Wines from the Golden State, and their impact on the global fine wine market


As 1275’s CEO, Denis Houlès, has just returned from two weeks in California, we’re reflecting this week on the highly sought-after wines of the Napa Valley, and their role on the international fine wine stage.

California in context: the US fine wine market

Fine wines are expensive in the US, largely due to high taxes on alcohol, and because domestic production is limited when compared to the country’s overall appetite for wine. As the cost of the high-life in America remains elevated, wines in context – whether they are made domestically or imported in – bear punchy price tags, that consumers are simply prepared to pay.

While this is good news for the world’s wine market at large (which can always count on the US to push the value of fine wines upwards), local competition has the Golden State seeking consumers beyond home shores. U.S. wine exports grew by 10.6% in value last year, and represented $1.44 billion in total revenue*.

Promontory, sibling of the iconic Harlan Estate, has been distributed by La Place de Bordeaux since 2018. This international distribution platform generates wider and longer-lasting global demand, ensuring a stable price trajectory across markets.

*Source: Wine Institute, 2022

Seeking shade in the sunshine state

Not only is California jostling for stronger market positioning in the Old World, its wines are edging towards a more “European” style.

Rising temperatures linked to global warming have been a major challenge for California wines. Under the magnifying glass of improved winemaking and viticultural techniques, the notion of “terroir” is evermore important in Napa, as cooler microclimates – such as the Mayacamas and Vacas mountains – prove themselves better protected from heat-related disasters than areas deep in the belly of the Napa Valley.

Contrary to the California wildfires of 2020 – a disaster interpreted globally as a red flag for over-ripeness in years to come, Napa wines are increasing in finesse, freshness, and adopting a restrained style more akin to Claret. The top wines are made in small quantities (c.1,500 cases per annum in the case of Harlan Estate), and great sacrifice is made to focus on uncompromising quality, balance, and producing a wine for today’s consumer.

California icons hold an important place in collections curated by 1275. As the convergence of styles between Bordeaux and Napa continues, we’re excited to see how this expands in years to come.