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US wine exports reach record $1.4bn

Setting a new record, US wine exports, 90% from California, reached $1.43bn in winery revenues in 2012, up 2.6% compared to the previous year, a gain for the third consecutive year. Volume shipments reached 424.6m litres or 47.2m cases.

"California wine exports continue to increase because of our quality, diversity and value, despite a highly competitive global market, significant trade barriers and a still recovering economy," said Wine Institute president and CEO Robert P (Bobby) Koch. "We've worked to create more opportunities to export our wines by supporting our government in opening markets with Free Trade Agreements and other negotiations."

Of the top markets for California Wines, the European Union's 27-member countries are the largest accounting for $485m, up 1.7%; followed by Canada, $434m, up 14%; Hong Kong, $115m, down 30%; Japan, $111m, up 6%; China, $74m, up 18%; Vietnam, $27m, up 22%; Mexico, $20m, up 4%; South Korea, $16m, up 26%.

"Our global campaign supporting our California wine exports communicates California as an aspirational place - its beautiful landscapes, iconic lifestyle, leadership in sustainability, and great wine and food. All of our marketing activities in 25 countries convey these messages to consumers and trade around the world," said Wine Institute international marketing director Linsey Gallagher.

"Additionally, we've expanded these messages to our new California Wines video campaign, Facebook and Twitter social media campaigns across the globe, and are in the process of completing translation of our consumer website,, into eight languages. We have also launched a full scale campaign in China to introduce California wines in that expanding wine market."

"Wine Institute is collaborating with our US Government as well as the World Wine Trade Group, the EU and Pacific Rim governments to reduce trade barriers. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation "Wine Regulators Forum" are working to implement good regulatory practices that will protect consumers and facilitate trade in our Asia-Pacific markets," said Wine Institute international trade policy director Tom LaFaille.

Five of Wine Institute's 14 regional rrade directors reported on key markets as follows:

The Canadian consumer continues to embrace California wines, making it the fastest growing wine region in this country by volume and value according to Rick Slomka, Wine Institute trade director for Canada. Much of the growth is coming from red blend brands which have strong appeal to the younger generation of wine consumers. At the same time, Canadian consumers continue to show interest in California wines at higher price points with sales of premium wines reaching higher levels than ever before. This momentum is expected to continue in 2013 with major retail promotions this spring in the three largest provincial markets of Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

Continental European Union
"Germany remains a key market for California wines, with exports increasing 6% in value. Renewed interest from several large retailers that conducted California promotions last year contributed to that growth," said Wine Institute European trade director Paul Molleman. Another key market is Sweden, where the Systembolaget monopoly reported California wine sales of almost 17m bottles, mostly red wine, up 14% from 2011, he added.

United Kingdom
"California wine exports grew by 6.1% in value while France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile and South Africa all lost ground in the UK on-trade market," said Wine Institute UK trade director John McLaren. With an uncertain economy, and against a background of governmental anti-alcohol abuse measures, the UK wine trade has suffered some setbacks, but California has done well to preserve its market share and take advantage of some new opportunities in the independent retail and restaurant sectors.

"US bulk wine exports to Japan have been growing as major Japanese importers are now importing popular-priced California wine brands in bulk and bottling in Japan. This reduces the burdensome import duty to a limited extent and makes inventory control easier," said Wine Institute Japan trade director Ken-ichi Hori.

For bottled US wine, Japan is now importing more premium priced California wines than in the past. Unlike other New World wine exporting countries, California wine is well represented in high-end restaurants because of our successful annual restaurant promotion, Hori said.

China and emerging markets
"Wine's prominence is growing throughout Asia as consumption remains buoyant and forecasts estimate continued growth. Hong Kong is California's third largest export market by value, although the value declined in 2012 compared to impressive growth the previous years following elimination of Hong Kong's 80% import duty. China, a top priority growth market for our vintners, grew 18% to $74m and remains the fifth largest export market by value. South Korea's growth increased to 26%, following the recent US-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Exports to Mexico grew a second consecutive year with the value there nearly doubling since 2009," according to Eric Pope, Wine Institute's regional director, Emerging Markets.

• Since 1985, Wine Institute has served as the administrator of the Market Access Program, an export promotion program managed by the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. More than 150 wineries participate in Wine Institute's California Wine Export Program and export to 125 countries.

25 February 2013 - Felicity Murray