Wine export connection
The Washington Wine Commission works to build the state’s wine exports.
A Taiwanese wine buyer reads a Washington wine label during a Washington State Wine Experience tasting at Pacific Rim Winery in West Richland.
For wineries not as fortunate as Yakima Valley’s Hyatt Vineyards—to have an export order seemingly appear from nowhere—the Washington Wine Commission has developed an export program designed to bring foreign wine buyers to the state to connect with wineries. It also provides opportunities for wineries to visit foreign countries and pour their product at tastings.
One of the Wine Commission’s major export events is the Washington Wine Experience. In early May, nearly 60 buyers, representing 16 countries, attended the ninth Washington State Wine Experience, bringing wine buyers to see the state’s wine landscape and meet personally with Washington growers and wineries. During the four-day visit, the group tasted wines from 75 wineries, attended educational seminars, and visited vineyards and wineries in the major growing regions. Buyers came from China, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, India, United Kingdom, Russia, and Europe.
The Wine Commission’s export program also includes wine tasting and educational events in London, participation in international wine trade fairs and expositions, like VinExpo Asia Pacific in Hong Kong, and other events in targeted markets. A Japanese deluxe tour of Washington vineyards is held in the fall as reward for winners of a Washington wine promotion competition held in Japan.
Export activities are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program ($540,000 in 2010) and other state and federal grants, combined with industry support. In selected markets, Washington partners with Oregon through the Northwest Wine Coalition to obtain federal export funds. More recently, the Wine Commission received grants for emerging markets and is using $125,000 to target India, Taiwan, and Mexico.
Washington wine exports are growing, albeit slowly. The volume of exported wine is still less than 5 percent of the state’s production, said Lily Huynh, Wine Commission export manager. Washington’s top wine export markets are Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. “But there is a lot of interest in Washington from China, and a lot of Washington wineries are interested in developing a market there.”
In the top three markets of Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom, Washington exported $7.3 million worth of wines in the 2008–2009 fiscal year, according to Huynh, with sales up from the previous fiscal year by 23, 17, and 127 percent, respectively, in the three countries. In 2001, Washington State wine exports were valued at $4.8 million. •
Contacts for export help
A number of state and federal entities can help wineries interested in exporting, as well as the Washington Wine Commission. Lily Huynh, export manager for the Wine Commission, outlines who does what in the export arena:
Washington Wine Commission (www.washington wine.org)—Marketing programs, international contractor support, trade leads, trade tastings, buyer and media tours, retail promotions, and market reports and information.
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Offices—In-market representatives, market reports, trade leads.
Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (www.wusata.org)—Through USDA’s branded program, provides financial assistance for small- to medium-size wineries to offset international marketing expenses.
Washington State Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing (www.agr.wa.gov/market ing/international)—Trade missions, trade leads, assistance with WUSATA.
Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington (www.efacw.org)—Funded by Washington State to provide information on export financing resources, consulting, seminars, and training.