California’s wine grape crop shrank to its lowest level in four years last fall, a 5 percent decline from 2014’s harvest, according to results released Wednesday.
In its preliminary “crush report” for 2015, the California Department of Food and Agriculture said the crop for all varieties of grapes came in at just under 3.9 million tons. That was a drop of 7 percent from the year before.
Wine grape harvests came up 5 percent short of what they were in 2014, the department said. Turrentine Brokerage, a Bay Area wine and grape marketer, said the wine grape crop was the lowest it’s been since 2011, and the shortfalls were most pronounced in the coastal regions.
Prices for wine grapes grown on the coast increased: 6 percent for Napa County, 5 percent for Sonoma and Marin counties. But they decreased for the state as a whole, down 12 percent for red wine grapes and 10 percent for white.
Despite the decline in volume, the industry remains strong, said Robert Smiley, a wine industry expert and management professor emeritus at UC Davis.
“The two previous (harvests) were the biggest on record,” Smiley said. “It is still a healthy, significant crop.” He said demand from consumers remains in good shape as well.
California’s epic drought caused significant fallowing of crops last year and, in many cases, smaller yields. But that wasn’t the case with the wine grape industry.
Steve Fredricks, president of Turrentine, said a spell of “cool weather in the springtime” was the main culprit for the lighter coastal wine grape crop.
The grape industry remains one of California’s leading farm commodities and exports. Fredericks said the smaller harvest followed several strong years that left vintners and marketers with ample inventories.
Although the overall decline in volume wasn’t enormous, Fredricks said the cool weather was particularly punishing in selected pockets of the coastal region, which reduced yields considerably for individual growers.
“It’s pretty tough if you’ve got half the revenue you thought you would,” he said.