February 9, 2008 in Business

Wine grape harvest rises slightly for 2007

Michelle Locke Associated Press
 

BERKELEY, Calif. – The California wine harvest came in at normal levels for a second year in a row in 2007, and brokers say the industry is heading back into balance after the curve thrown by 2005’s bumper crop.

Preliminary figures released by state agriculture officials Friday showed the overall grape crop, including table grapes and raisins, totaled nearly 3.7 million tons in 2007, up 5 percent from the year before.

Looking at just wine grapes, the increase was just 3 percent – 3.2 million tons in 2007 vs. 3.1 million tons in 2006.

The 2007 total is “probably right where we need to be,” said John Ciatti, of San Rafael-based Ciatti Co. Wine & Grape Brokers. “It feels much better out there.”

Prices to growers in 2007 dropped, decreasing about 2 percent for red wine varieties and 4 percent for white, which Ciatti said reflects the industry working through ‘05 inventory.

Actual prices varied by district. Napa County, as usual, was the leader, with grapes from that region fetching an average of more than $3,200 a ton, up 7 percent from the year before.

Chardonnay was the leading variety by volume, accounting for 16 percent of the crop. Cabernet sauvignon was second at 11.5 percent.

Pinot noir, a variety that has become more popular in recent years, was down 16 percent from the year before, to nearly 89,000 tons statewide.

The drop partially reflects the fact that pinot noir totals were up in 2006, said Bill Turrentine, of Turrentine Brokerage in Novato. It also reflects a year when crops generally were lighter in coastal areas, where pinot noir commonly is grown.

“The silver lining is the limited quality that there is – it does taste really good,” Turrentine said.

Looking at the harvest overall, 2007 “looks like a good quality year,” Turrentine said. “The reds have good color, and the whites have good flavors.”

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