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French wine exports slump in 2023 as Champagne, Bordeaux struggle

The volume of French wine exports fell 9.4% last year to the lowest since at least 2007, with falling import demand in the US and declining shipments from Champagne and Bordeaux.

French wine export fell 9.4% in volume last year to the lowest in at least 17 years, with shipments from Champagne, Bordeaux and all other major regions sliding.

Exports of sparkling and still wines slipped to 122.6 million cases in 2023, led by lower deliveries to the US, the French Association of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS) said. Exports fell 3% in value, as higher average prices per bottle partly compensated for lower volumes.

After years of being France’s second-biggest export behind the aeronautics industry, wine and spirits dropped to third place in 2023, trailing perfumes and cosmetics. The FEVS blamed inflation and declining disposable incomes for lower consumption, as well as destocking by US importers following excess buying in 2022.

‘We’re seeing a significant drop in volume, there’s no denying it,’ said Antoine Leccia, the chief executive of wine producer and trader AdVini, at a presentation of the FEVS data in Paris this week. ‘We’re not able to compensate the volume effect with the price effect.’

The value of French wine exports fell to €11.3bn, still the second-highest value on record, down from €11.6bn in 2022.

Exports to the US fell 13% in volume, while the value dropped 7.8% to €2.14bn. Shipments to the UK fell 5.2%, while the import value was little changed at €1.46bn.

The drop in exports to the US reflects an adjustment of stock levels, and doesn’t mean consumption fell by that much, according to Gabriel Picard, the president of the FEVS. He said shipments to the US may return to ‘a more normal level’ in 2024 once excess inventory has been worked through.

Wine shipments do appear to be recovering since the end of last year, Leccia said. Philippe Castéja, president of Bordeaux wine négociant Borie-Manoux, added: ‘Business has been much better in January, even if we’re in a period of great uncertainty.’

Champagne remained the most important wine export for France, accounting for 37% of export value. Champagne shipments fell 11% to 13.7 million cases, while the value slipped 0.6% to €4.19bn. The FEVS considers a case to contain 12 bottles of wine, equivalent to 9 litres.

The region is seeing an effect of ‘premium-isation’ that is lifting export prices, with rising consumer demand for high-end bottles and specialities such as pink Champagne, according to David Chatillon, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne.

Bordeaux’s exports fell 12% in volume to 17.3 million cases, with the value falling 5.6% to €2.23bn. Burgundy’s shipments to overseas markets fell 6.9% in volume to 6.4 million cases, and the value of exports was little changed at €1.45bn.

For Bordeaux: ‘What is suffering is the entire entry-level segment,’ Castéja told Decanter following the FEVS presentation. ‘The top end of the market is holding up better.’

Castéja said the French wine industry needs to ask itself questions and take a fresh look at how wine is being consumed, because ‘there’s a lot of change’.

Beaujolais and Languedoc-Roussillon recorded the biggest volume declines among the major growing regions, with exports sliding around 16% for both regions. The Loire Valley bucked the trend, limiting the volume decline to 4.9% and recording a 6% increase in export value.

France’s combined exports of wine and spirits fell 5.9% to €16.2bn, with Cognac shipments falling 15% in value as US demand for the grape-based brandy plunged.


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