Talk of a looming wine grape shortage in California is premature, the head of California's wine grape growers' body has told just-drinks.

Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), said today (2 September) that this year's grape harvest was expected to be only slightly down on 2007, at around 3m-3.2m tonnes.

Ross' comments follow reports that bad weather and a lack of new vine plantings may lead to a shortage of wine grapes for certain popular varietals this year.

Frost followed by a heatwave meant most Californian growers were seeing a "light harvest" on early varietals, Ross told just-drinks. But, she said, ripening weather had been "almost ideal".

She conceded there were some concerns that plantings had struggled to keep pace with US wine market growth. State figures show plantings have been relatively flat, compared to growing demand for California wine at home and abroad.

"Growers are concerned that prices offered for grapes have not justified the capital investment for new vineyard development, especially with the significantly higher costs of production facing them," said Ross.

Some planting had taken place to increase stocks of the most popular varietals, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Pinot Grigio, she added.