Monday, 4 July 2016

United States wine imports and exports

Today, the USA is the fourth largest producer of wine by volume, with 2.21 billion litres in 2015. The US is thus a considerable exporter of wine, as well as an importer.

Indeed. the first graph shows that the over the past few years the USA has imported roughly three times as much wine as it has exported. Clearly, demand exceeds supply.

The imports and exports are often broken down into: packaged still wine (bottles, bag-in-box), sparkling wine in bottles, and bulk wine (usually delivered in huge bladders, and then bottled in the destination country). About 25% of the imported wine in 2015 arrived in the USA in bulk, while approximately 44% of the exported wine was sent in bulk. Bulk wine is, of course, at the cheap end of the price spectrum.

The wine exports go to a wide range of countries, as shown in the next graph for the bottled wine in 2015. However, last year Canada and the United Kingdom accounted for 46% of the exports between them. Not unexpectedly, most of the countries on this export list do not have a large wine industry of their own.

However, in spite of its own large wine industry, the United States imports a very large amount of wine. Indeed, in 2015 only about 72% of the wine consumed in the USA was provided by US wineries.

Much of the wine that is imported in bulk disappears into generic bottles. For example, during the boom for merlot wines in the 1990s, when demand in the USA exceeded supply, inexpensive French merlot wine was imported by a number of California wineries, and sold under their regular label or blended with California wine (by US law, only 75% of a wine bottle's contents needs to match the label).

Moving on, in 2015 roughly 12% of the packaged wine imported was of the sparkling variety. Nearly 51% of this sparkling wine came from Italy, mostly at the cheap end of the scale, with an average price of $5.27 per liter. On the other hand, the 28% that came from France was much more expensive, at $23.36 per liter on average.

Of the packaged still wine in 2015, the largest proportion also came from Italy, as shown in the next graph. Indeed, Italy accounted for more than one-third of the still-wine imports by volume (35%).

The average price per litre of the imported wine was $5.68, but this varied widely between the source countries, as shown in the final graph. Assuming that price reflects quality (to some extent, at least), then France and New Zealand were clearly purveyors of much higher-quality wine was than anyone else.

As I have noted before (Global wine exports), Australia has been one of the main suppliers of cheap wine for the world. This is also apparent for the wine supplied to individual countries such as the USA. In this case, Australia makes less money per liter out of its wine exports to the USA than does anyone else, in spite of being the second-largest supplier. This does not make economic sense, and reflects the current crisis reported in the Australian wine industry. For example, way back in 1994, Edward Oczkowski noted: "Most industry commentators point out that given the prospect of relatively flat domestic demand for wine, the industry's future prosperity rests with the exporting of premium table wines." This does not match the situation 20 years later,

The data for the above graphs has been taken from the 2016 report at the Wine by Numbers website.


  1. This blog looks very interesting. Appreciate the kind of effort went into it. Can you please suggest where can I the data?

    1. Click on the link at the end of the post, and you will be taken to the data.