Record grape crush, prices in 2012

California grape growers enjoyed their largest-ever crop and record prices, as red and white grapes continued with double-digit growth.

The state’s grape crush climbed to a record 4.39 million tons, a 13% increase from 2011 – and 1% larger than the previous record in 2005, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

A grape cluster in Sonoma County.
A grape cluster in Sonoma County.

Red and white grapes accounted for the record crush, with red grapes – which account for 52% of overall production – increased 19% to 2.92 million tons. White grapes jumped 21% to 1.73 million tons. The grapes, used largely for winemaking, comprised 92% of the crop last year.

They also helped offset the dramatic decline of raisin grapes and table grapes, which plummeted 28% and 36%, respectively.

The combined price for all varieties – wine, raisin and table grapes – reached a record $737.61, up 25% from 2011. Across the board, grape growers enjoyed healthy increases in prices, with red wine grapes soaring the most at 25% to $883.62.

Raisin grape prices improved 20%, while table grapes increased 20%.

Central California grape growers – Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties – produced the most at 1.46 million tons, but their price of $369 pales compared to leader Napa County at $3,565. Sonoma County’s price per ton was the second highest at $2,183.


California wine producers help U.S. wine exports reach record

U.S. wine exports – with 90% from California – reached a record $1.43 billion in 2012, the third-consecutive annual increase.

The nation’s wine producers, from high-end makers to bulk operations, shipped 47.2 million cases to international markets last year, according to the Wine Institute in San Francisco.

“California wine exports continue to increase because of our quality, diversity and value, despite a highly competitive global market, significant trade barriers and a still-recovering economy,” says Bobby Koch, president of the Wine Institute. “We’ve worked to create more opportunities to export our wines by supporting our government in opening markets with Free Trade Agreements and other negotiations.”

A wine vineyard in Sonoma County, the center of the state's largest wine region. Photo courtesy of Patricia Snider.
A wine vineyard in Sonoma County, the center of the state’s largest wine region. Photo courtesy of Patricia Snider.

The 27-member European Union received the most shipments at $485 million, a 1.7% increase from 2011. Canada was close behind, at least when it comes to shipments, at $434 million, a 14% gain.

The fast-growing China economy has allowed more Chinese to enjoy California wines. China was the fifth-largest destination for the state’s wines at $74 million, up 18%.

Hong Kong was the third-leading destination at $115 million, but was down 30%. Japan had $111 million in shipments. Vietnam and South Korea – both small overall markets with a combined $43 million – reported 25%-plus gains from 2011.

“Wine’s prominence is growing throughout Asia as consumption remains buoyant and forecasts estimate continued growth,” says Eric Pope, regional director of emerging markets for the Wine Institute. He adds Hong Kong’s dramatic decline was largely due to the country’s elimination of an 80% import duty a year earlier, which affected the export revenue tally.