Australian wine exports to the United States have continued to grow in the 12 months ended June 2016, with an increase in value by 8 per cent to $449 million. While volume declined by 4 per cent to 157 million litres, the average value of wine exports grew by 12 per cent to $2.86 per litre to their highest level since 2009. This growth in average value was driven by bottled exports as the trend towards Australia’s premium wines in the US continued.
‘The US is not an overnight exercise in turning the ship – it will take a generation but we are seeing positive results coming through.’
Andreas Clark, CEO, Wine Australia
Exports to the US – sentiment a key factor behind this growth?
While it hasn’t been an easy road for Australian wine exports in the US over the past decade, we are now seeing the commercial benefits of improved perceptions of Australian wine among the US trade. A growing number of importers are now taking on more premium Australian brands. Recent media coverage along with research commissioned by Wine Australia also shows more positive sentiment for the Australian wine category among the trade and consumers.
‘It’s exciting to see reinvigorated interest in Australian wine in the US market, with consumers now considering Australian wine amongst some of the world’s best when choosing a premium wine. With the recent re-launch of Peter Lehmann Wines in the US market, we have seen renewed interest in the category, in particular at the higher price point of between US$10 - $20 RRP.’
John Casella, Managing Director, Casella Family Brands
Australian wine growth – key varieties in the US
While red wine accounted for 60 per cent of the value of Australian wine exports to the US ahead of white wine with 39 per cent and other wines with 1 per cent, white wine exports had the strongest growth rate at 10 per cent compared to 7 per cent for reds. Our most planted variety Shiraz is the most common red variety exported to the US. The variety held a 26 per cent share ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon with 21 per cent and Merlot with 15 per cent. Rounding out the top five are Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blends with 7 per cent and Pinot Noir with 5 per cent. While the news wasn’t the best for total Shiraz exports to the US, they declined by 3 per cent to $71 million, higher priced Shiraz above $10 per litre recorded growth, up 9 per cent to $17 million. The news was much better for the other top four red varieties as each recorded an increase in value in the twelve months to June 2016.
Figure 1: Value of key red varietal exports in the US market
- Cabernet Sauvignon by 16 per cent to $56 million, with the strongest rate of growth in wines above $10 per litre
- Merlot by 20 per cent to $41 million with most of the growth at $2.50-4.99
- Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blends by 1 per cent to $20 million, with the strongest growth in wines above $10 per litre, and
- Pinot Noir by 11 per cent to $14 million with $2.50-4.99 driving the growth.
For the whites, Chardonnay was the leading variety exported to the US with a 37 per cent share of the market. The other top white wine varieties were Pinot Grigio (12 per cent share) and Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris (each with approximately a 4 per cent share). All of these varieties experienced value growth in the twelve months to June 2016, with Riesling the standout in higher price points.
Figure 2: Value of key white varietal exports in the US market
- Chardonnay by 1 per cent to $65 million with the growth coming at under $2.50
- Pinot Grigio by 22 per cent to $21 million driven by growth at $2.50-4.99
- Sauvignon Blanc by 38 per cent to $7.8 million, with growth across most price points
- Riesling by 22 per cent to $7.5 million, with the fastest rate of growth in the range $7.50–9.99, and
- Pinot Gris by 16 per cent to $6.2 million, with solid growth across the price spectrum.
Other white wine varieties in growth off smaller bases included Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends, and emerging varieties Viognier and Vermentino.
Where is Australian wine selling in the US?
The top five US states for Australian wine exports were all in value growth in the twelve months to June 2016. California is far and away the most popular destination for our wines by value, with $133 million heading there in 2016. New York is known around the world for a vibrant restaurant and wine bar scene so it’s great to see that over $58 million worth of our wine headed there, up 30 per cent on the previous year. New York was followed by Florida, Texas and Massachusetts, key markets which all saw large increases in the value of Australian wine exports.
Figure 3: Top 5 markets for Australian wine exports to the US
- California by 7 per cent to $133 million
- New York by 30 per cent to $58 million
- Florida by 19 per cent to $43 million
- Texas by 8 per cent to $28 million
- Massachusetts by 56 per cent to $22 million
What are the next steps for Australian wine in the US?
To continue sustainable growth in our most valuable market it is vital to increase the awareness and availability of premium Australian wine in the US. This requires a long-term approach and a focus on re-establish relationships and confidence in the category supported by significant, consistent investment to drive the Australian fine wine message. Activities like the dedicated Market Entry program in the US are designed to help wineries get back into market, find importers and distribution. This program has been successful but like all activities in the US requires patience and long-term investment to be successful. The US market is complicated and diverse, it requires time and patience for business initiatives to gain traction and flourish. So while there is a long way to go for the Australian category to relive the glory of days past in this markets, changes in the last 12 months has turned the Australian category from a non-profit lack-lustre segment back into an interesting, exciting category. We are seeing a re-emergence of interest in all price points for Australia as perception in the US changes towards Australian wine. There is plenty of work still to be done but there’s now promise for Australian wine exporters in this key market.
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