The wine shipments going out of Lodi's Woodbridge Winery on Feb. 14 were a first of their kind. The 3,500 cases were off to Brazil, marking the debut of Lodi wines in this large South American country, which drinks relatively little wine.
Lodi's wine business community has increasingly sought trade partners with foreign countries, especially such rapidly growing markets as China and Hong Kong. Lodi vintners and business leaders have recently hosted multiple delegations from China to seek trade partners, hoping that Lodi can help satisfy the global demand for California wine.
Brazil, however, would be considered a growing niche market. According to the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based trade organization for California's wine industry, wine consumption in Brazil is a paltry 1.8 liters of wine per capita. That accounts for about 40,000 cases of wine shipped to Brazil annually a tiny drop in the 47.2 million cases exported worldwide from the United States in 2012.
Industry observers speculate that Brazil's hosting of the World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Summer Olympics might boost these numbers. Either way, new trade partners for Lodi's wine region are especially welcome.
"Brazil's economy has captured the attention of a lot of people and agricultural commodities, including wine," said Frank Gayaldo, a Lodi-based international business consultant who specializes in California agriculture. "We think (Brazil) is an another example of these emerging markets becoming increasingly important."
Gayaldo is also eyeing Korea as an especially hot market for Lodi wine. Shipments of California wine were up 26 percent in 2012 over the previous year, according to the Wine Institute. A free-trade agreement signed in March 2012 between the United States and Korea has been viewed as a plus for Lodi's wine trade.
"The challenge is there's so much opportunity and minimal time," said Gayaldo. "I was super-excited to see those shipments go over to Brazil. China's my own personal focus, Korea's on my radar and Brazil's a market we should be paying attention to."