Champagne sales lose some bubbles

There doesn't seem to be much to celebrate these days, what with social unrest, economic doldrums, terrorism and civil war. So, it should come as no surprise the beverage most associated with celebrating is suffering a sales slump.

France's Champagne Vintners' Committee this week announced shipments of Champagne within the country and abroad fell 4.8% in 2008 compared to the previous year.

One consolation may be that the 322,453,852 bottles sold is slightly more than in 2006.

The industry group said in a statement that exports to European Union consumers outside France were down 6.5% per cent in bottle terms, and non-European exports were down 6.2& per cent in 2008. Shipments within France were down 3.6%.

Daniel Lorson, a spokesman for the committee, said the 2008 figures also suffer by comparison to 2007's which he termed "a record year in all senses.''

To support that view, one need only look at the 2007 figures which show France's wine and spirit industry scored record exports with an especially strong performance from Champagne, the country's leading French wine-producing region. Champagne exports were worth $3.06 billion in 2007, a 10.4% surge year-over-year.

"We have all the assets to resist the crisis over the long term," Lorson said. "The boat is solid, the sails are solid, the crew is solid. We can weather this storm."

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