The UK office of the Wine Institute of California will close at the end of September.
A statement issued today gave 'severe cuts in funding under the Market Access Programme [MAP] from the Department of Agriculture in Washington DC' as the reason for the closure. MAP helps to promote the export of US agricultural products, and is run by the country's Foreign Agricultural Service.
The London office has been led by John McLaren as UK director, with Venla Freeman as UK trade promotions manager. It has been jointly responsible for the annual Go West! tasting, together with wines from Oregon and Washington State, since 2014.
California is doing well in the UK - McLaren reported the following in a California Wine Institute release in February this year: 'Value increases are now out-stripping volume growth, with US wine export value to the UK rising by 28% last year.'
The Wine Institute in California has since revealed some of its plans for the UK, including a date change for its annual tasting next year. It indicated that it would issue a request for proposal this week 'for new representation that will allow it to devote more funding to programs'.
While California's annual UK tasting was previously held early in the year, part of a California vintners European tour, it will now be held on 25 September. In a statement, the Institute explained that it was a strategic decision to take this out of the larger tour, and rather make it a standalone event.
'Wine Institute remains committed to continuing to build the California wine category in the UK,' Wine Institute's international marketing VP Linsey Gallagher told Imbibe. 'Toward that end, we are excited to have begun the search for a new agency to represent California wines in the UK that will be focused on both media and trade relations. We will be coming to the UK from California in early October to interview potential candidates.'
As part of the statement, Linsey added: 'California wines have made great progress in the UK in the past decade and we appreciate the contributions of John McLaren and Venla Freeman to this success. We look forward to building on our success with a new, more dynamic approach to presenting California wines in the UK.'