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U.S. wine exports hit a record high of $1.56 billion in 2013, up 16 percent from 2012 (and up from $621 million a decade ago).

Volume grew 2.8 percent to 413 million liters, but the value of exports was down 3 percent to $1.38 billion for the 11 months through November 2014, implying a slight weakening in price.

This could have been partly due to a rising dollar and the West Coast port slowdown.

These were statistical highlights from the Wine Institute’s seminar this week to help guide wineries seeking to start or increase wine exports.

The seminar highlighted a side of the Wine Institute that’s not as well known as its lobbying for California wineries. Although Wine Institute plays only a small role in marketing California wines domestically, it administers the marketing-oriented California Wine Export Program funded by the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service and industry contributions.

Currently, 170 California wineries participate in the Wine Institute’s International Program.

Get more details about the program at calwinexport.com.

New York Times article trashes Napa

A two-page article appeared in the Sunday New York Times a few weeks ago. In outlining the meltdown of Jeffry James Hill and Hill Wine Company, which is unrelated to Hill Family Estate, the author inserted his experiences of visiting the winery, joining the winery’s club and buying wine into the article, an unusual step for an investigative article by a prestigious publication.

He also used the article to disparage Napa wineries, suggesting that they took advantage of loopholes to deceive customers, and that the wine was no better than that of Lake and other nearby counties except for better marketing. (That’s one for the Napa Valley Vintners, though they’d probably not have the compliment.)

In addition, he throws his opinion in as fact without attribution. It almost seems as if the respected Times has decided to adopt the standards of Internet blogs, which is shocking indeed to an old-time writer.

If you want a straight version of the story, Kerana Todorov wrote it up for the Register on Jan. 16.

Vintners beef up promotion in east

Napa Valley Vintners has selected Cornerstone Communications as its East Coast agency.

Cornerstone has launched a public relations and marketing program designed to increase awareness of the Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners and its members’ wines through a series of initiatives targeting the trade as well as Metro New York and national media.

The campaign will include a digital media marketing component that begins later this year.

Wines & Vines Oak Conference

Wines & Vines magazine presents an all-day symposium on oak at its first Oak Conference on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in Napa.

Speakers will include noted winemakers such as David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars, academic researchers like Dr. James Kennedy of CSU Fresno and coopers who will share their knowledge of oak with an emphasis on innovations.

Topics will include different oak wood species, oak sources, grain, stave seasoning, toasting, coopering and finishing along with technical tastings of winery and university trials with varied oak products.

A trade show with 36 exhibitors runs simultaneously.

The cost of $199 includes a continental breakfast and lunch. A pass for the exhibits and lunch only is $39.

Get details and register via winesandvines.com. The conference will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 500 First St. (formerly Copia).

Mobile apps do help sell wine

Lotus Growth, a San Francisco-based digital marketing consultant, and Hello Vino, a mobile app that allows U.S. wine drinkers to recommend and buy wine, reports that consumers who bought promoted wine ordered an average of 2.4 bottles even though 63 percent were not aware of the wineries or brands before learning about the promoted wines in the Hello Vino app.

It also found that an overwhelming majority of consumers will buy the same wine brand again within six months. Most of those who bought wines would recommend the promoted brand to 3.9 friends on average.

In related research, Google’s Shopper Marketing Council reports 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phone to help shop while in a store. Yahoo Flurry Analytics found that 86 percent of smartphone usage occurs within apps, with only 14 percent of consumers using mobile websites.

A free copy of the Lotus report is available at hellovino.com/research

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Contact Paul Franson at paul@paulfranson.com

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