U.S. residents are buying more wine, and that’s good news for California and the nation’s winegrape growers.

During 2007, California wine sales to the United States increased to a record 457 million gallons (192.1 million 9-liter cases), up 2 percent from 2006, according to a year-end summer in the Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. Wine typically is sold in a 750-milliliter bottle.

The retail value of the shipments increased 6 percent to $18.9 billion.

Total California winery shipments to all U.S. and foreign markets increased 3 percent to 554 million gallons in 2006, according to the report prepared by the Woodside, Calif.-based firm.

 “Strong consumer interest, along with growing retailer and restaurant support and more direct-to-consumer sales, is resulting in wider distribution and selection of California wines,” says Robert (Bobby) Koch, president and chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.

“The long-term trend for California wine is favorable with the U.S. wine market growing for 14 consecutive years, increasing 66 percent by volume from 1993 to 2007,” says wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson, who helped write the report. “Though the economy is slowing, wine is gaining traction among American adult consumers, and it is likely that wine consumption will continue to expand over the next decade.”

Although more than 95 percent wine is delivered through the three-tier producer-wholesaler-retailer system, many wineries have focused more on direct-to-consumer sales since the favorable 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The course opened nine states to the direct trade channel, expanding consumer access from 50 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. population.

In 2007, U.S. sales of wine from California, other states and foreign producers rose 4 percent to 745 million gallons compared with 2006 sales.

With a total retail value of $30 billion, the United States is the largest retail wine market in the world.

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