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Italy, France, New Zealand Drive Gains For Imported Wine Category

July 6, 2018

The imported wine market has been on a steady upward trajectory. Last year, total table wine imports to the U.S.—including bulk and bottled imported wine—blew past the 100-million-case mark on a nearly 6% rise, according to Impact Databank.

Among the leading import countries of origin, Italy continues to dominate, with its bottled imports up 2% to 28 million cases last year, comprising a 35% share of bottled import shipments overall. Italy’s U.S. shipment volume remains roughly twice that of second-ranked France, which has also been in growth mode lately, rising 19% to 13.6 million cases last year. Imports from New Zealand and Spain were also up strongly in 2017, rising 7% and 14% respectively, but wines from Australia, Chile, and Argentina were all in decline.

“We believe imported wine growth will remain healthy and continue to outpace domestic wine growth in the near term because of the strength of categories like sparkling and rosé,” says Chris Stenzel, president of wine and spirits at Constellation, whose Ruffino Prosecco earned Impact “Hot Brand” honors with 19% growth to 440,000 cases last year. Other Italian Hot Brands include Riboli Family’s Stella Rosa (+28% to 1.7 million cases), Gallo’s La Marca (+16% to 1.4 million cases), Palm Bay’s Roscato (+25% to 810,000 cases), Zonin’s Castello del Poggio (+11% to 563,000 cases), Mionetto (+12% to 680,000 cases), and Royal Wine Corp.’s Bartenura Moscato (+16% to 545,000 cases).

As the second-largest import segment, French wines added an impressive 2.2 million cases to their total last year, driven by the burgeoning rosé segment. Among the key labels on the move in the France category are Hot Brands including Vineyard Brands’ La Vieille Ferme (+26% to 472,000 cases), Gérard Bertrand (+46% to 350,000 cases), Shaw-Ross’s Chateau d’Esclans (+58% to 315,000 cases), Terlato’s M. Chapoutier (+13% to 225,000 cases), and Barton & Guestier (+13% to 200,000 cases).

Southern Hemisphere regions have been facing a tougher road than their European competitors lately, with the key exception of New Zealand. Australia’s bottled imports to the U.S. slipped 5.5% to 10.2 million cases last year, although the category has been making headway in the $15-and-over segment, bolstered by the rise of Treasury Wine Estates’ 19 Crimes, which is now above 1 million cases. Chile (bottled imports down 4% to 6 million cases) and Argentina (-5.9% to 5.4 million cases) have also been looking to gain renewed traction. “We’ll be seeing more varietal diversification from Argentine wineries with the same quality-price ratio that helped drive the popularity of Malbec,” says Dennis Kreps, co-owner of Quintessential Wines, which imports the popular Argentine brands Valentin Bianchi and Pascual Toso. Kreps notes that Argentine Cabernet in the $20-$40 area will be a segment to watch looking ahead.

Meanwhile, New Zealand continues to charge ahead, with shipments up 7% to 5 million cases last year, driven by Hot Brands like Constellation’s Kim Crawford (+10% to 1.3 million cases), Oyster Bay (+12% to 800,000 cases), Treasury’s Matua (+21% to 428,000 cases), and Gallo’s Whitehaven (+25% to 225,000 cases).—Kimberly Tharel

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