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2010 Crush Report: tidbits

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California’s 2010 Crush Report is out, and as usual it makes for some fine geek reading.

It was a big crop, the third largest since 1988, although off the pace of the record setting 2007 and 2009 vintages. The average price for all varieties was down 5% from 2009, which surely was the result of the Recession, coupled perhaps with the big crop. Napa as usual had the highest average price per ton ($3,238), with Sonoma/Marin the next highest ($2,011), which just shows that Cabernet Sauvignon is much, much pricier, at the highest level, than Pinot Noir. Interestingly, the average price for purchased Cabernet statewide was $1,078, a mere one third the price of Napa Cabernet. That accords with my experience: your average bottle price of Napa Cab is about three times that of a Cabernet from anywhere else (say, $25 versus $75).

I looked at the cost of Cabernet per ton from District 8, which is all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. I wish they would divide this ungainly region into smaller pieces. The Grape Crush Report references specific transactions, and it would be nice to know who down there paid $5,000 a ton for Cabernet, rather than the District 8 average of only $966. I bet it was one of those fancy new Happy Canyon Cabs. I suppose it could have been something from Paso Robles, but my instinct tells me Happy Canyon. By contrast, the most expensive Cabernet from Napa (District 4) was listed at $31,241 (base price per ton). Holy Cow. I wonder where those grapes were grown. Screaming Eagle? Harlan? We’ll never know. (If there’s anyone out there who knows, or thinks they know, come sit here beside me and let’s talk. I promise not to tell!)

There are other little weirdnesses in the Crush report. Despite prices being down across the board, a few red varieties registered notable upticks: Aglianico, Aleatico, Alvarehao (the official spelling), Counoise, Early Burgundy (what?!?), Grand Noir, Sagrantino, Tinta Madeira. I wouldn’t read too much into this, but it might suggest a burgeoning interest among certain niche players for more exotic wines. Beclan, an old French variety that used to pop up in California field blends, also was listed in the Crush Report for the first time. And what a debut: 1,000 acres, almost as much as Malbec! I’d love to know who’s doing what with all that Beclan. But its base price is very cheap: only $281 a ton.

We talk a lot about alcohol levels in Cabernet. Guess which District had the highest brix at crush? If you guessed a Central Valley District, you’re right. It was District 15, San Bernardino County, at 25.9. The next three highest brix levels were from Solano, Sacramento and San Joqauin counties and the Sierra Foothills. No surprises there. Napa, at 24.5, was just about the same as District 8 (San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara again), at 24.3.

In whites, average prices also fell across the board, with the following notable exceptions: Arneis, Grenache Blanc, Malvasia Bianca, Moscato, Muscat of Alexandria, Palomino, Picpoul Blanc (listed for the first time, at an amazing $2,200 a ton), St. Emilion (up hugely in price; also known as Ugni Blanc and Trebbiano) and Verdelho. Explanation? What I said above, about niche players.

The biggest mystery is why in 2009 the average price for Scheurebe was $1,400 a ton and then in 2010 it is listed at 0.00. Was no Scheurebe purchased last year? Why? Is someone looking into this? Did it have anything to do with the Rapture not occurring? Inquiring minds want to know.

  1. As I sip my morning coffee, wondering if the rain outside will ruin my crop (my Malbec just began blooming)I had to smile while reading your blog entry for today. I was reminded of a grower that came to me in 2003 or 2004 asking for $5000 a ton for 5th leaf, flatland-grown Pinot Noir because he saw that someone paid $7500 or so for some tonnage, according to the crush report. I told him he is welcome to sell it to the folks at the crush report for that price….

    There are only two possibilities for someone paying $31,000 a ton for Cabernet. Either they grow grapes and sell them to themselves (it’s called a related transaction), in which case they throw everything, includiing the kitchen sink in the owner’s jet into the cost of grapes…. Or, someone had an ACREAGE contract and lost 95% of the crop. Statistics can be a bitch. You can pretty much ignore the super-high and super-low entries in that report, although I am sure that that is where some pretty interesting stories may lurk.

  2. Regarding $30k/ton grapes. A third possibility is that someone doesn’t worry about adding $38 to their cost per bottle. Maybe looking at a total bottle cost of less than $60 which might look reasonable if you know you will immediately sell out direct to the consumer at full retail. There are several vineyard names that would ensure such demand and add a lot of prestige to a winery. I’d say it could conceiveably be someone selling their Cab for as little as $125 a bottle.

  3. Such a funny post. Where’s Jonata? Seems like a potential customer for the expensive stuff in Santa Ynez.

  4. Morton,

    I stand corrected, there is that possibility too. Anyone wants to buy 3 tons of premium Malbec at that price, please cal me asap to be first in line.

  5. Its is well known that Beckstoffer gets 30,000+ per ton for the best rows of To Kalon from Paul Hobbs.

    Andy loves to see that number in the crush report.

  6. The Early Burgundy is also known as Abouriou.

  7. Jim Vandegriff says:

    I’m looking forward to trying some of that Arneis this weekend at Briceland Vineyards. Quite tasty.

  8. I think the oddball varieties are being planted by Brono. They have loads of experimental plantings of peculiar old-world or blender varietals

  9. Ron Saikowski says:

    TAPAS has been promoting their grapes in California, but no mention in your report of Tempranillo, Albarino, and Palomino. I had heard that California also was planting Tannot. Viognier and the mentioned Medeterrean grapes are doing rather well in Texas. We still have a long way to compare to Texas. Only about 25 years behind Callifornia, but making strides. Does anyone know how the above mentioned Mediterrean grapes are doing pricewise in California?

    Hope the recent rains in California did not affect the flowering of the grape vines!

  10. Doug Patterson says:

    I would support the Andy Beckstoffer theory. Andy Beckstoffer has often recommended that the “rule of 100″ be used in purchasing grapes, that is, take the price of one bottle and multiply it by 100. He syasy the result is a fair price for a ton of the grapes going to make up that bottle. So, under that rule, if a bottle of wine from a very select vineyard like To-Kalon was to retail for $300, then the grape’s price would be $30,000 per ton.

  11. jon campbell says:

    haha well too rich for my blood……i’ll stick with that $850/ per el dorado cab

  12. Patrick says:

    Full of fascinating info. Thx

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