The Crush - November 2020 - 1

Volume 47 Issue 11 November 2020


2020 Winegrape Harvest: A Series of Challenges
By Ted Rieger
Many California winegrape growers are probably happy to
see the 2020 harvest behind them and grateful it ended early.
COVID-19 was a looming concern before harvest due to market
sales shifts and potential labor impacts. Growers faced a series of
challenges during harvest: hot weather, wildfires that damaged
commercial and personal properties and caused evacuation
disruptions, grape smoke exposure, lab testing delays, unpicked
crops, and difficulties scheduling picking and processing.
While most expected a smaller crop this year, weather conditions
during much of the growing season provided early prospects
for a good quality crop in most regions. The lighter crop helped
expedite ripening, and harvest began somewhat earlier or on a
similar time frame with recent years. Heat spikes in August and
around Labor Day accelerated ripening and picking times. Many
regions concluded harvest by mid-October.
Allied Grape Growers President Jeff Bitter estimates the 2020
statewide winegrape crush will range from 3.2 to 3.5 million
tons, the smallest California crush since 2011, and down from
3.9 million tons in 2019. Bitter estimates yields statewide will
average 6.5 tons per acre, compared with an average of 7.2 tons
per acre in recent years.
Glenn Proctor, partner and grape broker with the Ciatti Company
said, " Once the pandemic hit in March, the off-premise wine
market segment grew and the on-premise market crashed. "
Coastal regions took a heavier toll than interior regions this
year due to their proximity to wildfires, and as COVID-19
impacted higher-end restaurant wine sales. Bulk wine
buying activity picked up from March
through May as off-premise retail sales
for larger wineries with wide distribution
increased 20% to 30%.

Photo: Allied Grape Growers

California bulk wine inventory has declined since June, and more
dramatically since September as buyers purchased 2018 and 2019
wines to replace 2020 supply believed lost due to lighter crops
and smoke exposed grapes. " There is usually not that level of
bulk wine buying during crush, but it was as active as we've ever
seen it, " Proctor said. " We moved a lot of inventory and at pretty
good prices, led by cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. " Thus,
bulk wine inventory shifted relatively quickly from oversupply
in early 2020 to a more balanced supply-demand situation by
California's 2020 wildfire season set a state record for acres
burned, exceeding 4 million acres by October, with much of
this acreage within or near Northern and Central California
wine regions. Fires created smoke exposure concerns for coastal
vineyards from Monterey County north through Mendocino
County. The LNU Lightning Complex affected parts of Napa,


The Crush - November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Crush - November 2020

The Crush - November 2020 - 1
The Crush - November 2020 - 2
The Crush - November 2020 - 3
The Crush - November 2020 - 4
The Crush - November 2020 - 5
The Crush - November 2020 - 6
The Crush - November 2020 - 7
The Crush - November 2020 - 8
The Crush - November 2020 - 9
The Crush - November 2020 - 10
The Crush - November 2020 - 11
The Crush - November 2020 - 12
The Crush - November 2020 - 13
The Crush - November 2020 - 14