Exports of Beaujolais nouveau to Japan -  the biggest market for the young wine - are set to fall sharply this year, major French wine merchant Georges Duboeuf has claimed.

Exports of the wine to Japan this year are expected to total 700,000 12-bottle cases compared to 950,000 cases in 2006 -  a fall of just over 26%.

Georges Duboeuf is expecting to limit the decline to around 9% on last year with volumes totalling 250,000 cases but other traders could see their shipments dive by as much as 20% to 45%.

"Two major factors explain the slump in demand - the first is that last year the diversity of Beaujolais nouveau shipped to Japan was just too great with many different types of the wine on the market including organic and unfiltered," Duboeuf's export manager, Bernard Georges, told just-drinks.

"While the leading brands sold extremely well, some of the Beaujolais nouveau from smaller producers has remained on the shelves with the result that importers and retailers are simply taking less this year. The strength of the euro against the dollar and Asian currencies has also weighed heavily. The dollar is 10-12% weaker against the euro than a year ago and of course this impacts on wholesale and retail prices," he added.

An attendant factor is the rising price of jet fuel with a good deal of Beaujolais nouveau bound for Japan transported by air in order to meet the cork-popping deadline of the third Thursday in November.