Boosted by escalating demand from Asian imbibers, U.S. and California wine exports for the first 11 months of last year have broken the previous record for all of 2010.
The California Wine Institute was so excited with the growth in the value and size of shipments that it announced the achievement Wednesday, instead of waiting to release the full 2011 year-end statistics later this year.
California grape growers, wineries and exporters account for 9 out of every 10 bottles of U.S. wine sold overseas, the San Francisco-based wine institute said.
Wine export sales from January to November 2011 reached $1.3 billion, up 23% in value compared with the same period in 2010. Volume increased by 6%. The value of exports for all of 2010 was $1.1. billion, the institute reported.
Although the countries of the European Union continued to rank first in consumption of U.S. and California wine, exports to the 27-country bloc grew by only 10.1% from 2010 to 2011. Exports to second-ranking Canada increased by 24.4%.
However, sales to third-place Hong Kong jumped by 48.4%, fourth-place Japan by 42.3%, and fifth-place China by 38.3%.
California is the fourth-biggest wine producer in the world but accounts for only 4% of the world wine market, a situation that provides Golden State wineries with ample room for expansion in competing with more established growers in France, Italy and Spain.