French bubbly sparkles as wine exports dim

17th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

REIMS, Feb 17 (AFP) - Last year was the best year ever for Champagne consumption, with 300 million bottles of the bubbly guzzled worldwide, the industry body representing professionals from the Champagne region east of Paris said Thursday.

REIMS, Feb 17 (AFP) - Last year was the best year ever for Champagne consumption, with 300 million bottles of the bubbly guzzled worldwide, the industry body representing professionals from the Champagne region east of Paris said Thursday.

According to the organisation, the CIVC, the amount of Champagne actually drunk in 2004 outstripped the amount tippled at the end of 1999, when millennium parties drove up demand for the sparkling wine.

Although 327 million bottles were sold in 1999, "there was an overevaluation of demand" which meant some of the bottles were stored rather than opened, CIVC spokesman Daniel Lorson said.

"Today, we have a situation where stocks are normal, so we can say that the world in fact consumed these 300 million bottles and 2004 was the best year for Champagne consumption ever," he said in a statement.

Champagne deliveries were up 2.4 percent from a year earlier, making for a total of 300,621,591 bottles sent out.

Demand was especially strong outside the European Union, with 45.8 million bottles being exported, a rise of six percent.

Within France and Europe, the increase was more modest: 177.6 million bottles in France (a 1.9 percent increase) and 77.2 million bottles for other European countries (up 1.5 percent).

The biggest foreign demand was in Britain, the United States, Germany, Japan and China, the CIVC said.

The buoyancy of the Champagne industry contrasts starkly with the rest of France's wine sector, which is suffering from declining consumption, brutal competition from so-called "New World" producers such as Australia, a production glut, and the euro's relative strength to the dollar.

On Wednesday, the French Federation of Exporters of Wines and Spirits(FEVS) said wine and spirits exports dived 3.1 percent last year, bringing in EUR 7.6 billion (USD 9.8 billion).

The 2004 downturn in exports was notably driven by a steep 22.3 percent drop in Bordeaux wine exports.

The weak performance followed two years of export increases: 1.7 percent to EUR 7.81 billion in 2003 and a 6.4 percent gain in 2002.

"Our sector, as we had anticipated, sharply deteriorated in 2004," said FEVS president Patrick Ricard, noting exports of still wine fell 9.2 percent but Champagne continued to underpin the sector.

"Despite the stable performance by Champagne as well as a certain number of spirits, our exports suffered from a difficult economic context, a particularly unfavourable euro/dollar exchange rate and aggressive marketing by all our international competitors on all of our markets," Ricard said.

In the overall wine category, sales fell 4.8 percent to EUR 5.48 billion, while volume fell 5.8 percent to 153.577 million 12-bottle cases.

Still wine sales dropped 9.2 percent to EUR 3.6 billion, and volume fell 6.7 percent to 139 million cases.

The largest declines in wine exports were seen in Bordeaux, with a sales plunge of 22.3 percent to EUR 1.072 billion, and Cotes du Rhone, down 14.5 percent to EUR 231 million.

In the spirits sector, export sales edged up 1.6 percent to EUR 2.063 billion.

© AFP (combined reports)

Subject: French News

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