When it comes to buying wine, more and more U.S. consumers are skipping the foreign imports and reaching for California labels. New data showed 229 million cases of wine were sold in the U.S. for $31.9 billion in 2015. Both figures are all-time highs for the industry, which also saw wine tourism give a boost to the Napa Valley economy.
However, these numbers mask sea changes in the industry. One of the publishers of the report noted this trend: “The premium wine segment $10 and above is continuing its long-term growth trend. 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.”
This trend has two driving factors. First, 2015 saw fewer grapes produced in California. As a result, companies focused on using the grapes to make higher-quality premium wines that came with higher price tags.
Second, the U.S. wine audience is changing. The millennial generation is reaching the legal drinking age and now makes up a third of adult consumers. Wineries are trying to tailor offerings to those tastes by offering more upscale wines. This change is driving further growth in the higher value wine sector. Thus, dollar sales grew faster than case sales in the U.S. in 2015.
California also did well in exported wines. The U.S. exported a record $1.61 billion of wine in 2015 — 90 percent of which came from California.