was up 26.6 percent from 2020 to a total of $860.57. “That’s a good thing. But you have to also keep in mind that the year before they had dropped significantly because of discounted grapes due to smoke exposure because of the fact that a lot of the smoke happened in the coastal regions,” Bitter explained.
The price rebound documented in the grape crush report was a positive development for growers, but costs are still outpacing pricing increase trends. Labor, fertilizer, and fuel costs are all rising faster than overall prices. While Bitter described the industry being “in a much more balanced and healthy position” from a few years ago, production costs and wine demand are concerns moving forward.
The other consideration Bitter pointed out is relatively flat wine sales and shipments, “that’s concerning too because we still could see oversupply in the future.” Bitter had raised the issue of oversupply back in 2020, indicating a need to reduce acreage by 30,000 acres. While tonnage has come down some from 2018 and 2019, acreage has not been reduced enough to maintain long-term balance. “That’s just something that we’re going to have to watch as we move forward,” said Bitter.