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Industry seeks to take exports to the next levelIndustry seeks to take exports to the next level

‘Export is a long-term business proposition and growers need to also look ahead,’ marketing expert says.

Lee Allen

March 11, 2020

3 Min Read
Wine Institute president and chief executive officer Robert Koch makes opening remarks at an export conference at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa, Calif., on Feb. 18.Wine Institute

Taking wine exports to the next level was the focus of international industry leaders who packed the house at the Napa Valley presentation of Export 2020: The California Wine Global Export Conference.

“This is the first time the Wine Institute hosted the event focusing on business challenges and opportunities involved in exporting California wine around the world,” said Honore Comfort, Institute VP of International Marketing.

While the spotlight was on product-in-the-bottle and how to find new markets for it, the conference also had information of worth to growers. 

“Export is a long-term business proposition and growers need to also look ahead in planning and developing future harvest in terms of production and volume as well as trends in price, quality, and character of their wines,” Comfort said.

“The best way for growers and wineries to succeed is to work together to develop better planning and understanding of international markets and how working together can produce wines well-suited for these markets in terms of both wine style and price.”

Wine Institute President/CEO Robert Koch told attendees “We want our vintners to take their exports to the next level. Despite a challenging environment, the prospects for California wine remain bright with exports increasing 60% in value over the last decade to $1.4 billion in 2018 winery revenues.

“Just in the past year, we have expanded market access in Canada, reaches an agreement with Japan to eliminate tariffs on U.S. wine, and forcefully articulated our position that wine should not be targeted in trade disputes that don’t involve wine.”

Goal of $2 billion in exports

The two speakers noted that with the California Wine Export Program supporting awareness and promotion efforts in the Top 25 markets, they have set an ambitious goal to exceed $2 billion in U.S. wine exports by 2030 with California making up 95% of those sales. They say with the participation of wineries across the state, they have the people and plans in place to accomplish that goal.

With winegrowers widening the range of quality grape varieties under cultivation and broadening their range of both red and white varieties, Jancis Robinson, a wine master from the United Kingdom, and wine educator Elaine Chukan Brown spoke to the global potential of California wine with the Golden State seizing an opportunity to be the leader in the sustainability arena.

“The California lifestyle is as much a part of the story of the state’s wine as is its quality,” said Robinson while Brown noted that the wider range of varieties and prices points augured well in attracting customers, both domestically and internationally. “California does well in producing high acid whites while Chardonnay remains the darling of the state’s white wines,” she said.

With panel discussions on global trends and the impact on California wine, Comfort indicated, “Export is definitely a long-term strategy for any wine company and with the current oversupply situation, this creates perhaps a greater sense of urgency or at least an opportunity to further evaluate international markets.

“Our initial conference efforts were designed to create a forum for both wineries that have been involved in export activities to sharpen their skills with new insight and to create an opportunity for wineries not involved in export to consider becoming involved in adding another sales channel in addition to the domestic marketplace."

Focusing specifically on growers, Comfort said: “They also need to consider long term prospects for business propositions involving production and volume. It’s hard for growers to understand some of the longer-term trends and what those markets may be looking for in terms of quality, character, and price, so working with wineries to develop mutually beneficial plans for market expansion makes sense as a long term strategy.

“We’re seeing a shift towards lighter wine styles and greater interest in varieties beyond the major seven we currently produce and that’s good for growers looking to diversity.”

For more news on pests, disease management and other issues affecting vineyards, subscribe to the bi-monthly newsletter The Grape Line.

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