California wineries are shipping more wine than ever before, both within the US and beyond, according to new figures from the state's Wine Institute.

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Shipments of wine from California rose 2.6% in 2015 to reach an all-time high of 276m nine-litre cases, including domestic and export markets.

That’s the equivalent of more than 3.3bn bottles.

Gains in the domestic market continued to be driven by the growing consumer appetite for premium wines at $10 per bottle and above, California’s Wine Institute said. Wines priced below $10 lost ground.

It means that the retail value of California wines in the US has more than doubled in the past 20 years, if estimated restaurant mark-ups are also included. See the chart below, based on Wine Institute data.

Chart: The rise of California wines in the US

california wine sales, us wine market

Meanwhile, total US wine exports – of which 90% come from California – were worth a record US$1.61bn, with volumes hitting 461m litres, or 51.2m cases.

The European Union remained the most lucrative destination for US wines, accounting for $622m, ahead of Canada at $461m.

Hong Kong ($97m) edged ahead of Japan ($96m), followed by China ($56m), Nigeria ($29m), Mexico ($26m) and South Korea ($23m).

In the US market, California wines were worth an estimated $31.9bn in retail value terms in 2015, with volumes standing at 229m cases.

‘The premium wine segment ($10 and above) is continuing its long-term growth trend,’ said Jon Moramarco, founder and managing partner of BW166, which recently partnered with Wine Communications Group to buy the Gomberg-Fredrikson Report, used as a data source by the Wine Institute for decades.

He added: ‘The premium segment accounts for about a quarter of the shipments, but half of the revenues. These sales offset the shrinking volume of value-priced wines ($9 and under).’

The growing emphasis on higher-priced wines – also partly driven by the smaller 2015 harvest – is also reflected in retail trends: wine sales in US food stores were up 2% by value, but 6% by value, according to Nielsen.

About 30,000 food stores in the US now sell wine, over 1,700 more than in 2011, Nielsen said.

California commands a 60% share of the US wine market, while shipments of sparkling wine and Champagne continue to rise, hitting 21.7m cases in 2015, up 9%.

Graphic by Chris Mercer.

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