top of page

The 2014 California Winegrape Variety Awards and Useless Winegrape Market Trivia

So, I haven’t been posting a lot lately because I have a (digital) stack of client projects to get through. But I needed a bit of a break and, being a sick, sick man with an odd love of data, I decided to pick through the Crush Report a bit. I figured the things I looked up might be interesting to others. I also thought the title of this post was a good explanation of what I was looking at. So, here are some tidbits from the Crush Report:

Highest Statewide Production:

​​Unsurprisingly, the grape with the highest statewide yield was Chardonnay at 718,029 tons of grapes, enough to produce about 40 million cases or nearly half a billion 750 mL bottles of wine, a 13 day supply for Gerard Depardieu.

Most Productive Variety:

The variety with the highest per acre yield was Muscat of Alexandria and that was by a wiiiiiiiide margin. The 4403 acres of Muscat of Alexandria averaged 36 tons to the acre, far ahead of number 2, Burger, which yielded a mere 27 tons per acre. On another note, when do we get to see the next article about how dry farming is the solution to our industry’s water problems?

Most Economically Important Variety:

Bet you guessed this one. It’s Cabernet Sauvignon at nearly $728 million in grape sales revenue. To make a meaningless comparison to a California industry that is much less close to my heart, that figure is equal to the aggregate, lifetime, worldwide box office sales of every Rambo movie. Which makes sense - California Cab does have a bit of Rambo-ness to it.

Highest Sales per Acre:

The top per acre sales figure belongs to Moscato Gaillo, at almost $24,000, but it was only for the one, single acre of this stuff, according to the USDA. But I think that’s an error that is skewing the numbers, since pricing figures are given for three or four different districts. Not far behind was Vermentino at $23,250, but, while that’s interesting, who really cares? I’d love to try a wine from the 27 acres of California Vermentino, but the number three spot is held by a more economically important variety, Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot’s 2409 acres averaged $12,229.79 in revenue per acre.

I actually think Petit Verdot is a good option for new plantings, when the vineyard owner is looking to increase diversification away from Cabernet Sauvignon. I would strongly caution against trying to diversify with Moscato Gaillo or Vermentino, without very good reason. If the numbers are accurate on those varieties – and I don’t think they are – they have such meager plantings that I doubt (a) there is a real market for selling them to an unrelated party and (b) that new plantings wouldn’t upset the supply-demand dynamics and send prices downward.

Most Acreage:

Yup, Chardonnay. At 94,279 acres, if Chardonnay plantings were their own country - Cougarstan? Malolactilandia? – it would be only the 13th smallest country in the world, with considerably more area than #12, Grenada and almost as big as #14, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Top Price:

The top seven, statewide average per ton prices go to surprisingly inconsequential varieties. Number 8 is Cabernet Franc at $2,159.30 per ton, a price that makes it another interesting way to diversify away from Cabernet Sauvignon in regions that are good for Meritage varieties (did you catch that bit of nationalistic avoidance of the B-word there?) A truly major variety doesn’t show up until #24, Pinot Noir at $1,624.70. Here are those top 24, which is basically a stump-your-somme list:

1 $2,911.39 Ribolla Gialla

2 $2,383.56 Sauvignon Vert

3 $2,257.77 Picpoul Blanc

4 $2,246.15 Durif

5 $2,229.87 Charbono

6 $2,192.70 Vernaccia

7 $2,164.06 St Laurent

8 $2,159.30 Cabernet Franc

9 $2,063.59 Meunier

10 $2,025.10 Negrette

11 $2,020.00 Gray Riesling

12 $2,000.00 St. Emilion

13 $1,933.56 Flora

14 $1,929.09 Pfeffer Cabernet

15 $1,899.81 Aleatico

16 $1,745.13 Fiano

17 $1,717.11 Alvarelhao

18 $1,710.78 Roussanne

19 $1,700.00 Gamay Noir Au Jus Blanc

20 $1,670.81 Arneis

21 $1,668.55 Carmenere

22 $1,655.17 Sauvignon Musque

23 $1,632.75 Counoise

24 $1,624.70 Pinot Noir

I have knowingly consume only 11 of these 24 varieties. How about you?

Listened to While Writing This Post:

Led Zeppelin's Greatest Hits

Follow Us
  • Twitter Basic Square
bottom of page