Recession-hit Britons and Americans bought less Champagne and cognac last year, causing a record drop in French exports, figures released today showed.
Wine and spirits export fell 17%, the Federation of French Wine and Spirits Exporters said.
It marked the largest ever one-year drop and was the first annual decline since 2004, said a spokesman for the industry group.
The biggest drops were in expensive bottles of Champagne and cognac. Exports of Champagne fell 28% to £1.6 billion last year, a drop in volume of nearly 22%, to 8.87 million 12-bottle cases.
Cognac sales also suffered from the economic malaise, sliding 15.6% to £1.4 billion.
US imports of French wine and sprits tumbled 22.7% to £1.34 billion, while sales fell 20.2% in Britain, France’s second-largest market for its wines and spirits.
“Falling global demand and consumers’ switching to entry-level brands weighed on our results last year,” said Claude de Jouvencel, the federation’s president.
He was more optimistic for this year, saying that “2010 will not be as bad as 2009 and could return to slight growth, 5% at best.”
Vodka, not a drink typically associated with France, was the single bright spot in the country’s drinks industry last year. Sales of French vodka, accounted for almost exclusively by the Bacardi-owned Grey Goose brand, rose 13.7%.