Napa wineries 'consider skipping 2010'

Plummeting demand for big name Napa in 2009 has led some winemakers to debate skipping a vintage, and not release the 2010 wines.

Napa Valley wineries have been experiencing the pains of the global recession, with no indication of a rapid recovery.

In 2009, sales of Napa wines priced at US$25 and above dropped 30% across the US while California’s wine shipments to key export markets fell for the first time in 16 years, according to market analysts ACNielsen.

Several individuals who spoke to decanter.com this week – many off the record – admitted they had been considering skipping the vintage due to low forecast demand.

Jeff Adams, marketing manager for Chateau Montelena told decanter.com wineries should exercise caution when considering skipping a year, but admitted that it was a possibility. 'We cannot speak for all Napa wineries but out of sight is out of mind.'

Mike Manna, a well-established grower in California, said he does not expect to sell a great deal of his crop in 2010.

‘Some wineries are skipping the vintage, which leaves the poor growers to scamper around to get their grapes sold on the spot market.’

Peter Mondavi Jr, president of Charles Krug Winery told decanter.com, ‘We consider adjusting our production levels for a given vintage if inventories are significantly out of balance.’

Since January 2010 winemakers have been legally entitled to sell their wines in licensed venues away from the winery.

It was hoped that this new freedom would help wineries facing challenging market conditions. Many are now pinning their hopes on direct-to-consumer sales as a way out of the crisis.

However Ben Stone, director of the Sonoma Economic Board, pointed out that direct shipments to consumers represent ‘less than 10% of all wine sales.’

He added, ‘despite the 2005 Supreme Court decision that prohibited states from blocking direct shipments of wine from out-of-state wineries, restrictions still exist in 15 states.’

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