While it looked like the vines would mostly escape the ravages of the cold snap that occurred earlier this spring, that hasn’t necessarily been true across the board, according to Nat DiBuduo, President, Allied Grape Growers. “We have some vines in the Central Valley that are just now showing up stunted in appearance this month due to that earlier frost event,” he says. “It’s spotty, but it’s significant where it occurred. I know of one grower who has lost about 50 percent of his crop and another one who has lost probably two-thirds of his crop.”
In general, however, the crop looks good, according to DiBuduo. “We’re seeing good bunch counts on most varieties,” he says. “It’s better than last year, but not as good as the bumper crop we saw in 2005.”
There are still a lot of days left in the growing season, however, and bunch counts are just one tool to predict how the season might transpire. “Parts of the San Joaquin Valley are already through bloom and going through shatter now,” he says. “Nothing is terribly out of the ordinary at this point.”
What is unusual is taking place on another continent. Australia’s harvest is so far “down under” the average.
“It looks like they’re about 900,000 metric tons short of last year’s crop,” DiBuduo says. “So they’re looking at a harvest of about 1.1 million metric tons as opposed to a more normal harvest of about 2 million metric tons. The shortfall is largely weather driven. They’ve undergone a very significant drought, so irrigation water was very limited to produce the crop. They’re still going to protect the bottled market, but they’re not anticipating any excess bulk wine.”
Last season, California wineries bought cheap bulk wine from Australia and elsewhere rather than buy grapes from California producers. A short Australian crop could send buyers back into the vineyards for grapes.
Also, the tank-busting 2005 crop is disappearing. With few new vineyards going in and an average crop, the supply should be tighter than in the past two seasons.