Champagne, cognac lead record French alcohol exports

France notched record-breaking sales of wines and spirits in 2015, thanks mainly to robust exports of champagne and cognac, with 11.7 billion euros ($13.15 billion) flowing in.

On the downside, France's place in the world market continued to slip in the face of cheaper, more aggressive rivals. "This good result should not distract from the constant erosion of our market share," said Christophe Navarre, president of the French Federation of Wines and Spirits Exporters.

Two-thirds of the 8.7 per cent increase over 2014 sales was down to champagne, whose sales bubbled up 12 per cent to €2.7 billion (US$3.0 billion), and cognac, which jumped 20 per cent.

A favourable exchange rate also helped perk up sales, as the euro weakened by 16 per cent against the dollar over the year. Exports were up 28 per cent to the United States, which became the top destination in terms of value at €1.3 billion.

Sales to China were up 23 per cent after two difficult years caused by a frugality drive that made officials wary of popping too many champagne corks or opening high-end bottles of wine.

"The Chinese market is stabilising - the Chinese speak of a 'new normal' - and now instead of proposing exceptional wines we are targeting a consumer market," said Philippe Casteja, a Saint-Emilion wine merchant speaking of the Bordeaux region in general.

France has lost its rank as top exporter to Japan, ceding it to Chile, which offers plenty of bottles priced under 500 yen (€3.88, US$4.36). "We're increasing our sales, but less than our competitors," Navarre said, calling on producers to add more low-priced wines in order to compete with Spain, Chile and Australia.

Source:Channel Newsasia

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