In the first half of 2016, exports of French wines and spirits grew by 1% to €5.3 billion – an historic level. However, these figures hide some major disparities. Spirits (+4% in value) and sparkling wines (+4% in value) drove sales, but falling production in recent years means still wines are in decline (-3% in volume, -2% in value).
Sector boosted by spirits and sparkling wines
Sales of sparkling wines overseas continued to grow both in value (4%) and volume (1.1 billion) in the first half of the year. These figures are down to the excellent health of champagnes and « appellation contrôlée » sparkling wines.
Spirits also saw a 4% increase in value to €1.8 billion, driven by exports of Cognac (+5% in volume and value) and vodka (6% in volume and value). The increased value of exports is particularly remarkable given that these had already risen from 3.49 billion to 3.95 billion between 2014 and 2015 (+13% in value, -4% in volume) in a climate where volumes fell by more than 10% between 2011 and 2015.
Still wine exports are sluggish
Still wines (white, rose and red) dropped by 2% in value to 2.4 billion. The reason for this is a 3% fall in output compared to the previous six months. « The ongoing lack of availability, of wines in particular, is making it hard for our producers to keep up with the competition » Christophe Navarre, president of the Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins et Spiritueux de France (FEVS) explained in a press release.
The ongoing problem of availability is unlikely to improve in 2016. The Chablis, Muscadet and Pic-Saint-Loup wine regions have all seen their harvests diminish. In the middle of August, the Ministry of Agriculture was forecasting a 10% fall in production on 2015 and a 7% drop on the average over the last five years.
Exports of French wine per country
The fall in wine exports has been particularly marked in the European Union (-2% in value). Across the Atlantic however, French wines are still putting up a fight (+9% in volume, +10.3% in value) buoyed by the USA (now the top importer, ahead of the UK, in terms of value). Results are also positive in the China/Hong Kong/Singapore region – +0.5% in volume and +5% in value to 960 million.
Overall, French wines are increasing in value but the lack of availability is punishing exports. Christophe Navarre suggests the way forward: « For our producers to remain competitive, we need to open up major export markets and remove trade barriers with countries as varied as the USA, Canada, Vietnam and China ».
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