Wine Down Under

Americans are falling in love with pricey New Zealand wines at the expense of cheaper vino from Australia and Argentina.

The value of New Zealand wine shipped to the U.S. jumped 11 percent last year to $400 million — the biggest gain among the top eight importers — and exceeding Australia’s earnings there for the first time, according to figures from Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates. Aussie shipments dropped 8 percent and Argentina’s fell 4 percent.

New Zealand is reaping dividends from pushing quality wines at higher prices to the lucrative American market, where drinkers are becoming increasingly discerning. Exports to the U.S. have doubled in the past five years, making it the largest market for producers like Constellation Brands, whose Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc is the No.1 seller in the U.S.

“We are seeing newer generations who have grown up around wine, and are more comfortable around wine, graduating to more expensive wine earlier in their drinking lives than the baby boomers ever did,” said Marc Soccio, a Melbourne-based analyst at Rabobank, who helps produce a quarterly report on the wine industry. “These trends have naturally played into the hands of a country like New Zealand.”


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