Bottled imports from Argentina were down in 2012 after 11 years of consistent growth.
Chilean imports continued on a steady decline that began mid-2011 and Australian imports fell to the lowest level in a decade, according to a recent study.
The findings, by consulting firm Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, were presented at the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium held in Sacramento in the last week of January.
French table wine found its way back on many Americans’ tables with imports up 4.8% after reaching a 10-year low in 2011.
Spanish imports, which hadn’t suffered as badly in recent years as French, reached a record high in 2012, up 6%.
Preliminary estimates show that imported wine accounted for 35% of the year’s total wine volume, up 11%.
At the low end of the market Moscato continued to show strong but slightly sweet ‘red blends’ dominated supermarket shelf space, gaining 29% and selling 367,000 cases to Moscato’s 90,000.
The red blends category was led by the brands Cupcake and Apothic.
For single varietal wines, namely Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, consumers proved they were willing to pay a little more with both varieties showing growth in the US$10-$14 category.
Bulk wine proved to be a key player on the global market, particularly for the New World.
In 2011, bulk wine accounted for 45% of New World exports, as tighter California supply, and increases in pricing, drove wineries to source more bulk from the global market, according to Glenn Proctor of wine and grape broker Ciatti Company.
‘I know we [in California] think we grow the best Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but there are other regions that grow it and you can get it,’ he said.
The US imported the equivalent of 40m cases of wine and exported the equivalent of 20m cases. ‘It’s like ships passing in the night,’ one panellist commented.
The decrease in bottle imports and the rise in bulk imports from countries like Argentina, Chile and Australia suggests that Americans are increasingly brand loyal and less concerned with source of origin.
Proctor stressed that this would increasingly be the case and attendees, many of them grape growers, were encouraged to embrace the global market.
As if to emphasize this, Fredrikson chose Gallo and Constellation, which collectively own 14 of the fastest-growing brands (by revenue) in the US, as ‘Wineries of the Year’.