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July 24, 2013 | 11:02 AM

Could Californian brands make a fortune exporting wine to Colombia? According to Brent Shortridge of Anders Lane Artisan Wines, a self-professed "cheerleader" of Colombia, they can.

Yesterday, at the annual Export Program hosted by the Wine Institute, exporters, vintners and the Wine Institute international team convened at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to discuss the state of the international wine world. While much of the focus centered on the usual export markets - Canada, Europe, China and Japan- Shortridge and Eric Pope, regional director, emerging markets for Wine Institute, suggest that the recent passing of a free trade agreement with the South American country will boost the Californian wine sales.

From the Office of the United States Trade Representative:

The International Trade Commission (ITC) has estimated that the tariff reductions in the Agreement will expand exports of U.S. goods alone by more than $1.1 billion. . . The ITC also projected that the Agreement will increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion.

Californian exports to the country are still fairly soft, thanks to years of poor perception: the wines are too expensive or of too poor-quality. This is changing, albeit slowly, thanks to efforts on the part of winemakers who are traveling south and hosting retailers from Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena. The general consensus is that they are at least receptive to selling the wines.

Getting into this market won't be easy. Aside from cultural differences and worries about security in the area (which is gradually becoming less of an issue), registering to sell brands can be quite a lengthy process – there are more than 20 national holidays, and each label has to be processed.

Wineries that are interested in breaking into this market will need to overcome these challenges, but since there is only a very small market there now, there is a lot of room to grow.

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