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California Wine Harvest Produces High Quality, Large Volume

November 20, 2012

Wine grape growers throughout California are heralding an excellent vintage coming off the 2012 harvest, prompting superlatives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding” and “idyllic.” The results are in sharp contrast to the grape harvest throughout most of Europe, where poor weather negatively impacted both quantity and quality in France, Italy and other regions.

The 2012 California wine grape harvest is estimated at 3.7 million tons, up from 3.3 million tons in 2011, according to The Wine Institute. Both 2011 and 2010 were considered to be of good to excellent quality, depending on the region, but were shorter in volume, so the higher tonnage in 2012 is a welcome development.

Dave Guffy, winemaker at Hess Winery, calls 2012 a “nearly perfect growing season” with ample crop in nearly all varieties, especially Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. “2012 looks like that perfect balance between good yields and high quality, and that’s great news for everybody.”

“The 2012 harvest has been exceptional,” agrees Frank Cabral, director of grower relations for Trinchero Family Estates. “Moderate weather throughout the growing season has put little pressure on the vines and provided grapes with well-balanced chemistries.”

Cabral adds that “the 2012 harvest is making up for the low-yielding 2011 crush, with most varieties picking at above-average yields.”

Aron Weinkauf, winemaker and vineyard manager at Spottswoode Estate Vineyard, says that due to the higher yield, “we were pushed to our limit to accommodate the quantity of fruit we harvested.” He says 2012 was “one of the more idyllic growing seasons we’ve had” and he’s extremely happy with the overall quality and balance of the wines.

The plentiful harvest comes at a time when wine production levels worldwide are expected to continue declines of recent years, according to the International Organization of Wine and Vine (OIV). The OIV is predicting 2012 wine production of between 243.5 million and 252.9 million hectoliters, lower than at any time since 1975.

Poor climate conditions and reductions in vineyards have combined for low production levels within the European Union. After five modest harvests in succession, the EU had an exceptionally low-volume harvest in 2012, the OIV said. Among the major EU wine producing countries only the production forecasts for Portugal and Greece have increased, but in comparison to modest 2011 wine production volumes. Countries showing positive harvest trends include Chile, South Africa and the United States.

For a detailed report on the California harvest from Wine Spectator, click here.


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