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GL0821-todd-fitchette-trade-visit_BT_Edits.jpg Todd Fitchette
A sign welcomes visitors to the Napa Valley. A trade delegation from the United Kingdom and Ireland will visit California’s wine country in October.

Trade visit to bolster U.S. wine sales in Europe

Buyers from the United Kingdom, Ireland to visit California’s wine country in October.

With U.S. wine currently hit with a 91 percent tariff in China, industry leaders are working to shore up sales and marketing in other parts of the world, including Europe.

The effort may get a boost in October, as wine buyers from the United Kingdom and Ireland will make their first-ever visit to California’s wine country looking for new-to-market wines, according to the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.

The Institute is inviting the state’s entire wine industry to participate by submitting their wines for consideration in its export program. More than 100 wineries will be chosen to meet and make deals with the buyers, a news release explains.

“We have never before led such a focused sales initiative,” Honore Comfort, the institute’s vice president of international marketing, said in a statement.

The mission is “solely dedicated to importers looking to bring new wines into the market, and we are pleased to offer this opportunity to vintners wishing to sell their wines in the United Kingdom and Ireland,” Comfort says.

The two nations are part of the second-largest export market after Canada. The buyers will be looking for wines at all price points, but they’re particularly interested in the $5- to $15-per-bottle range in U.S. dollars, the visit’s organizers say.

Despite global economic uncertainties, not the least of which is the U.K.’s plan to leave the European Union, wine exports from California reached just under $1.5 billion worldwide, the Institute notes.

Wine sales flat

But wine sales overall have been flat in recent years after a 10-year run of steady growth. The leveling off after California wineries had grown accustomed to annualized sales increases averaging nearly 3 percent may cause some of them to reevaluate their business models, Allied Grape Growers President Jeff Bitter told members in a July presentation.

U.S. wine exports to China and Hong Kong have grown 450 percent in the last decade, but sales to China were down 25 percent in 2018 as exports to all markets abroad reached $1.47 billion in winery revenues and 41.7 million cases, the Institute reported earlier this year.

California has an opportunity to sell more wines domestically, as states with Prohibition-era bans on direct shipping wines across statelines are relaxing those regulations. However, East Coast markets are nearly as close geographically to Europe as they are to California.

In his talk, Bitter noted a disparity between what the European Union spends to markets its wines in the U.S. and what California spends to promote itself. It’s a trend the Wine Institute is seeking to change.

Damien Jackman and Justine McGovern, the organization’s trade directors, selected buyers in the delegation that will be arriving Oct. 6 and will be leading the delegation.

California vintners who are not now selling in the U.K. or Ireland are invited to apply for one of the 120 tasting opportunities that will be offered that week. The business must make at least 2,500 cases of wine, be willing to travel to the U.K. to “work the market” and have a long-term approach to developing the export business, Institute officials say.

For more information, call 707-217-6327.

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TAGS: Trade
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