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US wine exports set record as California drought persists

Exports of wine from the US jumped by 16% last year, show official figures that offer a boost to California's winemakers facing their worst drought in memory.

Rain is forecast to offer some relief from drought in California in the next few days. Image credit: Lisa Werner / Alamy

US wine exports, of which California represents 90%, jumped by 16.4% in 2013 to reach a record $1.55bn, representing the fourth year of consecutive growth.

In volume terms, exports rose by 7.5% to 48.4m nine-litre cases, driven by stronger demand from the European Union, Canada, Mexico and China.

That means California now exports a fifth of its wine annually on average, said Robert Koch, president of the California-based Wine Institute, which released the figures.

‘We are on track to reach our goal of $2bn in exports by 2020,’ he said, highlighting the large and much-anticipated 2012 and 2013 California vintages still to be released.

Some producers may come to need the extra volume as concerns grow about the ramifications of a severe drought across the so-called sunshine state.

‘2014 is going to be a smaller harvest because of the drought’ said Maryann Bautovich, managing director of Vin-de-Cal International, which represents several Napa Valley wineries seeking listings abroad.

‘In Napa we’re in a slightly better position, but Healdsburg only has about one month [of water] left,’ she told decanter.com at the Enotria merchant wine tasting in London this week.

Rain has been forecast in several parts of California over the next few days, offering hope of some respite.

Randall Grahm, chief winemaker at Bonny Doon near Santa Cruz, tweeted on Monday, ‘The fact that rain (and lots of it) is forecast for later this week is the best thing I’ve read in forever.

Written by Chris Mercer

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