Imports help overall wine sales; end of '09 better; slow recovery seen

SACRAMENTO -- Large scale importation of bulk and bottled wine helped boost total U.S. shipments by an estimated 2.1 percent last year, but wineries heavily impacted by shifting consumer demand may have to wait until 2011 for significant market improvement, an expert said at a major industry symposium here this morning.

Despite signs of improved sales for higher-end wines in the waning months of 2009, some winery representatives listening to Jon Fredrikson's analysis at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium are preparing for a longer recovery.

California wine shipments for the first 11 months of 2009 decreased 3.9 million cases, or 1.6 percent, according to Mr. Fredrikson of Woodside-based Gomberg Fredrikson & Associates.

"It's the first time in 16 years California shipments declined," he said.

U.S. shipments decreased 1.4 percent, or by 3 million cases last year to a total of 323 million.

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