Good Fruit Grower

February 2013

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Viticulture Wine industry in a growth SPURT ashington's wine industry is in another growth spurt, though it's not as obvious as the big boom in the late 1990s to mid-2000s when acreage tripled, winery numbers quadrupled, and it seemed every Seattle wine lover became an overnight grape grower or winemaker. What's different this time is that the growth is measured, planned, and being encouraged by wineries with contracts in hand. Growth is in response to steady wine sales and not based on speculation. The Washington Wine Commission, established to promote Washington wine, completed a strategic plan last summer to forecast where the industry would be in five years. Steve Warner, executive director of the Wine Commission, says that the board of directors used the following assumptions to help forecast the future: Assumption 1. National wine industry will continue to grow at 3 percent annually, which will result in total wine sales of 350 million cases by 2017 (based on data showing U.S. wine sales have increased in volume an average of 3 to 4 percent for the last 18 years). Assumption 2. Washington's wine industry will grow an average of 5 percent in the next five years. (The state has outpaced the national sales average in the last few years and is currently 12 percent ahead of previous year numbers. Five percent was deemed conservative by the Washington Wine Commission by Melissa Hansen board, according to Warner.) A growth of 5 percent annually means the state will produce nearly 16 million cases of wine by 2017, Warner said. Washington produced approximately 10 million cases of wine in 2010 from the state crop of 160,000 tons (a ton of grapes yields around 63 cases of wine). "Sixteen million cases of wine translates into about 62,000 bearing acres," he said, adding that the commission used a baseline of 45,000 acres, the most current statewide acreage number available. A U.S. Department of Agriculture survey done in 2010 and released in 2011 reported nearly 45,000 acres were planted to wine grapes. The Washington Wine Commission's growth projections for the industry could come earlier than planned. Steve Warner says, based on Wine Commission projections, wine grape acreage will hit 62,000 acres in five years— or less. New normal? Warner said the original wine grape crop forecast made internally last summer by the Wine Commission for budget and promotion purposes was 176,000 tons—a number that was revised in August to 190,000 tons. The USDA forecast a wine grape crop of 185,000 tons last August, which would top the previous record of 160,000 tons in 2010. Final crop size numbers are usually released by the USDA in January and were unavailable at press time for Good Fruit Grower. "Is the 190,000 tons an anomaly from good weather in the fall, or is it the new baseline normal?" Warner asked. "The commission thinks it may be a new baseline, and if so, acreage projections and tonnage of the strategic plan would be reached by 2014, even earlier than we forecast." He noted that the commission threw out the 2011 crop when it was averaging yields and projecting future acreage because the crop was so short due to a Thanksgiving freeze the previous fall. 16 FEBRUARY 1, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Wine grape vineyards in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.

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