Tuesday, November 2, 2010

U.S. Wine Exports & Imports: The Underdogs

Which countries are buying the most U.S. wines?  Which countries are selling the U.S. the most wines?  And who are the underdogs in both questions?  The answers intrigue me, especially those indicating which wines are the most underappreciated. You will often find excellent values in such underdog wines, and are usually well worth checking out.  

I found some of the answers in a new article, US International Wine Sales by Country So Far in 2010, written by Daniel Workman and compiled from documents of the United States International Trade Commission. The stastistics deal with the first seven months of 2010, and only list the top 15 countries in both categories.  Plus, the statistics are compared to the similar period in 2009.  And I found the information quite fascinating. 

First, the U.S. imports far more wine than it exports, a trade deficit of $1.74 billion, which is 1.6% more than the same period last year. We are importing approximately $2.3 billion in wine from all over the world, which is 7% more than the same period last year.  So we are drinking more foreign wine but what are we drinking?  Which countries are receiving that money?

Second, the top three importers of wine to the U.S. are Italy (up 11% over last year), France (about even with last year) and Australia (down 4% over last year).  Combined, those three countries constitute about 54% of all wine imports to the U.S.  That is not too surprising, and shows the strength of Italian wines in the U.S. My own wine collection has a significant number of Italian wines, especially from some of the smaller, artisan wineries. I have a fair share of French wines but only a handful of Australian wines, and mainly slightly older ones.

What was more surprising though were the identities of the #4 and #5 importers, Argentina (up 23% over last year) and Chile (about even). I thought that other European countries would be higher on the list than these two regions, but that is not the case. It could be because Argentina and Chile have been pushed for the last couple years as up and coming regions with good value wines.  Though maybe it also has to do with that those regions are producing wines more in a New World style. I only have a handful of wines from these regions too.

Spain comes in at #6, up 14% from last year, while Portgual is #9, up 37.5% from last year. Seems Iberian wines, and especially Portuguese, have been getting a significant boost lately, probably again because they do produce some very good value wines.  For me, I think Portugal is producing some of the best under $10 wines in the market. I have a fair share of Iberian wines in my cellar.

One of the biggest surprises is the Netherlands, at #12, which had an incredible increase of 749% over last year.  Where are all those wines, as I have not seen them locally?  Maybe they are concentrated in a different part of the U.S.  The Netherlands rank higher than Austria, Greece and Canada, though all three countries have seen increases since last year. Those three countries are underdogs, but all produce very worthy wines that you should taste.  I am especially fond of Greek wines, preferring those made from indigenous Greek grapes. Even Israel wines, at #11 and up 41% over last year, does better than these three countries. Those three countries really need more promotion.  And has anyone seen wines from the Netherlands?

And who is buying U.S. wines?

Third, the top three export markets for U.S. wines are Canada (up 23% over last year), the United Kingdom (up 22%), and Hong Kong (up 117%).  Japan comes in at #4, up 2.6% over last year, and China is #6, up 101%.  So, it seems true that the Asian market for wine is increasing significantly, and has lots of potential.  Asians are buying far more than just expensive French wines. Considering the large wine trade deficit, the Asian market may be where the U.S. can work at cutting that deficit. Though part of the issue may also be is that the U.S. does not produce enough wine to balance the deficit.  Overall though, total exports are up 27%, which is a very positive sign.  More and more countries are seeing the value of U.S.wines.

It is interesting to compare some of the import/export figures for specific countries, namely the top three countries we import. Consider Italy, where the U.S. imports $709.6 million but Italy only buys $38.3 million from the U.S.  As for France, we import $511.6 million but France only buys $6 million from us.  And for Australia, we import $363.7 million but they are not even part of the top 15 countries that receive wine exports from the U.S., meaning they import less than $6 million in U.S.wine. Those three countries are the main reason for our wine trade deficit.  How can we get them to purchase more U.S. wine?  Or do they have so much of their own wine that they don't want ours?  Or should we ignore these three and concentrate instead on the Asian market?

It would have been nice to have more detailed information, such as a breakdown of imports by price, wine region, wine style, etc. That might help us see the trends, whether inexpensive wines have been increasing or not.  It might also help indicate why some countries export more wine to the U.S. 

How do you own wine collections stack up to these import/export statistics?

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