Friday, May 9, 2014

Do U.S. "Drinkers" Need to Catch Up With "Eaters"? Alarming Statistics on Declining Organic Vineyard Acreage

The newly released crop reports from CCOF and from the Ag Commissioner's office in Napa point to a disturbing trend. California is losing organic vineyards - yes, losing.


When it comes to food, consumers are embracing organic foods in record numbers.

According to the latest CCOF statistics, the number of organic baby food products was up 33% from 2012 to 2013. Organic spirits are also up. Pastures and field land acreages are way, way up. (One the pastures issue, if anyone can help me understand why, please add a comment below; queries to CCOF by phone and email have not been answered.)

Fueled almost entirely by pasture land increases, organic acreage overall increased nearly 300% from 2010 to 2013 from 734,000 acres to 2.1 million in 2013.

At the same time, wine grape acreage has been declining 5% from 2010 and 2011 highs (11,906 acres in 2011) to 11,237 in 2013.

Unless the decline is accounted for by a possible scenario in which vineyards are shifting away from CCOF to other certifiers, organic vines are losing ground.


Local statistics from Napa's newly released 2013 crop report show that the trend is (depressingly) happening in the North Coast. 

Napa's practically maxed out on growing more wine grapes as most of the marginal lands have already been put into production. But people have to replant. About 360 new acres were added.

However, the number of organic growers decreased from 135 to 133 from 2012 to 2013 and the number of organically certified vineyard acres decreased from 4,032 in 2012 to 3,670 in 2013 - a decline of 362 acres or 9 percent. 

What accounts for the decline? Is it new pests? A lack of consumer demand or interest in organically grown wines? A change in the way organic acres are counted?

One local observer thought it might be pests like the Virginia creeper. Another prominent vineyard consultant said none of his clients had suffered losses or taken any land out of certification.

If you can share any insights or facts, please do. (Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below). I've asked the Napa Ag Commissioner's office for insights as well. I'll share any news I get from them here.

Sonoma's 2013 crop report is due out on June 10. Last year about 1,000 out of 60,000 acres in Sonoma were certified.


Meanwhile, there's good news from Europe (new post acoming). There consumers have never confused no sulfite wines with organic certification (they usually call no sulfite wines "natural") and are drinking organically grown wines in record numbers. Organic vineyard growth is growing rapidly - a dramatic difference from the confusion in the U.S. marketplace over what organically grown wine means.

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