In April, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released its annual “Grape Acreage Summary Report.” According to the report, in 2015 there were 560,000 bearing winegrape acres and 48,000 nonbearing acres, a decrease of 4% from 2014.
Nat DiBuduo, the president of Allied Grape Growers, the state’s largest winegrape grower cooperative, disputes those figures. Not so much the bearing acres, as Allied puts the number at 555,000, just below the state’s figure, because he doesn’t think CDFA is accounting for all the vineyards that have been pulled out.
But it’s the nonbearing acreage where he thinks the state is way off. “Hold on to your chair,” he says, “there’s more than 48,000 nonbearing acres coming into production.”
When DiBuduo says a lot more, he’s not kidding. In fact, according to Allied estimates, there could be close to double that much nonbearing acreage in the ground.
The difference, he says, is that CDFA surveys growers, while Allied surveys nurseries. Based on those nursery surveys, Allied estimates there are between 70,000 and 90,000 nonbearing acres. The reason for the relatively wide range of the Allied estimate, says DiBuduo, is that they base their figures on vine sales, but they don’t know the spacing of the plantings.
DiBuduo emphasizes he doesn’t think the growers are being dishonest with CDFA.
“People just aren’t reporting all the acreage because of human nature, and there are many new growers not familiar with the report,” he says, adding: “We believe our nursery survey is a little more accurate on how many nonbearing acres are out there.”