PORTLAND, Ore. — If there are two words that emerge from the 2021 annual Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report data, those words are recovery and resiliency. Like all agricultural sectors in Oregon, the winegrowing industry contended with COVID-19 restrictions, labor shortages, extreme heat events and more during the 2020 vintage, putting Oregonians’ rugged resilience to the test. But Oregon winemakers know a thing or two about resilience, and this, combined with collaboration, carried them through to 2021.
Today [September 19, 2022], the Oregon Wine Board’s newly released report reflects a healthy upswing in the state’s grape tonnage, wine production and all data points across the board. Compiled by the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement (IPRE), the report shows Oregon grape production and crush increased substantially in 2021, as well as the following positive movements:
Production and value
Total wine grape production in 2021 increased 53% over 2020, from 75,142 tons to a record 114,677 tons. Compared to 2019, total wine grape production in 2021 was 9% higher (more than 9,000 tons) and 14% or almost 15,000 tons more than 2018’s wine grape production figures.
The aggregate value of Oregon wine grape production increased 72% in 2021 or by $113 million to about $271 million over 2020. A two-year look back shows the crop value in 2021 increased $33.6 million, or 14% compared to 2019.
That translated into Oregon wine grape buyers paying a little more per ton. The average price in 2021increased 20% to $2,575 per ton over 2020 values and the median price increased nearly 11% to $2,211 per ton.
Wineries and vineyards
Closing the gap with neighboring state Washington, the number of Oregon wineries crested the 1,000 mark for the first time to 1,058 bonded wineries. Major growth was in the Columbia Gorge AVA which has 14% more wineries for a total of 73, and the North Willamette Valley with 7% more wineries for a total of 695. North and South Willamette Valley are comprised of 781 total wineries, (86 in South Willamette Valley) making up 74% of the state’s winery population.
Similarly, 1,411 vineyards are now growing grapes in the state, anincrease of 3% from 2020. With all regions statewide holding steady in acreage, the North Willamette Valley expanded the most, with 4.2% more vineyards in 2021 over 2020.
Harvested acreage and planted acreage
In 2021, harvested acreage of all varieties increased by 17% from 2020 and by 10% when compared to 2019. Yield per harvested acre in 2021 increased by 30% over 2020, nearly approaching 2019 levels, which precipitated COVID restrictions and wildfire events occurring around the state.
As far as planted acreage, total plantings increased by more than 2,300 acres from 39,531 to 41,899 acres, an increase of 6%.Pinot noir acreage also took a jump in what growers are planting, too, showing renewed faith in Oregon’s primary grape. After five consecutive years of statewide plantings and production in the 57-58% range, Pinot noir jumped ahead in 2021, accounting for 60% of all planted acreage and 61% of wine grape production, holding steady as the leading variety in Oregon.
Other notable jumps included Syrah plantings up 6%, Pinot gris plantings up 5%, and Chardonnay up 4% in statewide planted acreage.
Total tons crushed in 2021 increased by 38% over 2020, from 65,009 tons to 89,566 tons. Total tons crushed in 2021 was 5.8% higher (nearly 5,000 tons) than in 2019. Approximately 26% of grapes harvested in Oregon appear not to have been crushed in Oregon, suggesting a continuing trend of Oregon tonnage sold out of state.
Case sales increased 13% across all channels from 4.7 million to 5.3 million cases. Direct-to-Consumer sales rebounded, increasing by 24% overall, with a 72% increase in tasting room sales. Sales to wholesale distribution partners increased by 8.3% in Oregon and 9.7% outside Oregon, showing greater recognition and demand for Oregon’s critically acclaimed wines.
Echoing a study of wine regions earlier in 2022 by Rob McMillan, EVP and Founder Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division, Oregonian winemakers were more optimistic about the overall economic recovery, consumer demand and access to capital than nearly all their peers in other U.S. grape growing regions. In fact, Northern Oregon led all regions when self-reporting fruit quality of the 2021 harvest with 75% reporting it “Excellent” vs. 51% for Washington and 66% each for Napa and Sonoma.
Similarly, longtime industry analyst Danny Brager showed that Oregon continues to be a profitable segment for retailers. Brager found that Oregon wine’s dollar sales outshines its case volume growth, which speaks to consumers willing to pay premium prices for Oregon wine.
Export sales increased by 8.9% in 2021 over 2020. The leading export market for Oregon wine continues to be Canada, which accounted for 46% of export sales. The country also had a 10% increase in Oregon wine sales from 2020 to 2021.
Tom Danowski, OWB president said, “Oregon growers and winemakers demonstrated remarkable agility and adaptability during an unusually difficult year. The numbers, trending positive across every dimension of the business, confirmed our hopes that 2021 would be a year of recovery and renewal,” he said. “Oregon’s 2021 harvest was free of the extraordinary conditions that characterized the prior vintage, and on the demand side, we encountered more wine adventurers eager to return to tasting rooms and restaurants.”
— Oregon Wine Board