French wine and spirits exports fell by almost a quarter in the first half of 2009, threatening to wipe out the gains of the past four years.

Champagne sales plummeted by 45% in value with Bordeaux declining 24%, according to the Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins and Spiritueux (FEVS).

Both wine and spirits have been hit by the global economic downturn, with FEVS predicting that exports in 2009 would reach 2004 levels ‘at best’.

FEVS president Claude de Jouvencel told decanter.com the figures were in line with expectations, saying they were exacerbated by de-stocking in the supply chain, as suppliers slimmed down inventory to increase cash flow.

‘Since the second half of the year traditionally makes up the main part of our annual results, we can hope that the trends will stabilise, particularly in comparison with the end of 2008, which was already in decline,” he added.

Burgundy exports fell 30%, while Côtes du Rhône was down 14.3%. The vin de pays category was less badly affected while vin de table grew by 1.2%.

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Written by Richard Woodard