Champagne Jacquart believes the Champagne sector can continue to enjoy rising sales due to the "huge potential" of fizz outside of Europe.

Patrick Spanti, export director at Champagne Jacquart, told just-drinks today (4 April) that the category can exploit the potential of markets like the US and China to further drive sales.

"Champagne is not very widely exported. If you compare it to Grands Crus Bordeaux, the potential of Champagne outside Europe is huge," Spanti said.

Champagne Jacquart saw its sales rise by 12% last year. Revenues for 2006 reached EUR45m (US$60m) as it sold over 3.5m bottles, a rise of 19% on 2005.

Some 60% of Champagne Jacquart's sales are made outside France and the house saw export sales leap 30% last year thanks to growth in the UK and Asia.

Spanti said the company plans to expand its presence in China, although he admitted growth there would only be enjoyed in the long term. He said: "It will take a long time to establish ourselves there. The culture there is so different that you have to explain what everything is, what Champagne is, what wine is. But, there are more wealthy people in China than there are in the whole of France, so it's worth doing the exercise."

Spanti described the positioning of Jacquart as between "Champions League brands" like Moet and Veuve Clicquot and more "national brands" like Mercier. Jacquart competes in what Spanti calls a "European" segment alongside Pommery and Lanson, where brands are distributed out France but are not available everywhere.

He said Champagne Jacquart would be "firmer" on price this year in France and the UK, where it would participate less in price promotions.

Spanti was coy on whether there has been interest from drinks multinationals in acquiring Jacquart but insisted the brand's owners would not sell up.

"We are controlled by three co-operatives and the growers want to control their future. They want to produce their wine and put a flag on it. They want to develop Jacquart because all their other outlets that the growers sell to are multinationals and selling it would make them vulnerable."

The Jacquart brand is distributed by Jacquart & Associés Distribution, a subsidiary of Alliance Champagne, which was formed in 1998 by three of the major of co-operatives in Champagne.