SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- U.S. residents now make up the largest wine market in the world, consuming 13 percent of all that's produced globally, according to an analyst who spoke Wednesday at a major wine industry gathering.
Jon Fredrikson told executives at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium that U.S. production increased 2 percent last year to help meet demand.
"This market was brutally competitive," Fredrikson told the crowd.
Bulk wine imports from Argentina helped slake the thirsts of U.S. consumers, followed by Chile and Australia. New Zealand has boosted its planted acreage by almost a quarter and is expected to become a bigger player, especially with production of sauvignon blanc.
Wine consumption is decreasing in France and Italy, so increasingly foreign producers are aiming for the U.S. market.
Overseas wines now account for 35 percent of sales in the U.S.
According to the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa (http://bit.ly/WVhZEz), Fredrikson said consumers were driven to cheaper imports by grape shortages in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 that resulted in higher prices for domestic wines.
Even the Charles Shaw label — known affectionately as "Two Buck Chuck" — was forced to raise prices this month by 50-cents per bottle.
One of the biggest sales success stories was Modesto-based Gallo, which saw sales increase by 9 percent in 2011 and 5 percent last year.