The Californian wine industry is worth an annual US$45.4 billion to the state, a report revealed yesterday.

The 81-page study entitled ‘Economic Impact of Californian Wine 2004’ shows the state’s wine industry has grown by 40% in the last four years.

The study also credits the Californian wine industry with providing 207,550 full-time jobs, with employment rising annually by 9% – all during a period of rising unemployment in the state. The industry’s gross wage expenditure is currently rated at $6.7 billion.

‘Our great Californian wine industry creates more than 200,000 jobs, billions in economic activity, and preserves agricultural land and the family farm,’ said Wine Institue president Robert P Koch.

The influence of the wine region on tourism has also increased. Wineries saw 14.8 million visitors in 2002 compared to 10.7 million in 1998.

‘As one of the signature industries of our state, California wine is vital to the state’s economy, which helps drive the national economy. This report will help demonstrate to our colleagues the importance of the wine industry,’ said US congressman Mike Thompson.

Both Thompson and fellow congressman George Radanovich plan to use the report for discussing wine policy issues on the national stage.

‘This report will give us a better understanding of Californian wine and will provide concrete information that we can use as members of congress,’ said Radanovich.

The report, produced by wine industry consultants MKF, was commissioned by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. California is the fourth largest wine producer in the World after France, Italy and Spain.

Recently, decanter.com reported that California was challenging France as the UK’s second largest wine supplier. John McLaren, UK director of the California Wine Institute, voiced concerns that Californian success may come at a cost as image gives way to sales.

Sales of high-volume ‘jug’ brands such as Blossom Hill, Gallo Sierra Valley, Rivercrest, and Paul Masson Carafe are mainly responsible for the performance of Californian wines in the UK.

‘If someone buys a wine that isn’t any good, that will affect the image of Napa and Sonoma,’ McLaren said.

Written by Oliver Styles