The weakening US dollar has made it more expensive for America to import wines, boosting demand for domestic products. This has coincided with a smaller-than-usual Californian wine grape crop in 2011, which has pushed up prices and prompted US wineries to focus on branded products.
As a result, UK retailers have been forced to consider alternative sources such as Spain and Italy for their own-label wines.
This is especially true of rosé as US imports currently account for 45% of volume sales in the UK's £620m off-trade market (excluding Aldi and Lidl), according to Nielsen figures for the year ending 1 October 2011.
The supply and pricing issues which had prompted a 7% drop in volume sales of light wines in the US as the price of major brands increased could mean cheaper US options would simply not be available, said Paul Shelton, category insights manager at wine distributor PLB Group.
Spain and Italy might provide a suitable alternative for retailers if they could produce quality grenache or zinfandel rosés at the right price points, he added. Sainsbury's winemaker Clem Yates said that it had agreed volumes with its current US suppliers for the next year, but was reviewing whether it should look to Europe to secure an ongoing stable supply of rosé for its own-label entry-level zinfandel.
"Before we decide to move away from California which is a big move we want to be sure people will still buy sweet rosé if it's from Spain or Italy," she said. "Everything in the United States is going to brands, so it's going to be really tough for own label this year."
It was unlikely the share of the UK off-trade rosé market held by US wines would be eroded quickly, but Europe was making a comeback, said Nielsen drinks analyst Stewart Blunt.