California’s economy is one of the largest in the world, with significant resources and strength from agriculture, according to a Univ. of California 2008 news story. The Economist reports California’s ranking is around No. 8 between Italy at No.  7 and Brazil at No. 9. In a 2006 University of California study, wine grapes were responsible for 10 percent of the state’s total agricultural output, second only to dairy.

The California grape agricultural industry is second only to dairy in the State. Varying varietals, including the Thompson [shown], are grown for table grapes, raisins, wines for blending, boutique and high end wines, sweet wines and brandy.
With 175 new wineries opening every year since 2000, overall the California wine industry appears to be strong and has managed to ride a boom despite a worldwide recession and deterioration of the U.S. economy which began in 2008. The region, as a whole, has wine-grape production trends that reflect an evolving consumer demand over 30 years. While this is all very positive, the issues in the industry in the next decade will include water, disease, pests and over planting, according to the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

According to California Agriculture’sJan.-March 2010 issue, “California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) divides the state into 17 wine-grape-growing districts, which are in turn aggregations of American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) for California. The boundaries of AVAs are determined by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.” For a map of California regions, click here.

In order to keep our analysis empirically manageable, we limited the focus to eight major wine-grape varieties. These include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir as representative red grapes; and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, French Colombard and Chenin Blanc as representative white grapes. As of 2006, total production of these eight grapes was 2.2 million tons, or 71% of California’s total wine-grape output. The average real price received per ton of crush for these varieties across the regions was $811. The comparable price received in 1976 was $642, but this 26% increase does not reflect a trend seen uniformly throughout the state. Over the 30 years, prices received grew by an average of 46% in the North Coast region, while prices actually fell slightly throughout much of the rest of the state.

California Agriculture, January-March 2010

The Wine Institute has published a Regional Winery and Grower Association list. The web address also has a section on the Sustainable Winegrowing Program.

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