Wine likely boosted Napa County exports rise in 2015

The data shows Napa is “growing,” according to Robert Eyler, Ph.D., Professor of Economics at Sonoma State University. Napa wine and “Napa” as a brand have become global statements of quality, said Eyler.

By Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register

Napa County exports reached a record $361 million in 2015, a 5.2 percent increase over last year. That’s an extra $18 million in local goods leaving the country, according to the International Trade Administration’s 2015 Metropolitan Area Export Overview.

According to the newly released report, Napa County is one of the 63 metro areas to achieve record export levels last year.

“Exports continue to be a source of growth for the Napa economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

“The five percent increase in goods exports from the Napa metro area is an indication that local companies are realizing the benefits of global trade,” said U.S. Commercial Service North Bay Director Elizabeth Krauth.

“Assuming a significant portion of Napa County’s export goods includes wine, we’re not surprised to see these increases,” said Patsy McGaughy, communications director, Napa Valley Vintners.

“This announcement aligns with news earlier this year from Wine Institute of a new record set in 2015 for the export of California wines. These statistics confirm Napa Valley’s position as an important player in the global marketplace.”

The data shows Napa is “growing,” according to Robert Eyler, Ph.D., Professor of Economics at Sonoma State University. Napa wine and “Napa” as a brand have become global statements of quality, said Eyler.

“This helps market penetration around the world in areas that may be more Francophile, specific to wine.” Napa’s expansion into food and complementary, lifestyle products also help, he added.

Rob McMillan, founder the Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division, wondered if the increase means Napa wine exports are up, or if there is some other export that is driving that number.

According to McMillan, “The average small winery, which makes up the bulk of the Napa wine scene, actually exports very little; less than 5 percent, and, in most cases, nothing at all. Combine that with the strengthened dollar, which make exports more expensive, and the conclusion is a question to me,” he said.

McMillan noted that exporting can be “an expensive proposition when you think in terms of brand building needed. For instance, how many bottles of wine do you need to sell in Beijing to make a three-week sales trip there worthwhile?”

“I suspect the growth in exports may be a combination of larger wineries activities aligning with non-wine activities,” he said.

According to the report, U.S. metropolitan area goods exports exceeded $1.3 trillion in 2015, and accounted for 89 percent of total U.S. goods exports last year. The report said 156 metropolitan areas tallied merchandise exports worth more than $1 billion in 2015.

Napa County export highlights for 2015 include that nearly 52 percent of goods exports went to markets where the United States has trade agreements in force.

The federal report comes at a time when the benefits of international trade agreements are part of a national political debate, with some candidates questioning if they are costing America jobs.

“Current free trade agreement partner markets account for a substantial and growing share of exports for many metropolitan areas, and new trade agreements will increase opportunities for Napa area companies to sell more products to growing markets,” according to the news release.

“The Department of Commerce continues to focus its services on assisting more Napa-based firms sell their ‘Made in America’ products to global consumers, which will support additional growth and good-paying jobs,” Pritzker said.