Ask Wine Wizard

Putting A Value On A Vineyard


David Howard — Chattanooga, Tennessee asks,

Several weeks ago a truck ran through my vineyard breaking down and destroying some of my grapevines. Dr. Lockwood at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville said he believes three more rows that were knocked over will likely die next year. I am trying to give the insurance company some kind of an idea what it has cost to get these vines up to seven years of age and producing well. do you have any kind of a figure that would help me come up with a cost?



I’m very sorry about your vine loss. I do agree with Dr. Lockwood that you will probably lose the vines that were knocked down. You might want to really work closely with your insurance company because they might compensate you on different metrics, like replacement cost, market value or just on the current year’s crop. If it’s replacement value then your calculation is pretty straightforward: What is the labor estimate to install, and the price per vine from a nursery? Don’t forget to add in any vineyard hardscaping that may have been damaged such as trellising or drip irrigation. You can check with your local nursery, again, to get price estimates.

When my vineyards had a frost event (i.e. got “burned” by freezing temperatures) two years ago we were compensated based only the loss of that current year’s crop. We estimated typical yields and multiplied them by the district’s average pricing for that year after the California Grape Crush Report came out. In your case, make sure that your insurance company will really compensate you for the time and work needed to get the vines to seven years age as you mention above. Usually most vineyards start producing at peak quality and yield around four years of age, so I’m not sure that the extra three years really should be included in the calculation as they aren’t “worth” any more to the intrinsic market value of the property as a planted vineyard, sorry to say.

I don’t have any numbers at hand for you (sorry) because the costs to establish, plant and work a vineyard can vary so dramatically from area to area. It very much depends on what varietals you farm, whether you irrigate or not and what you use the grapes for. You are your own best source for an estimate of labor hours, fertilizer use, water use, etc. Talk to your insurance company, get a very clear picture of the exact metrics they are willing to compensate you around and take your best whack at it. All they can do is say no, right?

Response by Alison Crowe.