By TIM HEARDEN
SHASTA LAKE, Calif. -- U.S. wine sales set another record last year, continuing a nearly two-decade upward trend, reports the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.
Domestic sales from all production sources, including imports, rose 2 percent from the previous year to an all-time high of 360.1 million 9-liter cases with a retail value of about $34.6 billion, estimates Woodside, Calif. wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson.
The 207.7 million cases of wine produced in California accounted for a 58 percent share of U.S. wine sales last year with an estimated retail value of $22 billion, the Wine Institute reported. With exports included, California wine shipments reached 250.2 million cases.
The newest data marks a continuing gradual increase in domestic wine sales since 1998, when 188.9 million 9-liter cases were sold nationwide. Institute spokeswoman Gladys Horiuchi said demographics have a lot to do with the increase.
"Baby boomers were always ones to drink most of the wine so their kids grew up with it at the dinner table ... and now echo boomers are of drinking age," she said.
In addition, many sales outlets have been added, including wine sales at Target and Walmart, as well as direct shipping, which accounts for a small percentage of sales.
Meanwhile, U.S. wine exports, 90 percent of which come from California, reached $1.43 billion in winery revenues in 2012, an increase of 2.6 percent from the previous year, according to the Wine Institute. Volume shipments reached 47.2 million cases.
The top destination for California wines was the 27-nation European Union, whose $485 million in purchases last year represented a 1.7 percent increase from 2011. Canada bought $434 million worth of wine from the Golden State in 2012, up 14 percent from the previous year.
The brisk sales come as California's 2012 grape crush totaled a record high of nearly 4.4 million tons. Last year's crush was up 13 percent from the 2011 crush of 3.87 million tons, and 1 percent larger than the previous record-high 2005 crush, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
"Everyone you talk to says it was pretty incredible," Horiuchi said. "We certainly need the wine right now as consumption continues to grow."
There still is room for growth in wine sales, she said. Per capita consumption of wine in the U.S. is less than 3 gallons annually, she said.
"That's still rather modest," she said. "It's wine with dinner in moderation, which is what we encourage ... But the French consume nearly 10 gallons per capita."
Wine Institute: http://www.wineinstitute.org/