It’s a fine time to be a California winegrape grower. Of course, the many growers who packed the “State of the Industry” session at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium this week in Sacramento didn’t need to be reminded of that fact, but it was nice to hear just the same.
“I do see a lot of happy faces out here because you growers especially hit it out of the park last year,” said Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson and Associates, who annually addresses the audience at the symposium.
Fredrikson is perhaps best known for naming his “Winery of the Year,” and this year’s award was a definite sign of the times. Fredrikson named two co-winners: E&J Gallo and Constellation Brands. Between the two, they are responsible for an astounding 14 of the top 25 wine brands in terms of revenue growth.
However, while growers were in charge in 2012 because wineries were desperate for the grapes, Glenn Proctor of Ciatti Company said the market is coming into balance. “I just don’t see the craziness I saw last year,” he said.
However, the huge 2012 crop was badly needed after previous years, said Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers, who noted that the 3.885 million tons was the largest crop in history. “The large 2012 crop was a blessing, not a curse,” he said.
DiBuduo, who serves on American/Western Fruit Grower’s editorial advisory board, also noted that the nursery survey Allied does annually also showed that the most ever vines were sold last year, approximately 24 million. That is enough to plant 27,000 to 36,000 acres, he noted.
The heavy planting may mean that the industry could possibly replay the overplanting that occurred around the turn of the millennium if growers aren’t careful. DiBuduo says no one wants to go through the oversupply that resulted.
“We think 2015 and 2016 are worth watching,” he said. “We could be in a situation where oversupply begins.”
However, DiBuduo added that he does not think that any oversupply will be close to what growers experienced in recent years, as growers have learned their lesson. “I’m not saying ‘Don’t plant,’” he emphasized.