Raisin or Wine Grape Decision is Made Early
November 3, 2017
Going Raisins or Going Green for Wine
By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor
California Ag Today recently spoke with Jeff Bitter, vice president of Allied Grape Growers of Fresno, a wine grape marketing co-op owned by approximately 550 growers located throughout the San Joaquin Valley as well as the North Coast.
Allied Grape Growers markets almost 200,000 tons of grapes to over 60 different outlets, primarily wine and concentrate processors. According to some estimates, the wine grape crush was down this year for Thompsons. The decision is made early for the farmers to either pick green for crush or extend out for raisins.
“For the most part, growers make the decision whether to raisins or go green for wine grapes early on in the season,” Bitter explained. “There's always a few fence sitters that will make the decision based on what's going on at harvest time. There are also many decisions and some cultural practices that need to be made and done earlier than August, in a lot of cases.”
“We saw where this year's crush has been lighter than anticipated, because the crop simply hasn't been there. I think we're going to see that the raisin harvest is much lighter than anticipated as well,” Bitter said.
There’s a higher demand for white grapes this year, mainly for concentrate and some wine production.
“Generally, the shortage and the interest in white grapes this year has come from the fact that the southern hemisphere was short. Actually, they've been short the last two crops. That's kind of opened up a hole in the global marketplace for some lower and generic white juice and to some degree wine,” Bitter said.
Bitter said the demand for raisin variety grapes at wineries is mostly from concentrate, not so much for wine making.
“Some wineries will blend in concentrate into the wine for added sweetness, depending on what style wine they're making. By and large, the concentrate that's made from Thompsons is going to the food industry and to the juice market,” he explained.