Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rain, rain...go away....

A little over an inch by the time I got up this morning.
September was a charm - 12 days had high temps in the 90's (two days it hit 100+) and 18 days with fog, avg hi was 85°, avg low was 48°, with sunny afternoons making for perfect ripening conditions.

I'm one of the lucky ones - I got my last fruit in the cellar early afternoon on Saturday. (I should qualify that, I brought in the last of the fruit I had budgeted for this year...that's off from what I SHOULD be normally doing by -15% due to the economy. Much of that was accomplished by green drop, not that I like to do that, but it was what I thought was the lesser of two evils. The other being letting it rot on the vine - though I probably would have found myself doing exactly what everyone else is, selling it for pennies a pound when it was worth more than a dollar a pound.) I know more than a few people who had buyers that couldn't get financing this year. Banks wouldn't lend them scratch to buy more fruit as they were unbalanced with what the creditors thought was too much inventory from past vintages...
Sadly, much of the fruit which was still out there was (is) some of the best. Late ripening Cab and Zinfandels that were worth the long wait. Many blocks will be offered to home winemakers this year as it either won't have a contract buyer, or will be deemed "compromised" by the rain we're having right now. If you're a garagiste, then this could be your year to shine, if you're ready to work around some low sugars - depending on what the next few weeks bring us....

So?
For wineries, the spot market prices for grapes was already dropping like a stone with demand off as much as it was. Add to that the fact that many wineries can't fulfill the fruit contracts they had due to financing woes, and the market prices fall further. Then throw a big heaping spoonful of rain on top of that and it gets even worse...
Prices aren't just dropping into the basement, they're heading for the abyss.

The irony of years when there are great crops available which wouldn't be available otherwise is that you're either at full production capacity, or you have no money available to snap it up.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may be a blessing in disguise. Or perhaps a recommendation to the industry. We picked out Cab and Zins with perfect ripeness. 22.8-23.3 brix at crush is ripe by all accounts. The concept of hang time is a farse and it's vintages like these or in 2002 which painfully remind us.

Sucker on time, drop fruit and pull leaves and one won't find themselves in this position. For those with grapes still on the vine, MAKE PORT!

October 13, 2009 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like everything else in the wine biz, "perfect ripeness" is subjective

What works for you or someone else may be very different from what I want

October 14, 2009 7:31 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

@1st Anon: Maybe....but as I've always postulated, the industry is sales driven (as it SHOULD be). Bigger bolder wines with more alcohol have continued to outsell lighter-bodied and "delicate" wines over the past 20 years.

The French model for a successful wine is based on a summer with rain and questionable heat. That model was placed upon the CA/New Morld wine industry as THE WAY to make wine....but one has to ask whether that was because at the time that was all that anyone knew, and if France was the target of our endeavors.

Having discovered we can make "as good"/better wines as they can I wonder why we would limit ourselves to their model when we obviously have different environs and different potentials. Let each winemaker pursue their ideal, and see how the market judges them. That is the true measure of success...

@2nd Anon: Well said....

Cheers,
/Vini

October 14, 2009 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least my "delicate" wines are off the vine and doin' fine;)

The concept of ripenes has peaked a few years ago and permeated into a level of gross neglect of the fruit on the vine- which SHOULD BE the art in which we're attempting to capture, not dollars in the basket or medals on the wall or points.

Just because one can reach the point of shrivel doesn't mean one should. And shriveled bunches is not good for those who've ever seen "cult" wines at the crushpad. The wines that won in '76 were of the French model... Lower sugars, lower alcohol, lighter body and certainly less store-bought flavors, I mean oak.

Didn't anyone ever teach you, bigger isn't always better.

October 14, 2009 10:01 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Anon...

I agree that shrivel is a bad thing, which is why I take pains to avoid it.

But, can you show me ANYONE who makes 10k cases of wine for themselves alone? 5k? 1k?!
Sales ARE the measure of success, period. Otherwise I never would have moved away from making 200 gallons in my garage decades ago and bothered with the paperwork for a "commercial" venture.

Really?
You don't feel the need to have any $$$ in the basket?...
Hmmm, well you may not prosper in this new economy the Repugnicans have brought us, but at least you'll sleep well despite watching your bank account flounder...
:)

And I'm not a fan of "cult wines" either. Over-priced and ego-driven prima donnas for the most part, though there are one or two I've enjoyed here and there at tastings in the past. Still I wouldn't dare pay the prices they want to extort from me, and I refuse -nay, morally object!-to ever being on any "allocation" or "waiting" lists...
I'll spend enough time in purgatory without adding that sin to my list...

/Vini

October 14, 2009 10:24 AM  

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