Happy Spring 2021 my WineGrape brothers & sisters! As we emerge from our “COVID cocoons”, we see a more optimistic grape and wine market than that of March 2020 and before. The under-$20 wine market is on fire. The COVID shutdown strained consumers’ wine budgets and sent them to grocery shelves seeking value-priced wines. The reduced 2020 wine volume (due to smoke taint fear) and the emergence of new programs, like lower alcohol wine in cans, has all but wiped out the excess 2018-2019 bulk volume. Dec-March bulk sales activity was off the charts. We seem to be approaching a balanced bulk and grape market again, though prices for grapes and bulk are still fairly lean. We’ve witnessed a “Grape Reset” (to borrow a term I can’t stand) in the Grape Crush Report’s reporting of District Average grape prices.
I believe the 2021 vintage is going to be SHORT on supply. The North Coast received LESS THAN HALF of its normal rainfall… this on top of short rainfall in 2020. Soil profiles are dry, growers are already irrigating and municipalities are talking about severe water rationing. Budbreak was later than normal and regionally sporadic. There are isolated parts of Napa County where Cab Sauv just came out of dormancy last week. Frost damage was insignificant this Spring… a few nights in Mendo-Lake but no nights below 34F in Napa-Sonoma proper. Shoot growth has been slow and most canopies have not even reached the 1st catchwire… Cab Sauv “canopies” are only 2” long and it’s almost May!!! What happens when growers begin rationing water with canopies less than full? Clusters don’t size if vines are in water deficit. Perhaps a lighter crop on a later growing season is a good thing?
What does all this mean? To bulk wine buyers, it means there is not a lot of “low-risk, taint-safe” bulk wine remaining to bridge the “2020 gap” in supply. If your program looks to be short, you had better make some strategic moves on the quality bulk remaining. Consider the 2020s (because there are many terrific lots available with relatively low smoke taint #s). Start signing grapes while the 2021 prices are still reasonable. For Grape Growers and Buyers, we are moving from a Buyers’ market to a Sellers’ market due to dwindling bulk supply and a lean harvest approaching. We’ve seen the “bounce” in the cycle and we are definitely headed up again. The market feels like 2012-2013. Optimism. The worst is behind us… only weather, wildfires and the Government can screw it up.
Agajanian has excellent grape purchase opportunities throughout the State that can also be structured as custom wine contracts. Are you interested in long-term grape contracts, planting contracts, land buys? Let’s get our boots dirty! Call us OR come by our Napa office to taste through our bulk wine offerings. You can reach me at (707) 252-4800 office, (707) 287-6073 cell, email@example.com. Our Napa office is located across from The Meritage & Vista Colina Resorts, 2785 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Napa. CHEERS!
North Coast Wine Grape Manager