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California Wine Shipments Fall First Time in 16 Years

California wine shipments fell as purchases in the U.K., the biggest export market, plunged 36% in 2009

By Sarah Rabil

(Bloomberg) — California wine shipments fell in 2009 for the first time in 16 years as purchases in the U.K., the biggest export market, plunged during the global recession, according to researcher Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

The global shipment volume of wine made in California dropped by 1.6 percent, to 236 million cases, according to 11 months of data and December estimates from Jon Fredrikson, who heads the wine research firm in Woodside, California.

Shipments to the U.K. plunged 36 percent because of the recession, high taxes, rising duties on imports and the drop in the value of the pound, which boosted California wine prices, Fredrikson said today in a telephone interview. Shipments in the U.S. fell 0.4 percent. Revenue for California wineries, whose biggest product is Chardonnay, probably fell more than shipment volumes as shoppers sought out cheaper bottles, he said.

"Today, frugality is hip," said Fredrikson, who hasn't yet estimated 2009 revenue for the industry. "There's a lot of heartburn going on among industry planners."

The global economy shrank 0.8 percent in 2009, according to a report this month from the International Monetary Fund.

Total shipments out of California wineries, including bottles produced abroad, increased 1.8 percent to 257.4 million cases, according to Fredrikson.

Wine shipments throughout the U.S., including American and imported wines, grew by 2.1 percent, said Fredrikson, who first released the data this week at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, California.

"American consumers are drinking wine, but they're drinking less-expensive wines," said Gladys Horiuchi, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based Wine Institute, which represents more than 1,000 wineries in California.

Constellation Brands Inc., the world's largest winemaker, fell 9 cents to $16.08 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The company, the maker of Clos du Bois and Robert Mondavi wines, is based in Victor, New York.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Rabil in New York at

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