It is no wonder to us at the MCVGA that our wonderful wines are gaining popularity overseas as the California wine export market continues to grow. And with our designation as one of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Top Ten Wine Travel Destinations in the world, this trend is sure to continue.
Local vintages are headed overseas
by D.L. Taylor
Monterey County winemakers are among the state’s vintners catching the wave of increased exports — their own unique slice of the $1.43 billion international market.
“We are seeing a globalization of the wine market,” said Steve McIntyre, president of Monterey Pacific in Soledad, a wine grape management company.
McIntyre said his own brand, McIntyre Estates, is still expanding domestically, but larger players in the county are increasingly selling into the world market.
Revenue from exported wines has grown in each of the past three years, according to figures released this week by the San Francisco-based Wine Institute. The United States is now shipping 47.2 million cases of wine overseas each year, and 90 percent of that is grown in California.
McIntyre noted that the major wine importing nations include the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, China and Scandinavian countries.
“Pretty much every place that can’t grow a lot of wine grapes,” McIntyre said.
Of the top markets for California wines, the European Union’s 27 member countries import the most at $485 million annually, according to the Wine Institute. The EU edged up 1.7 percent in 2012. Canada came in second at $434 million, a 14 percent jump, followed by Hong Kong, Japan and China. China and Vietnam are the fastest growing importers.
A number of factors are coming together that contribute to the growing demand for California wines, McIntyre said.
“The millenniums (generation) are the first to grow up in homes that drank wine,” he said. “Our fathers would drink either bourbon or beer.”
Another reason is wine’s increased accessibility. People are no longer intimidated by wine, McIntyre said.
“For a while we were shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “Wine wasn’t approachable, and there was an arrogance associated with it.”
Another explanation is simple economics, said Stacie Jacob, interim executive director of the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association. As the dollar falls against foreign currencies, American products become less expensive. That’s a positive trend, particularly when consumers in the United Kingdom spend on average about 3 pounds on a bottle of wine, which translates to less than $5 a bottle. Average spending on wine in the U.S. is between $15 and $20, Jacob said.
Both she and Peterangelo Vallis, president of The Central California Winegrowers Association, say that the quality of Monterey County wines, paired with sufficient supply, serves up an in-demand brand.
“Consumers are getting more educated about wine,” Jacob said. “We are growing better grapes so the quality-to-value ratio is increasing.”
Also, emerging markets like China are perceived to want all things American, Jacob said.
“After all, wine is one of the few products that says where it is from right on the label,” she said. “California is branding itself as a lifestyle.