Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

USDA Helps Fill Belgian Glasses with U.S. Wine

Brothers Geert (left) and Jan Desmet (center), owners of Vinam, a California wine specialist company in Belgium, offer samples to guests at the March 7 wine tasting organized by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in cooperation with the Wine Institute.  (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Belgium)Brothers Geert (left) and Jan Desmet (center), owners of Vinam, a California wine specialist company in Belgium, offer samples to guests at the March 7 wine tasting organized by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in cooperation with the Wine Institute.  (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Belgium)

Brothers Geert (left) and Jan Desmet (center), owners of Vinam, a California wine specialist company in Belgium, offer samples to guests at the March 7 wine tasting organized by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in cooperation with the Wine Institute. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Belgium)

While beer may be the beverage most associated with Belgium, people there are acquiring a taste for California wines, thanks to efforts by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the Wine Institute.

On March 7, FAS and the Wine Institute organized a wine tasting at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Brussels. In addition to showcasing 200 California wines, the event featured high-end beef and salmon hors d’oeuvres sponsored by the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

More than 300 importers, distributors, retailers and media representatives attended, tasting and discussing the wines each exhibitor had to offer. The event resulted in projected 12-month wine sales of nearly $480,000.

Walter Schug, owner of Schug Winery in Sonoma, Calif., was thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase his wines. “As a winemaker for other California wineries since the 1970s and now an owner myself, I must say that the Wine Institute and its foreign staff have done an outstanding job introducing the wines of California and the U.S. to the world.”

The Wine Institute, the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute are all participants in FAS’ Market Access Program (MAP). MAP helps U.S. producers, exporters, and trade organizations by providing assistance with overseas marketing and promotional activities. The Wine Institute represents and helps to promote more than 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses.

“U.S. wine is becoming very popular in Belgium,” said Paul Molleman, European director for the Wine Institute’s California Wine Export Program.

“The market in Belgium is growing for U.S. wines, especially with 25-50 year olds who are looking to try new things,” said Molleman.

More than 300 potential importers, distributers, and local officials attended the event, sampling more than 200 varieties of California wine. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Belgium)

More than 300 potential importers, distributers, and local officials attended the event, sampling more than 200 varieties of California wine. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Belgium)

Schug, too, has seen a shift in acceptance toward California wines.

“It is understandable that the older generation of Europeans is accustomed to European wines,” said Schug. “However, travel and taste has brought California wines respect and the attention of the younger generation in Europe.”

According to Schug, his winery currently exports 18 percent of production. He offered one piece of advice to other U.S. wine representatives who are interested in exporting: “Join us who have paved the way!”

Partnerships like the one between FAS and the Wine Institute have contributed to a worldwide surge in popularity for the American brand of agriculture. U.S. food and agricultural exports reached a record $137.4 billion in fiscal year 2011 and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.7 billion.

One Response to “USDA Helps Fill Belgian Glasses with U.S. Wine”

  1. Julie Ito says:

    Bravo! We have truly exceptional wines in the US; its wonderful to hear they are being recognized abroad. This type of transaction lends hope for our future economy.

Leave a Reply