The Pacific Northwest: A Growing Wine Region
The Pacific Northwest wine region (Washington, Idaho and Oregon) is arguably the fastest growing wine region in the United States. For example, a new winery is starting up every 13 days in Washington. The Northwest region is home to 350 wineries (nearly as many as Napa and Sonoma), and 600 wine grape growers. As the Northwest wine region continues to grow, it is increasingly looking to international markets as outlets for its wine.
Market promotion efforts coupled with robust foreign demand and more varieties of higher quality continue to drive Northwest wine exports. Northwest wine exports are forecast to reach $12.5 million in 2000, up 130 percent from $5.4 million in 1995. Exports account for approximately 3.4 percent of the Northwests production. Canada ($4.8 million), Japan ($2.8 million), and the United Kingdom ($2 million) are the three largest export markets. The industrys long-term market development strategy is to gain a stable and growing niche in the high-end retail and restaurant wine sectors by promoting the Northwest, as a unique region which produces wines of exceptional quality that deserve a high price point in the "New World" wine category.
Wineries in the Pacific Northwest are committed to raising the bar on quality in the wine industry. It is not a happenstance that Washington Sate sponsored the World Vinifera Conference 2000 entitled "Quest for Quality." The conference, held in Seattle from July 25 through July 27, highlighted viticulture and enology, wine and food, and wine marketing. The conference promoted dialogue about vinifera concerns, while at the same time promoting the state and the Northwest as a premium wine producing region. The conference included informative sessions such as Breakthrough Wine Marketing; How to Get the Medias Attention; Wine Explosion on the Internet; Wine & Food Trends; The Debate: Innovation vs. Tradition In the Vineyard, etc. The conference also offered an opportunity to participate in a technical visit to a winery in eastern Washington.
Washington is the second largest wine producing state in the country after California. The Washington wine industry generates an estimated $650 million in sales annually with shipments to all 50 states and more than 40 countries. Washington is projected to have a record harvest in 2000, up 30 percent from last year to 90,000 tons. The record crop is because of increased acreage. The majority of vines are planted to chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon varieties. These varieties remain in great international demand.
Washington recently implemented the Washington Wine Quality Alliance (WWQA) to assure consumers of quality. As part of the WWQA, 95 of the 155 wineries have agreed to voluntarily restrict appellation and labeling practices and discontinue the generic use of Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Chablis on labels. The WWQA logo on the label will indicate to consumers that the winemaker has designated the wine as higher quality than most wines from the winery.
(For additional information contact Yvette Wedderburn Bomersheim at 202-720-0911.)