I’ve written a lot about wine grapes in the last week or so, but I can’t forget about their less-celebrated, sober cousins.
Washington is the nation’s leading producer of Concords, the grape normally used in the ubiquitous purple grape juice boxes in children’s lunches across the nation.
Unlike wine grapes, Washington Concords are having a bad year, both in production and price.
Washington growers expected to haul in 164,000 tons, well below the 10-year average of 193,000 tons.
Here’s why, according to Trent Ball, dean of the vineyard and winery program at Yakima Valley Community College:
For one thing, growers have not been planting more Concord vines. Acreage in the state has remained steady for the past five years. In contrast, wine grape acreage dramatically increases every year.
Also unlike wine grapes, Concord vines produce on a two-year cycle — high yields one year, low the next. Apples do the same. Both 2011 and 2013 should have been high years, especially with this year’s weather, but the infamous Thanksgiving 2010 deep freeze killed a lot of vines in the valley.
“We’re just coming out of that,” said Ball, who spoke Thursday at the Washington Grape Society’s annual meeting in Grandview.
Meanwhile, the simple laws of supply and demand sometimes play not-so-simple tricks.
Concord growers in the rest of the nation had a large production year, harvesting 441,000 tons overall, giving Washington grapes plenty of competition.
Meanwhile, the cash price for Washington Concords had gone so high — $280 per ton, the highest in 10 years — that processors finally began using cheaper apple juice for blending, forcing the price down to $215 per ton this year.
A little bit more about shortages.
First, we learned about a global wine shortage. Now, the U.S. is low on helium and government rationing puts balloons at the bottom of the priority list.
Low on wine and helium at the same time? Could our parties get any lamer?