The California Department of Food and Agriculture recently issued their annual report. Here are some of the highlights:
California’s grape-bearing acreage grew to an all-time high in recession-plagued 2009, with 448,957 planted acres of red and white wine grapes. That’s an increase of 5,267 bearing acres over last year’s total, or 1.1 percent.
Pinot Noir saw the largest increase of any variety, red or white: nearly 18 percent.
Other red varieties that grew included Syrah, Petite Sirah and (very slightly) Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
Merlot decreased. A mere 158 acres of it were planted statewide in 2009, less even than Zinfandel (166 acres). The damage done from Sideways apparently is ongoing.
Chardonnay decreased (slightly), but Pinot Gris was up, and so was Sauvignon Blanc.
French Columbard remains the second most widely-planted white grape, after Chardonnay. Much of it goes into cheap jug blends, but there are always rumors that some ends up in Chardonnay, since by Federal law only 75% of a grape variety must be contained in a wine with a varietal label.
However, if you factor in non-bearing acreage (meaning vines that are still too young to bear fruit), almost all major varieties, with the exception of Merlot but including Chardonnay, increased in 2009 over 2008.
The largest increases in Pinot Noir acreage occurred in Sonoma and Monterey counties, with Santa Barbara a distant third. Napa County, including the Carneros portion, remained steady in Pinot Noir acreage.
Most of Monterey’s and Santa Barbara’s increased Pinot Noir acreage still is non-bearing. As the vines bear fruit in the next year or two, additional quantities of Pinot Noir will be put onto the market, which could alleviate prices.
The interior valley counties of Madera, Fresno, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Yolo also saw big spikes in non-bearing grape acreage. This suggests that inland growers (in an attempt to offer consumers less expensive wines), planted major varieties that eventually will find their way into lower-priced bottles.