California wine shipments dip for first time in 11 years

The volume of California wine shipments to U.S. markets last year dipped for the first time in 11 years, but retail value of that wine rose by more than 8 percent for the second straight year, according to recently released figures.

Meanwhile, shipments of wine to the U.S. from all sources increased 2.4 percent, and retail value, 5.2 percent to new volume and sales records, according to data compiled by Woodside-based industry analysis firm Gomberg Fredrikson & Associates and San Francisco-based advocacy group Wine Institute.

"Wine shipments to the U.S. market climbed by nearly 50 percent since 2001, and it is likely that American consumption will continue to expand over the next decade as wine continues to gain traction among American adult consumers," said Gomberg Fredrikson principal Jon Fredrikson in a statement. "The amazing diversity of choices and exciting new offerings are attracting new consumers and boosting consumption. Among the key growth drivers are favorable demographics, a widening consumer base and increasing points of distribution in both on- and off-sale outlets. For example, Starbucks is now serving wine in some key markets, and and Facebook Gifts both sell wine online."

Wine shipments from California as well as other domestic producers plus from importers increased to record volume of the equivalent of 360.1 million 9-liter cases in 2012, according to Gomberg Fredrikson. Retail value of those shipments rose to a new high watermark of $34.6 billion last year.

For wine going just from California to U.S. markets, volume decreased 3.8 percent to 207.7 million cases, but its retail value increased 8.4 percent to a record $22.0 billion. That volume contraction followed the strongest such growth in more than a decade -- 7.6 percent in 2011 -- but remained ahead of the 200.7 million California cases shipped in 2010. California shipment value grew 8.6 percent in 2011 to $20.3 billion.

All California wine shipments, including exports, declined 4.0 percent to 250.2 million cases last year. Exports, excluding bulk-wine shipments, declined 4.7 percent, compared with 5.7 percent and 4.5 percent growth the previous two years, respectively. Total U.S. wine export volume in 2012 equated to 47.2 million cases.

Yet last year California wines, which made up 90 percent of U.S. wine export volume, increased 2.6 percent in value from the year before to $1.43 billion.

"The U.S. is the largest wine market in the world, with 19 consecutive years of volume growth," said Wine Institute President and CEO "Bobby" Koch in a statement. "Competition for retail shelf space and consumer attention is intense, so California's high-quality, record winegrape harvest in 2012 could not have come at a better time. California vintners continue to respond to growing worldwide demand with a wide array of outstanding wines from regions throughout the state, and Wine Institute is supporting the effort by opening markets and eliminating trade barriers in the U.S. and abroad."California share of U.S. slips

California's share of wine shipments to U.S. markets continued its more than decade-long decline, accounting for 57.7 percent last year. By comparison, California wine made up 73.2 percent of shipments to the U.S. in 1998.

The state's wine shipped to domestic markets accounted for 63.6 percent of total U.S. wine retail value last year, according to Gomberg Fredrikson figures. It was highest share of retail value since 2006 but lower than the 71.8 percent share in 1999 during the late 1990s boom in sales of high-end wine.

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