SAN FRANCISCO — California wine shipments in the U.S. reached an estimated retail value of $40.2 billion in 2018, up 3% from the previous year. The state shipped 248 million nine-liter cases to the U.S. in 2018, up 3%.

California wine sales to all markets, including shipments to the U.S. and export markets, were 285 million cases in 2018.

“Consumer interest in premium wines continues to be the dominant trend,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, Wine Institute President and CEO. “As consumers trade up, our California wines are emphasizing high quality, value and sustainable winegrowing.”

“California wine shipments experienced a 15% volume growth in the U.S. over the last decade, and increased 6 million cases in 2018 over the previous year,” said Jon Moramarco, founder and managing partner of BW 166 LLC, and editor of the Gomberg Fredrikson Report. “Baby Boomers are still the driving force in wine consumption, but while sales are still growing, it’s slowing as the Boomer generation ages and presumably drinks less. Wine marketers are working to maintain the interest of Boomers and attract Gen X’ers and Millennials with new and different wines.”

Moramarco also noted that direct-to-consumer wine sales continue to grow as important channel with over 6 million cases sold with a retail value of $3 billion in 2018, an increase of 9% in volume and 12% in value over the previous year.

“Consumers are drinking better but not a lot more, as overall alcohol per capita consumption has changed very little,” said Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. “They are being more mindful of drinking in moderation, thus underlining a trend to smaller serve packaging, and seeking ‘experiences’ in a wide variety of eating and drinking venues such as theaters, museums, concerts, festivals, sports/activity venues, ‘groceraunts’ and other premises offering combined experiential and food/drink occasions. This diverse landscape has resulted in wine selling locations in the U.S. being up 8.5% from five years ago to 567,000 off- and on-premise locations.”

Brager explained that consumers are also shopping more online and want a convenient and effective online browsing and shopping experience. Adopting e-commerce platforms to make wine more accessible to consumers is having an impact on wine sales. Alternative packaging such as 3-liter boxes and cans is another trend expanding occasions to enjoy wine.

According to Nielsen-measured U.S. off-premise sales, top-selling varietals by volume share are: Chardonnay, 18.6%; Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.6%; Red Blends, 10.6%; Pinot Grigio/Gris, 9.7%; Merlot, 6.4%; Moscato/Muscat, 6.2%; Pinot Noir,5.2%; Sauvignon Blanc, 5.1%; White Zinfandel/Blush, 3.6%; and Rosé, 2.7%. Rosé continues to show phenomenal growth, with sales volume jumping 46% compared to 2017.

Total shipments of sparkling wine and champagne to the U.S. reached 27.4 million cases in 2018. Up 4% from the previous year, sparkling wines/champagnes accounted for a 7% share of the U.S. wine market.

The U.S. Wine Market

Wine shipments to the U.S. from all production sources—California, other states and foreign producers—grew 1% to 406.5 million cases in 2018, with an estimated retail value of $68.1 billion. The U.S. has remained the world’s largest wine market by volume since 2010 and the U.S. is now the third leading global wine producer. California’s 245 million cases shipped within the U.S. in 2018 represent a 61% share of the total U.S. wine market.

U.S. Wine Exports

U.S. wine exports, 95% from California, reached $1.46 billion in winery revenues in 2018. Volume shipments were 375 million liters or 41.7 million cases. The European Union’s 28-member countries were the top market for U.S. wine exports, accounting for $469 million; followed by Canada, $449 million; Hong Kong, $130 million; Japan, $93 million; China, $59 million; Mexico, $27 million; South Korea, $25 million; Nigeria, $15 million; Dominican Republic, $14.4 million, and Singapore, $14 million.