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California Wine in 2017

May 16, 2018

California's 600,000 acres of wine grapes produced 4.2 million tons in 2017, an average yield of 7.2 tons an acre. Most California wine grapes are red varieties: 2.2 million tons or 52 percent were red compared with 1.8 million tons or 48 percent that were white varieties. Napa or District 4 crushed 142,000 tons of grapes or 3.4 percent of the total, while Fresno (District 13) crushed 1.3 million tons or 31 percent of the total.

Chardonnay was 15 percent of the crush; Cabernet Sauvignon 14 percent; Zinfandel nine percent; French Colombard eight percent; and Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Rubired were six percent each. The top three varieties were almost 40 percent of the crush, and the top seven almost two-thirds of the crush.

Growers received an average $778 a ton for wine grapes in 2017, including $966 a ton for red varieties and $588 a ton for white. Red wine prices have been rising faster than white wine prices, explaining why new plantings are three fourth red varieties, led by cabernet sauvignon (37 percent) and pinot noir (20 percent).

Napa Cabernet was worth $7,500 a ton, while Fresno Chardonnay was worth $391 a ton. It takes 2.7 pounds or 620 grapes to make a 750 ml bottle of wine, so the value of the grapes in an average bottle of California wine is $1.05 in 2016, and ranged from 54 cents for Fresno Chardonnay to $10.12 for Napa Cabernet.

US retail wine sales in 2017 were over $14 billion, according to Wine Business Monthly, including $12.5 billion or 90 percent that was sold in standard 750 ml bottles. Wine that sold for less than $4 a bottle generated five percent of total wine sales in 2017; wine selling for $4 to $8 a bottle accounted for 25 percent of total sales; wine selling for $8 to $11 a bottle 24 percent; wine selling for $11 to $15 a bottle 18 percent; wine selling for $15 to $20 nine percent; wine selling for $20 to $25 four percent; and wine selling for over $25 a bottle generated five percent of wine sales.

The three largest wineries accounted for 60 percent of US wine sales in 2017. E&J Gallo shipped 70 million cases of wine; the Wine Group, 53 million; Constellation, 50 million; Trinchero, 19 million; Treasury, 16 million; and Delicato and Bronco, 10 million cases each. The 50th largest US wineries, Rutherford and McManis, shipped 350,000 cases.

Most wineries have many labels, and sell wines at various price points. The top labels by US dollar sales in 2017 were Barefoot, five percent of food-store wine sales; Woodbridge, three percent; Franzia and Sutter Home, 2.5 percent each; and Yellow Tail, Kendall-Jackson, Black Box and Chateau Ste. Michelle, about two percent each.

Grower prices for wine grapes, 2008-17