California wineries shipped a record 428m gallons of wine to the US in 2004, a 3% increase over the previous year, according to wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of the Gomberg-Fredrikson Report.

The Wine Institute estimated the retail value of California wine shipped to the US at US$15m. California winery shipments to all markets both at home in the US and abroad reached 522m gallons in 2004 for a 6% increase.

Over the long term, total US consumption has grown 63% since 1991 (excluding wine coolers). Sales will continue to expand as wine increasingly becomes a more significant part of the cultural landscape.

"It's been a good year for many California producers," said Wine Institute president and CEO Robert P. Koch. "Consumers are responding favorably to the wonderful selection and diversity of California wines, and the positive reviews of the last several vintages are promising quality that is better than ever."

The Institute said extreme-value wines remained popular making up 12% of California table wine shipments to the California home market.

However, consumer interest in more-expensive premium wines continued to fuel most of the sales growth in 2004. California wines $7 and over for a 750 ml. accounted for 32% of the volume, yet 64% of the revenues. New brands, new packaging, an improved U.S. economy and a favorable dollar exchange rate helped this segment thrive. Sales of everyday wines priced up to US$7 were flat, representing 68% of the cases and 36% of the revenues.

Wine sales in the US from all production sources — California, other states and foreign producers — grew 4% to 668m gallons in 2004. The estimated retail value of wine shipments to the US is US$23.2 billion.

Of the total, table wine amounted to 590.5m gallons; dessert wine was 47.5m gallons; Champagne and sparkling wine, 30m gallons. California wines account for a 64% share of the US wine market or about two of every three bottles sold in the US.

Wine volume in US supermarkets grew 2.7% in 2004 over the previous year, while the value grew 5.1%, according to ACNielsen, which tracks laser-scanning data from supermarkets across the country.

For the first time in recent history, red wine edged out white by volume in food stores. Red held a 40.5% market share; white, a 40.4% share; and blush accounting for 19.1%  share of the case volume. Chardonnay remained the leading varietal wine, followed by Merlot, White Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Together these four varietals made up over half (52%) of the wine sales in food stores. Pinot Grigio, Syrah/Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Riesling were the other top wines.

California producers celebrated a five percent increase for 2004 to 17.3m gallons shipped worldwide. In the US alone, California volume totalled 16.2m gallons and made up 54% of the Champagne/sparkling wine market in the US. Total shipments to the US from all production sources were 30.1m gallons.

US wine exports, 95% from California, surged 28% in 2004 to US$794m. Volume increased 29% to 119m gallons (450m litres.)