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Report: 2018 was a big year for the wine grape harvest

Posted: 6:22 PM, Apr 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-23 22:36:19-04

California vineyards grew a record 4.28 million tons of wine grapes in 2018, according to a new report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Now, some winemakers are toasting to Mother Nature for a successful 2018 harvest season.

“We were definitely experiencing above-average yields for a lot of reasons. Just, Mother Nature came together and gave us a pretty above average harvest and that was pretty much the norm across the (Santa Maria) Valley,” explained Laura Borras, Riverbench Vineyard and Winery General Manager.

The report shows that the total number of wine grapes crushed in District 8, which includes San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, rose five percent in 2018.

Chardonnay was the top grape crushed for the state but here on the Central Coast, the USDA says we actually produced more Cabernet Sauvignon than any other varietal.

In total, District 8 crushed 245,512 tons of grapes.

For reds, the top two grossing varietals were Cabernet Sauvignon at 90,508 tons and Pinot Noir at 28,797 tons.

For whites, the top two grossing varietals were Chardonnay at 41,552 tons and Sauvignon Blanc at 8,346 tons.

If the proliferation of grapes continues, there could be both positive and negative effects for those in the industry and wine lovers alike.

“Certain years, if they’re a little higher and you need the fruit, that’s certainly helpful but years like 2018 where everyone is above average, that can be challenging for the grape market when you’re selling grapes themselves not just making the wine, because supply and demand. When there’s more supply, the price tends to go down,” Borras said.

Winemakers, like Joshua Klapper of Timbre Winery, buy grapes from local vineyards to create their wines, so the low costs per yield can be advantageous.

“Ultimately, I think if there’s too much fruit, it’s not really great for the industry in general so in the short term, we might see a benefit of lower-priced fruit but in the long term, we’re gonna see a lot of wines in the same price point as the wines we’re making,” Klapper said.

While Klapper doesn’t anticipate the cost of buying wine at the store going down, the quality may change.

“There might be some really good juice going into some wines that are typically a little less expensive so over the next few years, you might see some wines that are batting above their weight as far as quality,” Klapper said.

Both Borras and Klapper say it’s likely this year’s harvest will also see a lot of grapes.

The report from the USDA also ranks which districts saw the highest average price per ton of grapes. It may come as no surprise that Napa County not only had the highest price, of more than $5,000 per ton, but that amount increased six percent over 2017.