Moscato surplus looms after record California harvest
- Wednesday 12 February 2014
The 2013 harvest in Napa Valley
According to the Preliminary Grape Crush Report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 4.23m tons of wine grapes were harvested in California last year, up 7% on 2012’s previous record crop.
More than 125,000 tons of Muscat of Alexandria was harvested – the grape typically used to make wines labelled as ‘Moscato’ – up 60% on the previous year.
Figures released by the California-based Wine Institute last year show that, in 2012, Moscato sales rose by a third in volume in US retailers, excluding bars and restaurants, making it more popular than Sauvignon Blanc.
But, Ciatti Global Wine & Grape Brokers this week warned the trend might not have the legs to match 2013 production levels.
‘The additional California Muscat production could prove to be problematic, as its growth coincides with already existing international Moscato inventories and an overall softening of Moscato demand at the retail level,' it said.
Elsewhere, Chardonnay accounted for the biggest share of the California 2013 grape crush at 16.1%, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon at 11.1%.
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes reached an all-time high average price of nearly $5,500 per tonne, thanks in part to an 8% reduction in tonnage.
The overall average grape price for California was US$706.29 per tonne, down 4% on 2012 due largely to lower prices in Central Valley districts. Coastal districts all registered grape price increases.
‘Two large back-to-back crops create some questions regarding market dynamics this coming year,’ Ciatti said.
Any oversupply may be felt most keenly at the lower end of the market. In terms of premium wine, it's not such a problem, according to Mondavi winery owner Constellation Brands. 'We actually need more supply just to satiate demand,' its chief financial officer said last month. Constellation rates premium wine as anything priced above $5-a-bottle.
A prolonged drought in California could curtail the 2014 harvest, but Ciatti said it is still too early to make predictions.