LOS ANGELES: U.S. exports of wine — the bulk of it from California — set a record in 2016 despite having to fight a strong dollar, subsidies and barriers in other countries and a tight water and labor supply at home, according to the Wine Institute. The $1.62 billion in foreign trade revenue for 2016 bested the previous year’s record of $1.49 billion by a slim margin through steadily strong sales in the top market, the European Union, and sharp growth increases in China and Britain.
About 90 percent of the 49.5 million cases of U.S. wine sold came from California, according to a report released this week by the California-based industry advocacy group. But it was the price tag of the wines, more than the volume, that drove revenue, continuing a trend of “premiumization” of Golden State labels, said Robert P. Koch, Wine Institute president and chief executive. “California wines are well positioned for this trend — our vintners are offering quality, value, diverse styles and environmental stewardship in their winemaking,” Koch said.
The 28 countries of the European union — Britain and Germany paramount among them — accounted for $685 million in revenue. But Canada was the top single nation buying U.S. wine, shelling out $431 million, largely for table wines. It was followed by China and Hong Kong, with $181 million; Japan, $87 million; Mexico, $24 million; South Korea, $23 million; Switzerland, $19 million; and Singapore, $14 million. Overall, California wine exports grew about 78 percent as the state and its tourism promoters have cemented the Golden State as a chic label unto itself, particularly among the emerging middle class in China, said Linsey Gallagher, the institute’s vice president of international marketing.