Latest figures from trade association Inter-Rhone show that Cotes-du-Rhone wine exports, which spent 2003 in the doldrums, are making a slow but sure recovery.

Japan showed the strongest growth as exports in the first half of 2004 increased by 32% in volume and by 30% in value year-on-year.

"2003 was a very poor year but nevertheless these figures illustrate that we are getting back to the export levels before the economic slump in Japan," an Inter-Rhone spokesman told just-drinks.

The biggest export market for Cotes-du-Rhone, the UK, recorded a decline of 14% in volume and 12% in value in the first half of the year.

"We are still in negative territory for the year so far but the past few months have seen greater stability in exports to the UK and a similar trend is emerging for exports to the US where June volumes were up 33% and value increased by 12% on June 2003," the spokesman added.