California wine shipments in the US fell for the first time in 16 years in 2009 as consumers turned to cheaper bulk imported wines, according to new figures.
Last year was ‘brutal’ for the California wine industry, analyst Jon Fredrikson told the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, adding that many wineries had endured their worst year ever.
Bulk wine imports soared 87% to 25m cases in 2009, sending total imported wines up to 104m cases and giving them a 32% share of the US market – an all-time high.
But most bulk wines were imported by major US wine companies and distributors, such as Gallo and Constellation, Fredrikson said.
The total US wine market grew by 2.1% to 323m cases, but shipments from California edged down 1.6% to 236m cases – their first decline since 1993.
However, there were some signs of improved trends towards the end of the year, said Fredrikson, president of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
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Written by Richard Woodard