Reporting from Sacramento — U.S. wine exports hit record levels in 2011, helped by soaring demand from Asia and a weak dollar that made American wines more affordable.
Shipments for the first 11 months of 2011 reached $1.23 billion, according to the California Wine Institute. That's up 23% from the same period in 2010, and it's a 9% increase over the $1.1 billion in exports tallied for all of 2010, even though December 2011 results have yet to be reported.
Full-year 2011 statistics will be released later this year. The institute now projects foreign shipments to total at least $1.3 billion for the 12-month period. That's good news for California, whose grape growers, wineries and exporters account for nine of every 10 bottles of U.S. wine sold overseas.
"It's a great global story for California wine exports," said Linsey Gallagher, the San Francisco institute's director of international marketing.
California exports about a fifth of its wine production, a figure that Golden State vintners are looking to increase, Gallagher said.