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Champagne sparkles for French exports

Strong sales of Champagne and a growth in the consumption of mid-range and premium wines helped French wine and spirits exports reach record levels in 2006.

Overall, exports were up 12.9 per cent by value last year at Є8.74 billion, according to figures announced by FEVS, France’s export federation for wine and spirits. However, Champagne alone was responsible for nearly a quarter of this, representing a 14.7 per cent increase in export sales on 2005 and returning bubbly to its 1999 record.

Wine exports continued their recovery, with sales up nearly 10 per cent to Є3.9 billion and volumes up more than five per cent to 143 million cases. This rise is mainly put down to ‘premium-ization’, according to FEVS President Philippe Casteja.

Regionally, Bordeaux saw excellent growth, up over 23 per cent by value, as did the Cotes du Rhone, which was up 17.4 per cent. Only in Languedoc Roussillon and Beaujolais did values drop.

The UK was the top importer of French wines by value but the growth rate is faster in the US, which is already the number one consumer once you take spirits into account as well. However, exports to China showed the biggest increase in value, up nearly 45 per cent on 2005.

The record rise for wine exports comes as good news for the French who have been facing a tough time in recent years. Not only have they seen a drop in domestic consumption but they have also had to deal with chronic overproduction and as well as stiff competition from New World wine producers.