The good news for the 2018 North Coast wine grape harvest is it produced fruit that a number of winemakers are praising for quality, but the not so great news is it may have provided too much of a good thing.
Normal rainfall in the winter and spring led to a long string of warm summer days with few heat spikes. The first grapes started coming in for sparkling wine in the first half of August. Late September rains of a few inches were followed by warm, breezy days to dry out the grapes. The relatively even weather allowed fruit to ripen fully.
The first official tally of this year’s crop won’t be released until early February, but growers and vintners are talking about grape tonnage coming in around 15 percent above projections earlier in the season. While more grapes are welcomed by some vintners that have been looking to make more for fast-selling brands, the extra tonnage wasn’t in such hot demand this year as they had during smaller harvests like 2011.
Sales of bottled wine overall are growing, but that growth is not as robust as earlier projections suggested, so the market for excess fruit and wine slowed a bit as the size of the 2018 North Coast crop for key varieties became better-known, according to Brian Clements, partner of Turrentine Brokerage, a Marin County-based dealer and marketer of grapes and bulk wine. Wine sales for the past 52 weeks as of mid-July declined 0.1 percent in volume, according to Nielsen. The dollar volume of those sales advanced 1.7 percent.
The volume of bottled wine sold during the year-end holidays will tell the story of whether this is a momentary blip, or a portent of a shift in the market cycle, Clement said.
The North Coast crop, not including Solano County, last year was nearly 465,000 tons, down 7.8 percent from 2016 and about 1 percent from the 10-year trend, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture tallies. Sonoma and Napa counties had below-average harvests last year of almost 205,000 tons and 141,600 tons, respectively.
Biggest North Bay business stories of 2018
This is one of 10 recaps of major changes for or impacts on commerce in Sonoma, Solano, Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties this year.