Sunday, August 31, 2008

French wine export volumes fall, but values rise

French wine producers exported less wine in the first half of this year but got more for it than a year earlier as overseas markets opted for more expensive wines, a report said.

Ubifrance, the French export development agency, said export volumes fell 8.7 percent in the six months through June. However, the value of French wine sent overseas increased by 8.2 percent to 3.2 billion euros ($4.7 billion).

The author of the report, Herve Henrotte, warned against celebrating the rich returns, which "concerns only a small category of products, hiding a less euphoric reality."

While fine Bordeaux and other vintage wines are popular exports, lower-quality wines and lesser-known wine regions struggle against competitors from countries such as Australia, Chile and the United States.

And the strong euro, which makes European wines more expensive for U.S. consumers, combined with global economic woes to depress overseas sales at the lower end of the market.

Another worry came from the star product of the French wine industry, Champagne, which produced less than sparkling results with a drop in both volume and value by 4.2 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

In contrast, exports of sparkling wines from the Loire valley, Alsace and Saumur "were very dynamic," the agency said in a report released Monday.

Vin de Pays, or country wines, lost favor in the U.K., U.S. and Germany -- markets that saw an increase in upmarket wines belonging to the expensive AOC, or Appellation d'Origine Controlee, category.

Exports of table wines were hit by Russia's switch to Moldovan wines.