California has endured a long, hot summer. Not only has the heat been close to breaking 100-year records, the drawn out summer has also had a negative effect on the table grape season. The harvest is delayed this year and volumes are down as grapes take longer to achieve optimum color, particularly the darker varieties.
“Right now, the varieties that are available include Autumn King, Autumn Royal, Scarlet Royal, and Red Globe,” said Keith Andrew of Columbine Vineyards. “We also have our proprietary crops of the Holiday Grape® as well as Black Globe®. The harvest of these latter varieties should start in about a week to ten days and their availability will last until mid-December. However, the season has been very unfavorable. There has been prolonged record heat spells which has resulted in the grapes losing their usual coloring.”
Slow coloring delays crop
Andrew said that all else was well with the market, except for the coloring which has decreased volumes. “Demand is great, the quality is excellent, it’s all there,” he continued. “However, the harvesting has been slow going as growers wait until the coloring improves. The red and black varieties, in particular, are slow and tedious in attaining their usual full color.”
Price steady as producers battle costs
While the harvest has been drawn out and volumes are down across the region, the price has remained relatively steady, for the moment. However, the price moving forward is unknown and rising costs are putting pressure on growers.
“The reduced yield is not affecting price at all yet. At the moment, Scarlet Royals are priced anywhere between $14-$20 within the industry, depending on the size and quality. But the big question is how that price will transform over the next few months,” said Andrew. “It is cooling off now which helps, but the harvest is already delayed and a late finish to the harvest would mean supply from California will conflict with the South American grape season. Hopefully, we can catch up a bit and turn it around into a more normal season.”
“Another problem is that costs are skyrocketing for growers,” he continued. “At this time of year, farmers hire picker and packer crews which typically walk the fields every day and pick and pack grapes that are ready. But right now, they’re doing more walking than picking because the grapes just aren’t reaching their color. So although the price is steady, the costs are spiking for the daily harvest, which is having a significant impact on the bottom line.”
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