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Bumper Californian crop puts pressure on high-end

California’s bumper 2009 harvest is putting pressure on the premium end of the market, according to preliminary figures.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Preliminary Crush Report said 3.7m tons of wine grapes were harvested in 2009.

This was up more than 20% on 2008’s small crop and not far short of the record harvest in 2005.

‘We knew it was big, but we did not think it was this big,’ said John Ciatti, partner in wine and grape brokerage the Ciatti Company.

‘This crop will put additional pressure on the already struggling premium segment of the wine business.’

Nick Frey, of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, told decanter.com that the Sonoma harvest was up 25% on 2008’s ‘disastrous’ crop.

The market for higher-end grapes and wine remained ‘one of caution,’ he said, with grape prices expected to fall further this year.

‘At the grower level in Sonoma County, we may not see much recovery before 2011,’ he added.

Terry Hall, communications director for Napa Valley Vintners, said it was ‘too soon’ to form a full picture of 2009.

‘The wines from this high-quality vintage will not be in the market for nearly two, and by and large three, years – at which point we are hopeful that the recession is well behind us,’ he said.

The largest production increases came in the Central Valley and Lodi areas, traditionally used for lower-priced wines.

These extra grapes, said Frey, could offset the huge recent increases in bulk wine imports – but Ciatti warned that even the value segment could see weaker demand because of the larger crop.

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Written by Richard Woodard

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