2015 California Wine Sales in U.S. Hit $31.9 Billion Retail Value

July 11, 2016
California wine shipments to the U.S. reached an estimated retail value of $31.9 billion in 2015. The state shipped an all-time high of 229 million cases to the U.S. in 2015.

California wine sales to all markets, both domestic and international, were 276 million cases in 2015, a record high.

"California wines continue to attract global recognition for their outstanding quality and value," said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, Wine Institute President and CEO. "Consumers are comfortable with wine, and well informed about it, which is translating to growing interest in California's regions, American Viticultural Areas, sustainable winegrowing practices and how wine complements their lifestyles."

"The premium wine segment $10 and above is continuing its long-term growth trend," said Jon Moramarco, founder and managing partner of BW166, who, along with Wine Communications Group, recently purchased The Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. Wine Institute has used this report as the authoritative resource for statistics and analysis for many decades. "The premium segment accounts for about a quarter of the shipments but half of the revenues. These sales offset the shrinking volume of value-priced wines $9 and under."

Stats at a Glance    
Estimated retail value of 2015 California wine sales in the U.S. was $31.9 billion    
The state shipped an all-time high of 229 million cases to the U.S. in 2015    
Total California wine sales to U.S. and to exports was a record 276 million cases    
The U.S. has been the world's largest wine market since 2010

Wine Institute has reported on the value of consumer expenditures on wine for two decades using volume data, scan pricing and other spending estimates. BW166 has reset the baseline for these figures using revised methodology and new sources of information from the U.S. Census Dept. and U.S. Commerce Dept.

Moramarco pointed out several developments in the U.S. marketplace last year. The lower 2015 winegrape crop has helped drive the premium wine emphasis. The U.S. consumer base is changing—millennials are reaching legal drinking age and now make up about a third of consumers over 21 years of age, with wineries tailoring their wines and marketing to appeal to this younger group seeking new and more upscale offerings. Competition was fierce with a strong dollar paving the way for foreign wines crowding U.S. distribution channels, which continue to consolidate. More than 160,000 wine labels are approved annually by TTB for sale in the U.S. Smaller wineries seeking distribution looked to direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping, which will be legal in 44 states (when Pennsylvania's DTC law comes into effect Aug. 7) and the District of Columbia.

Because of the move to higher value wines, dollar sales grew significantly faster than case sales in 2015, according to Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights into consumer preferences and purchases. In U.S. food stores, total wine volume sales grew 2% while total revenues increased 6%, compared to the previous year.

"The number of U.S. supermarkets selling wine is increasing, hitting about 30,000 last year, an increase of over 1,700 stores compared to 2011," said Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Nielsen's Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. "No longer confined to specialty shops and liquor marts, many grocery stores are offering a cornucopia of wines to be part of a growing category. Both consumers and retailers are reaping the benefits."

According to Nielsen, in measured U.S. food stores, the most popular table wine types by volume were Chardonnay (21% share), Cabernet Sauvignon (14%), Red Blends/Sweet Reds (10%), Pinot Grigio/Gris (9%), Merlot (8%), followed by Pinot Noir (5.5%), Moscato (5%), Sauvignon Blanc (5%) and White Zinfandel (4%). Sauvignon Blanc accounted for the strongest volume gains followed by Red Blends, and then Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio/Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon.