The 2021 California harvest is in full swing and winemakers are reporting a high quality but low yielding vintage. A long period of drought is part of the cause of a roughly 10% drop in the grape harvest, down to 3.6 million tons from the average four million tons.
In good news, the overall 2021 crop in California is looking like it’ll be a little larger than the 2020 vintage, which totalled 3.4 million tons – a nine-year low for the state. Last year’s reduced yields were due to unpicked grapes affected by smoke taint.
Yields in the Central Valley are average this year, according to WineBusiness.com. The North Coast, meanwhile, is on track to bring in a significantly reduced yield due to the ongoing drought conditions, with some vineyards down by 50%. Yields at Central Coast vineyards are predicted to be average this year. The lower yields across the state are putting the vines under less stress, so the need for water is less, which is a blessing given the dry conditions this year.
Water issues have impacted growers across California, with some winemakers in the Russian River Valley having their water allowances curtailed since May.
“There are growers that had to make choices of what to put their water on, because there’s not enough to go around. I know of a couple of vineyards that were abandoned this year,” Allied Grape Growers president Jeff Bitter told WineBusiness.com.
It’s not all bad news, however, as Matt Crafton of Napa’s Chateau Montelena told the Napa Valley Register that while yields were “slightly below estimates” this year, the grape quality so far has been “”excellent to outstanding, with plenty of concentration.” At Trefethen Vineyards in Oak Knoll, Jon Ruel reports that the Pinot, Sauvignon and Chardonnay crop is on the light side “but the flavours have been fantastic.”
Mark Greenspan, with wine-growing, consulting and vineyard management firm Advanced Viticulture, said, “The drought may have positive consequences in terms of better quality this year. It’s not a slam dunk that the drought is going to yield better quality, but it could have a benefit.”