USA Wine Exports is in a very booming state. Total wine volume and dollar value are rising, more wineries are exporting, and ancillary export business are birthing out of the need for expertise in international wine sales. How did we get here?
Over the course of history, California and USA wine has enjoyed several moments of export greatness. In the last 150 years USA wine has seen several export surges around the globe. This growth came at a time when more people were enjoying wine, following along with the advancement of the industrial revolution taking place in Western Europe, the US and Canada. “Taste and civilization” quickly expanded, so did our thirst, and our wines showed up on the global map. Several Sonoma and Napa wines were winning awards in Paris, and being shipped to Germany and UK, Asia, and Central and South America.
Our oldest, iconic California brands were started between the 1860’s and early 1900’s, including: Beringer, Beaulieu Vineyard, Buena Vista, Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and others. Wineries existed in other states, too, like Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and Missouri. Then things came to a halt.
Our ‘temperance period’ we call Prohibition was a 13 year set back in the growth of USA wine and alcohol. Several producers prevailed through as bootleggers, or sacramental wine makers, but most suffered. An so did the vines. In 1934, after all that ended, people decided to get back in the game, and in the game they did.
In the next 50 years, from the 30’s to the 80’s, a huge growth in the number of USA wineries changed our country’s wine production forever. Vineyards were brought back to fruition, modern wine making methods from UC Davis and Fresno State allowed farmers and wineries to grow more grapes, make more wine, and people were drinking cheap, shitty wine from all over the US. It was glorious. We were back.
The 60’s and 70’s were a time of a change towards quality, and small family wineries building there own wine brands. New vineyards were planted, more hands on techniques were used, taste and quality improved, and so did the disposable income of the average American. The wineries began making Chardonnay, and labeling their wines with grape varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling, istead of calling them Bordreax, or Rhine, or Chablis. “Napa Cab” and “California Chardonnay” became popular terms, and the house glass of Merlot was always a good for the novice. Exports grew from the 80’s to the late 90’s when all of a sudden, the grape and juice supply couldn’t keep up with the growth in 1997, and for several years the wine industry was shaken.
Due to the action of the 1990’s another new round of wineries were born at this time, and they, in turn, started growing popular in the 2000’s. These are the wineries leading the way in the dozens of new regions, through California and now in most states. Due to the local and national demand, many of the them do not have extensive international sales.
Since 2000, a whole new generation of wineries and wine businesses were born. Because wine became more societal to drink and accessible to make, hundreds of wine companies and wine brands have formed. They rely on other wineries to do the grape growing and wine making, and they simply provide the money, the brand, and hopefully the sales strategy.
Their modern birth also has positive consequences for growth. These young wine companies are more likely to get into exporting because of modern infrastructure available to selling and shipping wine, the rise of spending power in developing countries, and the ease to communicate globally. Making the wine is not these companies their primary concern, branding and selling it is. As a result, they can be adaptive to the needs of the wine buyers and adjust their wine supply accordingly.
Today, where are we? The climate is getting tumultuous. Several brands are expanding their markets, new brands are creating new markets, and the supply of wine is slowly diminishing. All the positive growth in wine making and wine drinking this decade has made it harder for the vineyards to keep up. When we try to develop further our wine export initiatives, we will see that diminished supply is raising prices and negatively effecting quality. It’s a good problem for the farmers, and a tough one for new wineries and their drinkers.
Our following updates will address these current issues and how things may unfold the next few years.