Sales revenue drops for California vintners although more bottles sold

Wine Institute report shows consumers buying lower-priced brands

California winemakers shipped nearly the same amount of wine in the United States last year as they did in 2008 but consumers bought lower priced wines because of the recession, the Wine Institute has reported.

Robert P. Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute, said even though consumers were cautious in their spending last year, they kept wine on the dinner table.

California vintners shipped 467.7 million gallons, or 196.7 million cases, of their wine to the U.S. wine market in 2009, the Wine Institute said. That was a modest 0.2 percent increase over 2008.

The estimated retail value of the 2009 wine sales was $17.9 billion, down three percent from 2008 as consumers bought lower priced wines, according to the Wine Institute.

California wine shipments here and abroad decreased 1.2 percent to 563 million gallons.

Sales of wine in restaurants were off between six and nine percent as more consumers dined at home and business travel decreased, the Wine Institute said.

Sales of wines from all production sources grew in U.S. food stores two percent in volume in 2009 and foreign wine volume in the food stores was flat, according to The Nielsen Company which provides media and consumer information.

Wines priced up to $7 per 750-ml. bottle were the most popular in food stores by volume, increasing two percent and accounting for 72 percent of sales quantity.

The volume of wines priced $7-$10 per bottle were up 3 percent; $10-$14 wines grew three percent by volume and wines priced $14 per bottle and up grew two percent by volume in food stores.

Consumers in food stores favored Chardonnay, which accounted for 22 percent of supermarket sales, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 per cent; Merlot, 11 percent; and White Zinfandel, 8 percent.

Worldwide U.S. wine exports, 90 percent of which were from California, fell 9.5 percent in value in 2009, according to the Wine Institute.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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