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California wine shipments down 4th straight year

California wine shipments down 4th straight year – The 49th Annual Statistical Survey

Although California wine shipments to all markets fell 3.9% to 375 million gallons last year, the results could have been worse had it not been for the strong growth of California wines in the export market, and the success of Golden State wines in the U.S. relative to imported wines. Preliminary results for the first quarter of 1992 show California shipments up 11.2% compared to January-March 1991 sales; however, this gain is somewhat misleading, because the first quarter of 1991 was impacted by the triple whammy of the Persian Gulf war, a $.90 per gallon federal excise tax increase, and a recessionary economy. Compared to the first quarter of 1990, January-March 1992 sales were up 3%.

Last year’s California shipments to the large California market again showed a steeper decline than shipments out-of-state. The 88.7 million gallons of California wine sold within the Golden State represented a 7.5% decrease from the previous year’s level, while at 286.4 million gallons, shipments to other states and countries fell only 2.8%. California is of great importance to California vintners, because in 1991 23.6% of all California shipments were marketed within the state; 91.9% of all wine consumed in California last year was California-produced wine, leaving imports and wine from other states with a combined 8.1% share of the key California market.

Sales of California table wines have been in the 270-million-gallon range for the past three years. Last year, shipments of these wines dropped 1.2% to 270.4 million gallons, or 72.1% of all California shipments. Although the shipment level of these wines has been remarkably consistent over the past decade — ranging from a high of 280.7 million gallons in 1982 to a low of 261.8 million gallons in 1985 — the composition of these wines has changed dramatically during the period. The dynamic nature of the industry is reflected in the growth of varietal wines and the decline of generic jug wines. Many of the state’s largest wineries are now strongly committed to varietal wine programs, and their commitment is reflected in the increased plantings of such popular grape varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfadel. The color composition of California table wines has also changed over the past decade. Where blush varietal wines were once only a novelty, they now represent a significant share of total bottled table wine shipments. Last year, blush varietal wine represented 17.5% (43.5 million gallons) of all bottled California table wine sales in the U.S. Among other categories, white wine accounted for 52.7% (130.8 million gallons) of the total, while red (39 million gallons) and rose (34.7 million gallons) accounted for 15.7% and 14%, respectively.

The decline of the wine cooler market TABULAR DATA OMITTED was one of the big stories of 1991. With an 11.4% share of all California shipments, wine coolers again placed second to table wines last year; however, the 42.7 million gallons of coolers shipped to U.S. and foreign markets in 1991 represented a 15.2 million gallon decline from the 1990 level. Cooler shipments reached their peak in 1986, when 85.9 million gallons were shipped to all markets. In five short years cooler shipments have fallen almost 50%.

After posting decreases for four consecutive years, California champagne shipments to U.S. and foreign markets registered a 3% increase in 1991. Last year’s 23.5 million gallons placed champagne third among all categories of California wine. During the first quarter of 1992, California sparklers continued to grow, posting a 13.9% increase over their January-March 1991 level; however, because champagne sales are concentrated in the last quarter of the year, first quarter volume accounts for less than 15% of annual shipments, and is not a good indicator of sales for an entire year.

Among other categories, OSN wine not over 14% alcohol jumped 48.6% to 15.7 million gallons; shipments of aperitif/dessert wines fell 14.7% to 10.9 million gallons, a 10.3 million gallon drop from their level in 1982; OSN wine over 14% alcohol fell 4.5% to 9.2 million gallons; and vermouth decreased 14.4% to 2.7 million gallons.

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