Misschien is 2006 een beetje TE goed in Napa

Vorig jaar was al top in Napa, Californie, VS. Dit jaar weer. En dat betekent VEEL druiven.

En dan weten we, dan gaan we richting de overschotten. Wijnplas. Dalende prijzen.

En dat is weer minder leuk.

Tja, moge de sterkste winnen…

One man’s loss is often another’s gain. This old adage is proving true yet again during this year’s grape harvest in Napa Valley.

Last year’s record crop coupled with this year’s healthy red grape production, has led to an oversupply of merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes, according to several local growers.

While the emerging grape glut is causing some growers selling pains, it’s giving plenty of fruit-seeking vintners a chance to cart away high quality fruit at bargain prices.

For growers who haven’t yet found buyers for some fruit, time is running out, according to Glenn Proctor, a grape and wine broker for the San-Rafael based Joseph Ciatti Company.

Andrea Roth/Register
Merlot grapes.

“Harvest is not over and things change from minute to minute, but grapes are available that have not yet been purchased,” Proctor said. “On (remaining) Napa cab and merlot it’s difficult to imagine who those buyers would be at this point.”

Then again, harvest is not over. Proctor pointed out that several vintners who grow their own have harvested only a small percentage of their cabernet crop, leaving a possibility that these growers may come up short and need more fruit.

That would be the exception to the rule. The region’s record cabernet crop last year — 69,000-plus tons — is still taking up tank space at plenty of Napa Valley wineries, according to several growers and vintners. The fact that it’s shaping up to be a big harvest this year, too, adds to the oversupply.

“It’s always difficult to find a good home for fruit after two big harvests,” said Lee Hudson, a longtime Carneros area grower. “The fortunate thing is you have a strong wine market.”

Kristina Streeter, a spokeswoman for the Napa Valley Vintners, said if there is a glut it would have bigger impact outside of Napa Valley, because Napa grapes tend to sell for higher prices than grapes from elsewhere around the state.

It’s not uncommon for vintners to use this 2005 juice to blend with another vintage, a tack that Proctor, a Napa wine broker, predicts many growers might take with 2006 grapes that don’t fetch a high enough price.

There’s even less demand for the 2006 vintage because of a federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau change, according to growers. TTB changed the vintage date requirement last spring. Instead of requiring that 95 percent of a bottle’s juice originate from the same year printed on the label, now only 85 percent of the fruit must come from that same vintage.

“That change has a negative effect on growers,” said Jennifer Kopp, executive director for the Napa Valley Grape Growers.

Granted, the majority of premium fruit from many of Napa Valley’s vineyards has already been sold through long-term contracts.

That is the case for Volker Eisele, who crushes some of his Chiles Valley crop into wine and sells the rest to longtime buyers.

But Eisele admitted that for grower colleagues still scoping for sellers, “it’s not a pretty picture.”

“I would not want to be selling grapes right now. Bigger wineries are forcing the prices down,” Eisele said, predicting a large discrepancy between winery and vineyard profits for the 2006 vintage. “It’s showing that it’s more and more difficult to be profitable if you have a vineyard, but don’t have a winery.”

Meanwhile, it’s a fine year for vintners without vineyards.

Gary Lipp, co-owner of Coho Winery, a small operation that turns out only a couple hundred cases a year, said he paid a premium price for the merlot and cabernet grapes he will crush into his highest-caliber, $65 wines. But he’s glad he and three partners embarked on a venture to buy up cabernet on the spot market because he’s finding some rare bargains.

“There’s some very good fruit out there that’s undervalued. I only wish I had more money to grow our Napa cabernet program,” Lipp said.

Andy Beckstoffer, who farms 3,000 vineyard acres spanning Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, said he wishes there were more entrepreneurs like Lipp scooping up the excess inventory. Though most of Beckstoffer’s fruit has long been committed to buyers through long-term contracts, he said it’s a ruthless market for growers still looking for buyers.

“People are lamenting the $4.99 wine that Fred Franzia and Bronco just came out with. It’s a major detriment to the Napa brand and I’m concerned about that,” Beckstoffer said, referring to the Bronco Wine Company’s latest release of a Napa River brand selling for $4.99 a bottle. “Maybe it will have the beneficial effect of eating up the excess inventory from 2005.”

The cheap acquisition of such surplus, whether it’s from 2005, 2006 or any other year, is exactly what Bronco Wine Company is looking for, according to company spokesman Harvey Posert.

“It’s (basic) economics. You plant too much, there’s a large supply of good quality grapes, and the prices go down,” said Posert. “It’s another high-volume, high-quality crop and for large scale producers like Bronco this is the best of all worlds.”

Lees hier meer over het goede jaar 2006 in Napa.

Lees ook:Oogstbericht 2006: Napa
Lees ook:Napa is Napa
Lees ook:Oogst 2006 Californie 20% minder als in 2005
Lees ook:Oogst 2006 in Australie 15% minder door droogte
Lees ook:Chili komt naar Californie

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