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France loses share of China boom

French wine exports continue to take a beating, with the news that France’s market share is plummeting in China.

France holds 32% of the Chinese market today – just over half its market share 20 years ago.

Days after Vinexpo in Hong Kong, the French daily Le Figaro reported that In 2005, French wine exports excluding Champagne fell another 2.2% according to the French Wine and Spirit Export Association.

French winemakers active in China put forward different reasons for the decline in market share, not least among them the need for French wine to improve.

‘We simply need to make better wine and make it easier to sell,’ said Jean-Eudes Suermondt, of Bordeaux-based negociant Borie-Manoux. ‘That means easy to read labels and listing the grape varietals on the labels.’

Philippe Larché, commercial export manager of Maison Malet Roquefort, agreed. ‘Particularly important for a market like China is to simplify the labels, to show that the wine is French and to keep it very easy to read, as the basic consumer does not have a big wine drinking tradition.’

Larché sells wines in China with almost-identical labels from seven different producers. ‘The only difference is the name on the label.’

But wine consultant David Morrison in Narbonne cautioned against over-enthusiastic cosmetic changes, like oak chips or easier to read labels – instead advocating better quality and more targetted wines.

‘The reality is that one has to work harder in France to make the style of wine demanded by the international market,’ he said. ‘The whole system [in France] is geared to dragging down quality. The cooperatives, for example do not pay enough attention to using older vines, smaller bunches, clean fruit and fighting disease.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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