Plummeting Champagne sales in the global economic downturn offset a recovery in Cognac and dented Rémy Cointreau's net sales in its fiscal half-year.

Champagne sales tumbled by 42% to EUR35.8m (US$53.4m) for the six months to the end of September, said the France-based drinks group today (15 October).

Group net sales fell by 0.7% on a reported basis to EUR362.7m, compared to EUR365.2m in the same period of last year. The fall represents a near-7% decline in like-for-like sales.

"This stability, compared with the same period last year, reflects an acceleration in commercial dynamics in the second quarter," said the group.

Depressed demand in the global Champagne market overshadowed signs of recovery in Rémy's Cognac business.

Cognac sales rose by 7.6% on a reported basis to EUR183m, thanks to double digit growth from Rémy Martin in Asia and Oceania. Trends in the US were weak, but "showed some signs of improvement", the firm added.

In spirits and liqueurs, which includes Mount Gay Rum and Coinreau, net sales rose by 3% to EUR100.7m for the six months.

Commenting on the firm's exit from the Maxxium distribution partnership in April, the group said: "Positive results are already being felt from the new distribution model. The group was able to take advantage of this new asset in order to resist the difficult economic environment affecting some of its markets."