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French wine sales plummet

14 Oct 2009 by Jancis Robinson

It looks as though the total French 2009 wine crop will be only 48 million hectolitres, 12% more than the very small 2008 crop, but 5% smaller than the average crop for the past five years. This may be just as well in view of shrinking sales of vin français.

Export demand for still French wine is at it is lowest since 2000, according to official figures for the 12 months to June 2009. The volume of exports to the EU is particularly low, at 2.8 million hl, and sales to the UK have fallen by a massive 27% to 0.8 million hl. The two other main EU destinations have also recorded a decrease in exports, of 15% for Belgium-Luxembourg (0.76 million hl) and 21% for Germany (0.54 million hl).

The under-performance of French wines in 2008/2009 is exacerbated by the large volume of AOC wine exported during the years 2006/2007 and 2007/2008, which is believed to be stockpiled in the distribution system.

France is faring badly in other key markets: the United States (-9%), Japan (-16%) and Canada (-4%) although some exports destined for the US now pass through Belgium and Luxembourg, which has distorted these official figures.

The combined effect of reduced demand and low availability means that prices are stable on the whole. Changes in volume and prices are very similar to those of 2007/2008 for still vin de pays and champagne. Compared with the average of the past five years, prices have not decreased at the same rate as export volume, and the value of exports is generally on the increase: prices continue to rise in countries where exports have fallen, for example Canada (+1%). However, prices have dropped elsewhere, notably in the United States (-11%) and Japan (-10%).     

Nor is there much cheer for French vignerons on the domestic market. According to customs figures from May 2009 for the first 10 months of the year 2008/2009, taxed consumption of French wine was the lowest ever recorded - just 23.8 million hl. It is expected that total taxed consumption of wine in France for the year will be no more than 30 million hl – 9% lower than the average for the past five years and 5% lower than in 2007/2008.

Tags:  France
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