The first place to gauge the future it to look at the California grape acreage report. However, both acknowledge that this report is “voluntary” and therefore suspect by its nature.

The current grape acreage report shows that total reported wine grape acreage is 480,000 acres (with 20,000 of that being non-bearing). However, the state has also estimated the actual amount of wine grape acreage to be much higher, at 546,000 with 38,000 non-bearing.

With the help of the state’s numbers, and Allied’s independent survey of grapevine nurseries, AGG has estimated a total wine grape acreage of 590,000 with 70,000 non-bearing. Third party sources have put total wine grape acreage, reported to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, at just over 600,000 acres with no breakdown on how much of that is non-bearing.

This disparity in acreage reporting makes it challenging to estimate supplies.

Allied has long been gathering its own data based on annual  

nursery surveys. Admittedly this does not capture 100 percent of vine sales: “We have captured enough to know most other sources of data are under-reported.” Allied’s most recent nursery survey in January showed that more than 30,000 acres worth of new vines were sold last year. Allied believes 20,000 acres must be planted annually to maintain market expansion and allow for attrition of aging vineyards.

However, DuBuduo and Bitter say “there is no reason to be immediately concerned” with that perceived overplanting “as one or two aggressive planting years won’t make or break the market.”

Besides, most new acres have gone in the ground under contract and that implies market capacity is unfilled.

Allied project there will be market “balance,” for a few years.

“The bottom line is that the impressive number of acres being planted today should not scare us into a planting freeze any more than the under-reported acres publicized should prompt us to plant every hill and valley” according to DiBuduo and Bitter.

Looking a little deeper at the nursery surveys over the past five years, Cabernet Sauvignon has been the top selling scion. It represented about 25 percent of all new vine sales last year. Other notables have been Rubired, Muscat of Alexander and French Colombard. However, these three highly planted varieties were done so for very specific reasons and programs and may not actually have a significant impact on the broader wine market, according to Allied.

On a more “subtle and consistent basis,” Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio have all been varieties to watch as they have been planted annually in decent volumes. There has also been interest in alternative varieties like Malbec, Petite Sirah and Primitivo.

“Another notable trend is that, starting in 2012, planting in the coastal areas once again surfaced with some significance. Most new vines planted prior to 2012 were done so predominantly in the interior. We see that trend continuing in force for 2013 as the upper end of the market seems to be on a rebound and as concerns about a future shortage resurface.”

 

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