California wine exports see record 2015

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Napa Valley vineyards in California. Pic: iStock
Napa Valley vineyards in California. Pic: iStock

Related tags International trade

US wine exports (90% of which come from California) reached $1.61bn in winery revenues in 2015, up 7.6% from the year before.  Exports were boosted by demand for premium products.  

California wine exports have increased 91% in value over the last decade, and premiumization is being seen with dollar sales outpacing volume growth.  

Wine Institute, an industry body for California wine, says removing obstacles to trade, and ensuring that California wines have fair and equal access to international sales channels, are the focus for continuing to build exports in the future.

The volume of US wine exports was up 4.1% from the previous year, reaching 461m liters.

Aspirational image

California wines appeal to consumers worldwide because of their quality, value, and association with the region’s beauty and aspirational lifestyle, says Wine Institute.

In terms of top export markets for 2015, the EU accounted for $622m, followed by Canada  ($461m); Hong Kong ($97m); Japan ($96m); China ($56m); Nigeria ($29m); Mexico ($26m); South Korea ($23m); Switzerland ($21m); and Singapore ($15m).

The 28 member countries of the EU accounted for around 40% of US wine exports in 2015. Germany, which is the largest market for US wine exports in the region, saw an increase of 32% in revenues. Most other export markets in the region also saw increases, despite a strong US dollar and competition from Old and New World wine countries.

A quarter of US wine exports by volume reach the UK. Wine Institute sees value increases now out-stripping volume growth, with US wine export value to the country rising by 28% in 2015.

US Wine exports: revenue to wineries

2015: $1,607m

2010: $1,064m

2005: $659m

2000: $551m

1995: $236m

“The wine trade [in the UK] has shifted emphasis to restaurants and casual dining, and a burgeoning independent retail sector, leading to increased interest in premium wines from the Golden State,” ​said John McLaren, Wine Institute’s UK trade director.

Sales of US wine in Canada faced unfavorable exchange rates in 2015. However, sales still surpassed that of wines from France and Italy for the first time, letting US wines claim the largest share of import table wines in the Canadian market for the first time.

Growth in Canada is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace, thanks a strong consumer base built.  


Exports to Japan faced a challenge in the first quarter of 2015, with the slowdown at the ports along the US west coast. Wine volumes to Japan in January 2015 were down 40.5% compared to the previous year. The port issue was resolved in April and supply could meet demand again.

California is looking ahead to the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which will see the import duty on US wines abolished in eight years.

“This is critical for the California wine industry, since our competitors, Chile and Australia, already have free trade agreements with Japan, and benefit from a duty advantage over California wines," ​said Ken-ichi Hori, Japan Trade Director, Wine Institute.

Figures for exports to China suggest a 22% drop in volume in 2015. However, Wine Institute says there is no reliable sales data for the whole country and the export decline is attributed to a drop in less expensive wine products, on the back of excessive imports in 2013-2014.

Sales of premium and super premium wines, however, were up in 2015.

“The market for California wines in China remains healthy and more consumer driven than in years past, when gifting and group purchasing were significant drivers of sales,” ​reports Wine Institute.

Exports to Hong Kong increased 41% by value.  

Related topics Markets Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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