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Published:  23 July, 2008

French wine exports were down 3% by volume and up 0.7% by value in the first six months of 2003, according to French-government export body CFCE. After an even start to the year, sales fell sharply in May and June (-5% by volume, June 2003/June 2002), seeming to suggest that boycotts of French products over the war in Iraq were starting to bite. CFCE, however, blames fierce international competition, the sluggish global economy and unfavourable euro exchange rates. The slight rise in value sales over the six-month period was due entirely to higher shipments of Bordeaux and Champagne. Bordeaux was +20.3% by value, to e765 million, thanks to the highly priced 2000 vintage, and -7.4% by volume, to 951,000 hectolitres (hl). Champagne was +3.5% by value, to e548 million, and +4.7% by volume, to 299,000hl. Worst affected were still quality wines (QWPSR), which were down 9.6% by volume and 0.3% by value overall. Apart from Bordeaux, all of the other regions suffered falls by both volume and value: Alsace -3.2%/-13.3% (respectively), Beaujolais -15.6%/-18.8%, Burgundy -16.6%/-24.3%, Ctes du Rhne -8.8%/-12.7%, Languedoc-Roussillon -2.0%/-5.7% and Loire -12.4%/-12.6%. Sparkling wines other than Champagne were down 13.1% by volume and 10% by value. Table wines - Vins de Table (VdT) and Vins de Pays (VdP) combined - were up 2.7% by volume and 1.9% by value. But the overall rise was due entirely to VdP - more particularly strong sales of VdP d'Oc, de l'Aude, de l'Hrault and du Gard in the UK - as VdT continued to slide. France's largest export markets performed very differently. The UK, still the largest by both volume and value, was up 1.0% and 7.9% respectively, to 1,496,000hl and e586 million. But the only other export markets to rise by both volume and value were Switzerland (+4.1%/+18.3%) and Italy (+21.0%/+19.2%). The US, the fourth largest by volume and second largest by value, fell 14% and rose 7.2% respectively. Apart from Bordeaux and Champagne, all other categories fell in the US by between 15% and 35% by volume. By the end of the period, even sales by value were plummeting - still wine 38% lower in June than in the same month last year. Canada was also down over the six-month period (-9.0%/-15.7%). But the steepest tumbles were in Japan (-19.2%/-16.4%). Exports are more concentrated than ever. The top three markets by value (UK, US, Germany) account for 52%, while the top three by volume (UK, Germany, Belgium) represent 53%. The UK and US together take 40% by both value and volume. SPIRITS French spirits exports followed the opposite progression from wine exports, falling 1.4% by value and rising 21.7% by volume. Cognac alone was up 14% by volume. A decline in exports of top of the range spirits to Asia, attributed to SARS, and continued demand for VS Cognac in the US, are believed to be responsible.