Foster's Californian grape harvest for 2003 rose by 6% year-on-year, the company announced today. The total harvest at its Beringer Blass Wine Estates reached 140,600 tonnes.

AFX reports that Beringer Blass managing director Walt Klenz said that overall wine production in the state is expected to be down by between 5% and 10% on last year. Foster's said that the increase shows the higher bulk wine purchases designed to ensure Beringer Blass can support the rise in demand for its white zinfandel and blush wines programs.

The harvest at Foster's own vineyards increased by 3.3% on last year to 25,400 tonnes. The split of 27% red and 73% white is the same as last year's.

Klenz told AFX: There are encouraging indications that bulk wine pricing in California has firmed, albeit from a lower base."