BERKELEY, Calif. – California wine sales in the United States hit another record in 2005, a rise experts attribute to a combination of factors from the Supreme Court weighing in on wine shipments to the vino-centric movie, "Sideways."
"Wine is enjoying this wonderful moment of very favorable attitudes," said industry consultant Jon Fredrikson, who compiled the figures released Monday by the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.
California wine shipments to U.S. markets amounted to 441 million gallons at a retail value of $16.5 billion, said Fredrikson, publisher of the Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. That was up 3 percent from the 2004 record-setting 428 million gallons, which had a retail value of about $15 billion.
Total California shipments to domestic and international markets was 532 million gallons, up from 523 million gallons in 2004.
About two out of every three bottles of wine sold in the United States comes from California. Looking at sales of all wine, including other states and foreign producers, domestic sales grew by about 5 percent to 703 million gallons valued at $26 billion.
Sales have been growing ever since 1991 when CBS' "60 Minutes" did a story on the perceived health benefits of wine.
But the rate of growth picked up about four years, Fredrikson said, in part because of the introduction of "supervalues," such as Two Buck Chuck, the nickname of Charles Shaw wines that sell for $1.99 in California.
The success of the wine road trip movie "Sideways," which opened in the fall of 2004, and last summer's Supreme Court shipping ruling — forcing states to treat local and out-of-state wineries equally — added to the momentum, Fredrikson said.
"I characterize it as wine finally really getting traction with the American public," he said.
Looking at wine by price, sales of wines $7 and above grew 13 percent, while wines under $7 declined 2 percent. As in 2004, red wine edged out whites with 41.7 percent of the market versus 41 percent. Blush wine accounted for the remaining 17 percent.
At Joseph Phelps Vineyards in St. Helena, president Tom Shelton was glad to see sales on the upswing, but noted that U.S. consumption of wine still lags totals elsewhere.
"Clearly, there's a lot of room for wine to continue its consumption growth," he said.