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Juice grape crop may be slightly above average; biggest crop ever expected for wine grapes.

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As Washington State’s wine grape growers wrap up harvest this week and next, early reports coming in point to what could be one of the state’s best vintages in terms of quality and quantity. Size of the crop won’t be known until December, but an unofficial yield estimate of 190,000 tons made for budgeting purposes by the Washington Wine Commission in August could be close, says the commission’s Steve Warner.

“The 2012 harvest likely could be our best crop, both for quality and quantity,” said Warner. “Cabernet Sauvignon appears to have picked out a little lighter than we estimated, but Merlot is coming in a little heavier. But the quality for all of the varieties is excellent.”

Last year’s wine grape crop was 142,000 tons, down from the previous three years because of an early winter freeze in 2010. The  freeze occurred in November before grapevines were dormant, reducing crop for the following season because of damaged buds, cordons, and even some trunks. The industry’s largest crop was in 2010 with 160,000 tons.

The most recent acreage survey taken in 2011 estimated statewide wine grape acreage near 44,000 acres. Many of those acres are young and are now coming into full production.

Juice grape yields average

Washington’s juice grape crop wrapped up towards the end of October. Industry numbers will be released at the Washington State Grape Society’s annual meeting on November 15. Preliminary reports show the Concord and Niagara crop to be slightly above average.

Mike Concienne of National Grape Cooperative Association (Welch’s) in Grandview, said that yields of the cooperative’s growers came in slightly above average (8.9 tons per acre compared to 8.2).

Grape quality was good, he said, but there was very little free-run juice this year. “We noticed the grapes were very dry, which was very unusual,” Concienne said, adding that it was an odd year. “Many of the loads came in 3 to 4 percent lighter than what was scheduled, and normally, they tend to come in a little on the heavier side.”

He said the three weeks of 100°F temperatures in August may have affected the grapes and caused the dry berries.