Wednesday, 15 May 2013

BC Grape Crop Report: 2012 Insights

The BC Wine Institute recently released the annual Crop Report, a voluntary survey of BC wine grape growers conducted and compiled by accounting firm BDO Canada. The summary message of the 2012 Report was that total tonnage has “returned to normal levels” thanks to an increase of 17% over 2011. Extrapolating from the wineries/growers that responded to the survey the report concludes that a total of 27,257 tons of wine grapes were harvested in 2012, versus 22,722 tons in the challenging 2011 vintage.

A mild winter, good spring fruit set, and warm temperatures throughout harvest combined to yield the success witnessed last year. Although consumers are already enjoying the stellar 2012 white wines, the Wine Institute quotes BC Grapegrowers’ Association President Manfred Freese as noting that “the resultant full ripening of the berries all but guarantees this will be a superior vintage year for red wines.”

Seeing as the Crop Report survey is voluntary, only a limited percentage of vineyards provide data in any given year. Last year 110 of the 206 wineries in BC participated, representing a historical low of only 53%. Frustratingly, as the number of wineries has increased over the past several years, the number responding to the survey has fallen, accelerating the participation decrease from a high of 84% in 2008. Should this trend continue the Crop Report faces a dim future slide into obscurity: hopefully the Institute is aware of the potential problem and is seeking to boost the response rate in the future.

Variety

2012 Rank

2012 Tons

Variety

2011 Rank

2011 Tons

Merlot

1

5,637

Merlot

1

4,830

Chardonnay

2

2,980

Chardonnay

2

2,481

Pinot Gris

3

2,788

Pinot Gris

3

2,331

Pinot Noir

4

1,981

Cabernet Sauvignon

4

1,694

Cabernet Sauvignon

5

1,964

Sauvignon Blanc

5

1,426

Gew├╝rztraminer

6

1,513

Pinot Noir

6

1,417

Sauvignon Blanc

7

1,435

Gew├╝rztraminer

7

1,262

Cabernet Franc

8

1,371

Pinot Blanc

8

1,173

Syrah/Shiraz

9

1,323

Cabernet Franc

9

1,061

Riesling

10

1,309

Riesling

10

1,011

Those wineries that did respond have provided a fascinating look at the ongoing changes in the BC grape-growing industry. Perennial champions Merlot, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris remain in the top three once again, but due to a massive 564 additional tons harvested, Pinot Noir bumped Cabernet Sauvignon from fourth place – this despite an additional 300 tons of Cabernet being harvested in 2012!

More changes saw Sauvignon Blanc falling from fifth down to seventh place, despite a slightly larger harvest than 2011, and an additional 251 tons of Gewurztraminer pushed this aromatic variety up from seventh to sixth. Perhaps the biggest upset in the rankings comes via Syrah, which didn’t even crack the top ten in 2011 but emerged to help push Pinot Blanc out entirely via a huge 450 ton increase over the relatively unimpressive 2011 harvest. Even a slight increase to 1,187 tons in 2012 wasn’t enough to help Pinot Blanc retain a place in the leaderboard. Lastly, Cabernet Franc’s 310 ton increase helped this increasingly popular variety into a solid eighth place (Sandra Oldfield must be ginning somewhere), while elegant Riesling maintained position in tenth, with nearly 300 tons above 2011.

The full report also includes price details for every grape variety, revealing some of the most (and least) valuable grapes in the local market. Averaging $2,284/ton over 436 tons helped Viognier trounce varieties like Chardonnay ($1,991) and Pinot Gris ($2,063), but Roussanne had them all beat with a maximum price per ton of $6,161 (although averaging $2,994 on a mere 33 tons).

Amongst reds, Merlot exhibited a shockingly low minimum value of only $533/ton at one point, although the grape averaged a respectable $2,378. What must have been some exceptional Cabernet Franc grapes maxed out at $7,500/ton (while averaging $2,434), but 204 tons of Malbec were the most valuable red table grapes, averaging $2,791 per ton.

To view the full 2012 Crop Report (and those of other years as well) visit the BC Wine Institute webpage.

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