Over the past 10 years, the Ohio wine industry has grown from 124 to over 330 licensed wine manufacturers in 2020. As the wine industry continues to grow, grape supply must rise in order to meet winery demands. A major challenge towards achieving this goal is ensuring profitability for wine grape production. As a commodity, grapes have high startup costs, several years from planting until productive bearing, annual vineyard labor and supply costs, and high risks of crop loss that limit profitability. Therefore, grape prices should reflect not only the available supply and demand but also production costs.
Between 06 Apr 2020 and 15 May 2020, an online Qualtrics survey was distributed to grape producers across Ohio. In this survey, growers were asked about their 2019 planted and bearing wine grape acreage, yield (tons), cost ($ per ton or gallon), if wine grapes were directly sold or processed and sold, and plans for increasing acreage in 2020. The survey results below aim to provide an overview of grape production and pricing for the 2019 season and improve the multi-year grape production and pricing trends in Ohio.
Survey Response Summary
Thirty-three participants (n = 33) responded to the 2019 survey, a 17.5% decline from the previous year. The participants represented vineyards (39.4%) and A2 permitted estate wineries (60.6%). Respondents reported individual vineyard sizes between 1 to 5 and > 50 planted acres. Vineyard acreage was recorded for 23 Ohio counties, up from 18 last year (Fig. 1).
Production, Yield & Pricing
Production (acreage): The sum of total vineyard acreage reported by n = 33 participants was between a low of 198 acres and a maximum of 475 acres, with an average individual vineyard size of 13.3 acres. The average size, however, was skewed by 8 vineyards greater than 11 to 15 acres. The median reported vineyard size is smaller at 3 acres (n = 21).
Bearing acreage accounted for 83.4% of the total planted acreage reported by n = 26 participants. Seven participants (n = 7) did not report additional information related to bearing acreage. In total, 42 different cultivars were reported across 139.3 planted vineyard acres, 6 of which were table grapes (Fig. 2, Table 1). The wine grape cultivars represented native (V. labrusca), interspecific hybrid (‘hybrid’), and V. vinifera (‘vinifera’) species. Native grapes comprised the majority of reported acreage (39.7%), followed by vinifera (31.0%), and hybrids (27.8%; Fig. 2). This is a major departure from the 2018 survey, where native and hybrid grape cultivars represented 60.9% and 11.4% of the total bearing acreage, respectively.
Yield (tons): Participants reported yield for 29 wine grape cultivars (Fig. 2, Table 1). Total yield for 2019 was 382.9, a decrease from 507.1 tons reported in 2018. Of the total yield, 224.8 tons were sold (58.7%). It was assumed that the remaining yield (158.1) was used for estate wine making purposes. The highest percentage of yield-bearing cultivars were native grapes (68.0%), followed by vinifera (16.6%), and hybrids (15.4%).
Pricing ($ per ton): Price data was reported for 19 cultivars. The average price per ton was generally lowest for native cultivars, of which only Concord had a reported price, and highest for vinifera cultivars (Table 1).
The price per ton ranged between $263 (Concord) and $2675 per ton (Pinot noir; Table 1). The average price per ton was $263, $997, and $1191 for native, hybrid, and vinifera grapes, respectively. No data was reported for sales of juice or bulk wine for 2019.
2020 acreage expansion: 15% of participants (n = 5) indicated that they plan to expand planted acreage in 2019. Of those, 4 were vineyard owners and 1 was a vineyard and winery. New plantings were primarily from hybrid grape cultivars, including Frontenac, Frontenac gris, La Crescent, Noiret, Chambourcin, and Aromella. Table grapes listed for increased planting included Somerset and Everest.
While the number of respondents decreased year-over-year (2018 = 40, 2019 = 33), the diversity of counties represented increased (2018 = 18, 2019 = 23). Overall, approximately the same yield (tons) of grapes was reported for sale in 2018 (207.4 tons) and 2019 (224.8 tons).
The results of the 2019 survey represented approximately 20% of the total grape acreage (1500 acres) reported in the 2017 USDA-NASS/OGIC grape production survey that includes wine and juice/table grapes. Similar to 2018, only a subset of the Ohio grape industry is represented by this survey. Several factors likely played a role in the survey response rate including available time to complete the survey, knowledge of the survey distribution, and concerns for individual identification. Increasing survey response rates will be key to improving future data precision to aid in vineyard and winery budgeting and contracts.
— By Dr. Maria Smith, Viticulture Outreach Specialist, Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University.
This survey was conducted in accordance with The Ohio State University, Institutional Review Board protocol #2020E0314. Funding for this survey was provided by the Ohio Grape Industries Committee.