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For the first time since 2016, Italy was the No. 1 importer of wine into the United States in 2020, accounting for 27% of the total.
Here are a few of the 52 countries that bought more in U.S. wine exports than Italy last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data:
- United Arab Emirates
In 2020, the United States exchanged wine — one way or the other or both — with 151 nations. It exported wine to 136 nations. It imported wine from 74 nations.
In fact, for the four years prior to 2020, U.S. wine exports and imports topped $7 billion, the four best years on record. The 2020 total of $6.93 billion is the fifth highest on record.
But the gains were driven largely by U.S. imports, an American desire for the wines of Italy, France, New Zealand, Austalia, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Portugal, Germany and South Africa, the top 10, respectively.
Although the list of countries to which the United States exports was almost twice as long as the import list, the value of wine imports was more than more than four times greater.
Total wine exports in 2020: $5.62 billion. Total wine exports? $1.31 billion.
That is principally because the top two nations, Italy and France, send so much wine to the United States.
Those two countries alone accounted for 52% of all U.S. wine imports in 2020, the fourth consecutive year above 50%. It was actually higher in the early 1990s, routinely above 60%.
But neither purchases much U.S. wine, particularly the Italians.
Looking at U.S. exports as a percentage of total wine trade, Italy’s purchases accounted just four one-hundredths of a cent on the dollar in 2020. Expressed another way, it would look like this 0.04%.
The “golden” years for Italian purchases of wine were from 2005 to 2015, when the annual total ranged from a high of $59.84 million in 2009 to $39.57 million in 2012. In those years, exports to Italy routinely a still relatively unimpressive 3 cents on the dollar, even topping 4 and almost 5 cents on the dollar a couple of years.
In 2020, a different story. The total fell below $1 million for the first time since 2002, to $784,661. In some crowds, that’s one good case of wine or less.
U.S. exports to France also fell in 2020, also losing quite a bit of ground though not nearly as much. Exports to France, which has been subjected to tariffs issued during the Trump Administation, part of the longstanding tussle between Boeing
and French-led consortium Aibus, fell to a level last in 2011.
Nevertheless, France ranked among the top 10 purchaser of U.S. wine exports, well above Italy, which ranked No. 53.
Given the value of imports from France, exports still accounted for less than 2 cents on the dollar.
That is not to say that the United States does not have a surplus in wine sales with a number of countries. It certainly does, chief among them Canada.
But that $409.26 billion U.S. surplus pales in comparison to the $1.92 billion deficit the U.S. ran with Italy in 2020 or the $1.69 billion deficit it ran with France. It’s even less than the $486.97 million U.S. deficit with the third-largest importer of wine, New Zealand.