(Allied Grape Growers is California’s largest wine marketing cooperative with more than 600 members statewide. Information is this article is gleaned from the latest Allied newsletter.)

With the relatively large 2012 crop came the expectation that the 2013 grape market would be less active than last year. That has proven to be somewhat true, but only in the realm of “hyper” activity that leads to rapidly increasing prices.

Grapes are being traded, at least to the extent they are even available, since most of them are tied up under multi-year contracts. However, there is no “reckless competition” for grapes experienced last year. Pricing seems to be at or slightly above last year’s levels.

Depending on the variety, the coastal market is arguably more robust than last year at this point. With much less spot market fruit available, buyer interest is high. Reds in particular have brought great interest in 2013; Cabernet Sauvignon specifically.

Coastal areas outside of the most premium growing regions seem to be bringing the most interest for all varieties. This is due to buyers wanting to purchase great quality coastal fruit that allows them to average down the grape cost of their higher end programs. With that being said, there is much less hyper-activity around Napa Valley Cabernet and Sonoma County Pinot Noir. There is still strong demand, but buyers seem to be more interested in averaging down the cost of their high-end programs rather than fervently competing for additional high-end fruit at historically high prices.

 

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Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon market has benefitted from the runaway Napa Valley Cabernet pricing from 2012. Many buyers are looking to Sonoma and other areas for Cabernet Sauvignon to fill needs at “affordable” prices.” Multi-year contracts are common in the coastal areas with even white grapes experiencing strong demand. Sauvignon Blanc sales have been impressive this spring. The market for Sauvignon Blanc has been about as solid this year as it has been in a decade. Chardonnay hasn’t disappointed, especially considering how large last year’s Chardonnay crop was. Pricing hasn’t been overly aggressive, but interest has been high across the board, and Chardonnay has been selling fairly well.

The Lodi grape market is anticipated to be strong again this year, with considerable early interest in reds. Even Zinfandel for red production seems to be in strong demand, despite last year’s impressive crop. Some Chardonnay offers have started out a bit lower than last year’s contract prices, but growers have not been quick to move on them with the size of the Chardonnay crop being in question. Available Cabernet Sauvignon brings considerable interest. Pricing is mostly similar to last year, although a run-up of the spot market hasn’t seemed to take place just yet. Most buyers and growers alike are intently curious about the size of the crop in Lodi/Clarksburg after last year’s substantial crush from those regions.