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French wine and spirits exports soar to record 10.1 billion euros

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France’s income from wine and spirits exports soared 10.5 per cent to 10.1 billion euros in 2011. But, while Asians and Americans have never bought so much French wine, the main reason for the rise is higher prices, not more bottles sold.

For the first time ever wines and spirits earned France more than 10 billion euros in a single year, coming second only to aerospace and contributing a surplus of 8.6 billion euros to the country’s trade balance.

The leading regional markets are:

  • Europe, 4.1 billion euros, up three per cent;
  • Asia, 2.5 billion euros, up 29 per cent;
  • The Americas, 2.1 billion euros, up nine per cent.

Despite the world economic crisis, income rose 10.5 per cent, the Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters said on Tuesday.

But the growth was mainly due to a 10.5 per cent rise in prices, federation president Louis Fabrice Latour told a press conference.

Sales volume has only risen 2.4 per cent volume increase, he said.

So, although 2011 beat the previous record of 9.6 billion euros in 2007, volume is still not higher than that pre-crisis year and wine sales have fallen 12 per cent in volume over the last 10 years.

Although Europe remained France’s main market last year, emerging economies were the principal growth area, accounting for more than one billion euros, the federation said.

Asia is France’s biggest growth area. Sales to China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore together rose 29 per cent to 2.5 billion euros, mainly from the best-known regions of Bordeaux, Champagne and Cognac.

The US and Canada, where drinkers make more varied choices, rose nine per cent to 2.1 billion euros.

But in 10 years sales to Britain have fallen 38 per cent in volume and 13 per cent in value, while Germans are paying 11 per cent less to buy 13 per cent less booze.

Country by country, the UK is still the second-largest importer but France is losing out to competition from New World producers.

Germany has now lost its third place to China, whose nouveaux riches are ready to splash out massive sums on large quantities of prestigious labels.

  • Champagne is France’s most popular alcoholic export, earning 2.1 billion euros in 2011.
  • Cognac brandy is now second, earning 2.04 billion euros.
  • Bordeaux wine (Claret to the British) come third, earning two billion euros.

The sector employs 30,000 people, according to the wines and spirits federation.