California’s grape business is healthy and thriving, wine industry analysts told a crowd of nearly 1,200 people in a seminar at the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento.
Organized jointly by growers, vintners and allied industry members, the annual symposium is a clearinghouse for practical information important to wine and grape industry professionals, the symposium also hosts a trade show with more than 650 displays for a crowd of about 12,000 people.
The 2013 event ran from Tuesday through Thursday last week.
Moderator Nat DiBuduo, president and CEO of Fresno’s Allied Grape Growers, said during the symposium’s “State of the Industry” session Wednesday that the state’s vineyard acreage continues to rise each year, and that California wines produced from the grape varietals most widely planted — chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir — remain popular with consumers around the world.
While it’s too early for final numbers, the 2012 harvest is shaping up to be the largest in California history, DiBuduo said, at an estimated 3.8 million tons.
For a look at the future, in a recent survey of nurseries Allied found that vines for white wines comprised 39 percent of the total sold to various vineyards, and vines for red wines 61 percent, DiBuduo said.
Research shows that in 2008, the leading varietal sold for planting was pinot noir, followed by chardonnay, DiBuduo said. The following year, chardonnay led cabernet sauvignon, and in 2010, cabernet sauvignon led chardonnay.
In 2011 came a shift, with the white grape varietal muscat of Alexandria leading cabernet sauvignon, and in 2012, cabernet sauvignon led French colombard, also a white grape.
While grape varietals typically grown for the state’s “high end” wines are cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay, among others, the white French colombard and the muscat grapes are produced for the bulk wine market, which continues to thrive on global consumers’ desires for bargain wines, DiBuduo said.
In fact, most of California’s “new vineyard plantings are in the state’s interior,” and intended to grow grapes for wine that is sold for less than $10 per bottle, he added.
As an indication of the expected growth in the market for less expensive wines, he said the compounded annual growth figure for California chardonnay between 2012 and 2016 is expected to be 2.7 percent, but 24.5 percent for the muscat of Alexandria grape.
However, DiBuduo offered advice for the hundreds of growers listening to him: “Plant muscat of Alexandria only with a (buyer’s) grape contract so that you don’t contribute to an oversupply,” he said.
For more information about the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, go to www.unifiedsymposium.org.