2012 Ohio Grape Prices Reflect Reduced Yields
Severe frost led to the wipeout of many Vitis Labrusca crops such as Concord, Niagara, and Catawba this year. But an early spring, combined with summer’s drought, means Vitis Vinifera and hybrid grape berries are high quality, and ahead of schedule.
This spring, early bud break and subsequent frost destroyed Vitis Labrusca crops from Northeast Ohio, through Southwest Michigan and on into Western New York.
See related story: Grape Freeze Damage Extensive in Ohio, New York, Michigan
Crops for vinifera and the French-American hybrids, however, can produce a fair crop on secondary buds. Throughout the region, varietals survived with about a 40 per cent reduction in yield. The vines thrived in the summer’s hot, dry weather according to David Scurlock, Viticulture Outreach Specialist at Ohio State University.
‘I think the overall prognosis for this year’s crop is excellent,” said Scurlock. ‘However, because of the drought, nitrogen levels will be lower…which could result in stuck fermentations.”
Good spraying programs have kept diseases at bay, Scurlock noted. ‘Typical diseases, such as downy mildew, have not been a big problem this year. Some cases of powdery mildew, which does not need water to infect the various parts of the vine, have been reported. Black rot has been detected in small amounts in Southern Ohio. Anthracnose on some susceptible varieties, such as Vidal, has been seen across Ohio.”
Growers began the season with a very warm March, putting picking schedules ahead by two to three weeks. Duke Bixler, Owner at Breitenbach Wine Cellars in the Sugar Creek area of Northeast Ohio, got lucky with his 25 acres of Concord this year, and will be picking it next week (August 27).
‘I’m at a higher elevation — 2,000 feet — so our grapes avoided the frost and they’re doing great. We are going to have an excellent harvest,” Bixler said. In addition, Bixler grows Valiant, Catawba, Riesling and Norton vines, and says they all look good.
‘As far as I know, the better growers are going to be in good shape. The tonnage will be light but the quality will be excellent.”
Prices of vinifera from good growers will go up, predicted Bixler who produces 70,000 cases of wine — including fruit and berry wines – per year. ‘I pay premium prices for premium grapes. The recession, increased demand, and the fact that a few years ago we had a glut so people changed varietals or pulled vines out, all affects the price.”
Bixler expects prices for premium grapes like Cabernet and Merlot will be up $250-$500/ton, to top out at $4500/ton. He expects the market for will be $275-$350/ton for Concord and Niagara grapes.
Debevc Farms in Northeast Ohio advertised grapes and juice recently on The Grape Exchange with the caveat that varietals in short supply will be available to previous customers only. Prices listed for those grapes, excluding delivery: Chardonnay $1,700/ton, Vidal Blanc $700/ton, Seyval Blanc $725/ton, Cabernet Franc $1,700/ton, Chardonnel $800/ton, and Pinot Noir $1,900/ton.
At Ferrante Winery, Nick Ferrante said he lost between 35-40 per cent of his vinifera. However, his 10 acres of Vidal Blanc, a French-American hybrid, broke bud in the first week of May which missed the frosts.
‘We still have 60-65 per cent of the [vinifera] crop which will be in excellent condition,” Ferrante reported. He doesn’t anticipate buying to supplement that yield. Instead, he will be relying on a carry-over from wine pressed in 2011.
Ferrante bottles estate-grown grapes under the Grand River Valley label. The winery’s American-appellation blend includes grapes from other regions, including the Finger Lakes. In all, they produce 70,000 cases per year, with 65 per cent of grapes coming from the Midwest and Finger Lakes, and 35 per cent estate grown.
Ferrante told Midwest Wine Press the prices he’s seen are on par with last year. Labrusca from Northeast Pennsylvania is about $400/ton, Vinifera $1,200-$1,300/ton, and Hybrids $600-$750/ton.
Joe Mercurio, of Mercurio Produce Distributors, who brokers California whole grapes and juices for Ohio wineries said: ‘With the wild weather swings we have had in Ohio, I would expect to see some spot problems for all Ohio wineries that depend on their own crops. I had a call from a winery in the Lake Erie area recently for grapes and juices.”
In past years, grapes from California, including delivery, have run at about $1,900/ton for Cabernet Sauvignon, $1,800/ton for Cabernet Franc, and $2,100/ton for Pinot Noir, Mercurio said.