Washington wine looking outward

U.S. wineries gained about 22,000 jobs and grew by 82% in the last 10 years, according to a recent post by emsi. A case study in growth could be Washington state wineries: once considered to be in its early stages of development, Washington’s wine industry has become the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the state. Washington wineries have increased 400% in number in the last decade, attracting two million annual visitors to Washington wine country and creating a two million dollar wine-tourism industry. And now, having established a healthy and stable business here in Washington, the state’s winegrowers are beginning to look overseas as potential opportunities for growth.

Washington winemakers have been actively developing new markets for their products, holding wine expos in Canada, Japan, and Northern Europe. A recent campaign in India took place in September, where winemakers hosted wine tastings and dinners in Mumbai and Delhi featuring more than 75 state-grown wines – the largest showcase of any single region to come to India this year.

The City of Woodinville is home to the state’s two largest wineries, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery. Ste. Michelle’s CEO Ted Baseler is eager about Washington wine’s international sales proposition: “Germany is a strong market (and) … we’re doing well in Denmark and Japan,” he said. “China is still not large, but growing.” South Korea could also emerge as a possible international market; the South Korea free trade agreement that was ratified by the House on October 12 erases a 15 percent tariff on U.S. wines.

Another encouraging sign is that Washington winemakers are very much partners in marketing efforts to increase international sales. Baseler states that there is a collaborative plan “to build Washington as a very important brand on the global wine scene. We’re doing that in cooperation with other wineries here.”

For more information about the Washington wine industry, visit the Washington State Wine Commission.

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