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California crop ‘exceptional’ after long harvest

California’s winemakers are optimistic about the quality of the 2007 crop after a long, drawn-out harvest which finished in late October.

Lower yields in many areas and the smallest berry sizes seen in over a decade have enhanced grape quality, despite an early rush to harvest grapes in early September, according to the California Wine Institute.

Early estimates suggest a total crop quantity of 3.2m tons, a fraction up on last year’s harvest of 3.1m tons, but well down on 2005’s record-breaking vintage, which returned 3.7m tons and created a serious fruit surplus.

‘The lower wine grape tonnage in 2007 will have a tightening effect on the market,’ said Glenn Proctor, of San Rafael-based Ciatti Company. ‘This will bring things back to a more balanced perspective.’

The year was characterised by an early budbreak, but a sparse berry set, resulting in loose grape bunches. Yields were generally down – about 35% below average in the Central Coast, and 10-15% down in the North Coast, according to Bill Turrentine, of Turrentine Brokerage.

The growing season was relatively cool, but hot weather towards the end of August caused many varietals to ripen simultaneously.

‘We are extremely pleased with the quality of the 2007 harvest,’ said Mark Gabrielli, general manager of Woodbridge Winery. ‘Berry size was smaller than we have seen in more than ten years, and the fruit developed intense varietal flavours with rich, mouth-filling tannins.’

Wine Institute president and CEO Bobby Koch said the quality of 2007 was ‘exceptional’.

Written by Richard Woodard

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