US winemakers in California have seen fourth quarter sales volumes drop to their lowest levels since the country’s recession of 1991-93.

AC Neilsen’s WineScan survey of just under half of California’s 800-plus wineries showed that the percentage of firms expecting double-digit volume increases fell from 63% of respondents in 2000 to just 10% in 2002.

Many respondents believed that a rebound in wine sales was not expected by the majority of vintners until 2004.

Editor of Wine Market Report, Rich Cartiere, said: “Y2K marked the end of the longest boom in the modern-day history of the California wine industry. While the industry is clearly not collapsing, the new hyper-competitive environment is wreaking major changes.”

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