Shortage slows California wine shipments

SACRAMENTO -- Shipments of wine to the U.S. hit another record last year, but growth slowed considerably from 2011 as producers turned to imports in a big way to try to meet demand, according to experts at a major industry symposium in Sacramento.North Coast 2012 winegrape crop hits $1.35B in value, 553,000 tonsFeb. 8, 2013

NORTH COAST — Many wine industry experts figured the 2012 winegrape harvest was going to be the biggest in several years and refill grower pockets after two smaller crops, but the first official tally of the crop released Friday suggests it is the biggest ever, even crushing the giant 2005 harvest in value and tonnage. [read more]

Total shipments of wine to U.S. markets last year increased to the equivalent of 363 million 9-liter cases, up from 2011 by 2 percent, or 8.1 million cases, according to industry analyst Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg Fredrikson & Associates. He based his whole-year figures on 11 months of state and federal data. The total figure includes table wine, cider, sangria, sparkling wine and sake as well as imports of bulk and bottled wine.

"California ran out of wine," Mr. Fredrikson told an audience of about 1,200 at the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento Wednesday.

California case shipments last year dipped by 2 percent, or 5.2 million cases, to 211 million cases, according to Mr. Fredrikson. Wineries cut shipments in large-format bottles, boxes and other containers to maintain market supply in standard-sized 750-milliliter bottles.

He pointed to full-year Nielsen data from food stores that showed sales in larger containers decreased last year by the equivalent of 1.3 million cases, or 4 percent. The one outlier was 3-liter boxed wine, which increased 4 percent.

While California shipments declined, imports last year jumped to 127 million cases, up 11 percent, or 13.1 million. Bulk-wine imports boosted that to 133 million cases.

Imports reached 35 percent of U.S. wine shipments for the first time, Mr. Fredrikson said.

By contrast, domestic shipments increased by 6 percent in 2011 from 2010 and imports 7 percent. Total shipments to US markets in 2011 surged by 5.6 percent, or 20 million cases.

Sales of wine retailing for $7 to $10 a bottle in food stores increased 4 percent, or by 546,000 cases, last year, according to full-year Nielsen data Mr. Fredrikson cited. Growth was 13 percent, or 881,000 cases, in the $10 to $14 segment and 11 percent, 282,000 cases, in for $14 to $20 wines.

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