One of the largest California planting increases is muscat grapes grown to produce Moscato wine; a trendy product with younger consumers. Muscat of Alexander bearing acreage is estimated to almost quadruple by 2016; from its base of 4,000 acres in 2009.

Most of the supply has been imported from Italy, Argentina, and Australia to fill the supply gap created by the explosive demand.

Muscat of Alexander production in California will likely increase about 25 percent annually from 2012-2016 which DiBuduo calls “good, on-target growth.” The increase could quash Moscato wine imports.

“Bye-bye imported Moscato,” DiBuduo chuckled.

DiBuduo discussed last year’s record-breaking California wine grape crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates the 2012 California grape crush at 4,383,100 tons, up 13 percent from the previous year.

“The record 2012 crop was a blessing, not a curse,” DiBuduo said. “The immediate future looks relatively balanced regarding supply and demand.”

DiBuduo discussed grape price upswings over the last two years.

The increases are tied to: a relatively weak U.S. dollar expected to remain weak; competition from alternative crops, primarily almonds; and forethought by California buyers who bought more wine grapes on the spot market due to the worldwide shortage of grapes.

“California growers were very lucky to play the spot market,” DiBuduo said.

As the 2013 crop year begins, what prices can California growers expect for wine grapes? DiBuduo believes last year’s wine grape prices will serve as a starting point for 2013. A higher price would be based on market demand.

A myriad of factors impact the California wine grape industry, DiBuduo concluded, including global competition, economic uncertainty, regulation and taxation, fluctuating crop sizes tied to weather, plus “indecisive and fickle consumers.”

cblake@farmpress.com