Red winegrape varieties led the 2012 California crush with 2.29 million tons.
Red winegrape varieties led the 2012 California crush with 2.29 million tons.

The California grape crush was the largest on record, totaling 4.388 million tons, up 13 percent from 2011 and 1 percent more than the previous record of 2005, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Prior to the report's release, Fresno, Calif.-based Allied Winegrape Growers put the 2012 winegrape crop at 3.885 million tons, according to a news release.

The difference is that the NASS estimate includes table and raisin grapes that were crushed; Allied's does not.

Prices also reached a record high, averaging $734.35 per ton across all varieties, according to the service's preliminary grape crush report. That's up 24 percent from 2011.

Reds continued to lead, with an average of $879.04 per ton; followed by whites, 623.50 per ton; raisin grapes, $318.62 per ton; and table grapes, $272.21 per ton.

Despite the larger crop, the grape and wine market have moved into a balanced position where both wineries and growers should be profitable, according to a news release from the Ciatti Co., a San Rafael, Calif., wine brokerage firm.

The larger crop and inventories should reduce prices in the bulk wine market, but should have less of an effect on grape pricing.

But much depends on case sales during this year, according to the Ciatti release.

Chardonnay, a white variety, accounted for the largest percentage of the total crush volume with 16.8 percent, according to the NASS report. Cabernet sauvignon, a red variety, was second with 11.3 percent.

Grapes produced in District 4, which includes Napa County, continued to lead on pricing with an average of $3,578.70 per ton, up 5 percent from 2011.

District 3, comprising Sonoma and Marin counties, was second with $2,181.88 per ton, up 5 percent from 2011.

The statistics service will issue its final grape crush report, which will contain any corrections or late reports, March 8.