French champagne makers toss for rising class in China

French champagne makers toss for rising class in China

REIMS, France - Agence France-Presse
French champagne makers toss for rising class in China

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L) , toasts champagne with Cambodia PM Hun Sen (R) in this file photo. Champagne sales totaled 319.5 million bottles in 2010. AP photo

Sales of French champagne, the favored sparkling tipple for any celebration, rose 7 percent by value last year, driven by strong export demand, especially in new markets such as China.

Industry group CIVC said some 323 million bottles of champagne worth 4.4 billion euros ($5.9 billion) were drunk in 2011, with sales helped by continued gains in some of the most up-market brands.
“It was a very satisfying year because it was sales by value, more than by volume, which gave us the growth,” said Thibaut Le Mailloux, CIVC spokesman.

The only blot on the record was France itself, with a fall of 1.9 percent in volume.

“It is exports which are driving the growth in champagne, especially with the emergence of new markets which are taking up the slack in old established markets,” Le Mailloux said.

Last year, the U.S. market jumped 14.4 percent to 19.4 million bottles, with Japan up 6.7 percent while Australia soared 32 percent to 4.9 million bottles.

Emerging economies did their bit too, with Russian sales up 24 percent, Brazil gaining 7 percent and China, home to a fast growing middle class keen to have the better things in life, up 19 percent at 1.3 million bottles.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore took 20 percent more at 1.3 million bottles, South Korea gained 31 percent to 480,000 while India drank 290,000 bottles, up 58 percent.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates accounted for 1.4 million bottles, up 18 percent and nearly five times more than 10 years ago.

In contrast, gains in the old established markets of Europe were more modest but still strong given the problems caused by the eurozone debt crisis and a slowing economy towards the end of 2011.

European sales overall rose 2.1 percent, with Germany and Belgium each up 8.5 percent, while Italy gained 6.3 percent and Sweden advanced 6.6 percent to 2.4 million bottles. In France, the fall of 1.9 percent on the year reflected a sharp slowdown in the later months, with a drop of 8 percent in December alone. Britain, traditionally a major market, also suffered last year, with sales down 2.7 percent.