It’s official. With the release of the 2013 grape production data from the USDA on Monday, Cabernet Sauvignon is now the most produced wine grape variety in Washington. Cabernet leapfrogged up from its long-held position of third behind Chardonnay and Riesling. Those two grapes have for years traded places for the top spot.
42,600 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon were produced in 2013, up a staggering 19% from 2012. Cabernet Sauvignon made up one fifth of Washington’s production in 2013, which set a record of 210,000 tons. Overall production was up by 12% from 2012, with most of this increase due to additional plantings coming on-line.
Cabernet’s ascension corresponded with the scales in Washington tipping from whites (49% of production in 2013) to reds for the first time*. This is indicative of an increased focus on red wines in Washington as these wines continue to establish their identity in the marketplace.
While grape production was up in 2013 in Washington, so was the cost per ton, which averaged $1,110 across all varieties. This was an increase of $70 from 2012. Grenache – which still has limited, though growing, plantings in the state – commanded the highest price at $1,889 per ton. Though some of the average price differences from 2012 to 2013 were minor, it’s notable that prices increased for all reported grape varieties with the exception of Viognier (surprising), Chenin Blanc (less so), and the catchall ‘other white varieties.’ This is a sign of the recovery of the economy as well as increased demand for Washington fruit. Expect these increasing prices to eventually start to be passed on to consumers.
So what does Cabernet Sauvignon taking the top spot in Washington mean? It means that the variety - with a long trail of high scoring wines - has firmly established an identity in the state and growers, wineries, and consumers know it. People who are planting additional acreage are betting that this trend will only continue, and it's a safe bet. Don’t look for Cabernet Sauvignon to give up the top spot any time soon and expect the balance of Washington’s production to increasingly tilt red.
Read the full USDA report here.
* Correction - 2012 was the first year that Washington produced more red grapes than whites making 2013 the second year.
Image courtesy of appellationamerica.com.