Bottled critter wine from Australia has cut into bottled California wine sales. Now, apparently surplus critter wines from Australia are being shipped to California in bulk to be blended with California wines and carry an American appellation.
Consumers may not recognize the difference, but California grape growers do because this has been a major factor in the dearth of winery buyers for 2006 California wine grapes.
For example, there is a Franzia Bag-in-a Box White Zinfandel being sold in supermarkets that looks like a California product. However, there is no California appellation to be found anywhere on it. The appellation says “American.” The reason is that as much as 25 percent of the White Zinfandel in the bag-in-a-box is wine imported bulk to the United States, likely from Australia, and bottled by the second largest winery group in the United States, Constellation Brands.
And this is happening in a year which has been particularly tough for US growers, their harvest going begging for buyers.
For grape growers struggling unsuccessfully to find a home for their grapes, the huge increase in imports is like rubbing salt in the wound, since U.S. wine sales are up 2 percent to 5 percent, yet California growers are not benefiting. “It really concerns me to see California wineries importing wine in a year where so many gapes are available for sale in the state,” said San Miguel, Calif., grape grower Tony Domingos, in a recent edition of the CAWG newsletter. “I can understand the reduction in grape purchase due to the 2005 surplus, but to see new records of bulk wine imports when we have plenty of high quality grapes at reasonable prices is alarming.” “We need to create consumer demand for California wines and take back our market share from the imports,” added the San Luis Obispo County grape grower.
I guess the message in this is, whether bottle or box, "look for the California label."