The Burgundy wine federation, the BIVB, says exports to the US were down 30% in volume and 37% in value in the first six months of the year on the same period in 2002. This compares with falls of 24% and 33% in the first quarter of the year.

"One has to say that all French wines are in the same boat , with volumes, in the majority of cases, dipping by between 22 and 37% and values by between 22 and 40%," the BIVB's market analyst, Frédéric Dupray, told just-drinks in an interview.

While the strong decline was due to the prolonged economic crisis in the US weighing on consumer expenditure, a more important factor was the stronger euro against the dollar which was penalising French wines, he said.

"It's a similar picture with regard to Canada and Japan whose currencies have weakened considerably against the euro too. French wines are no longer competitive with a strong euro."

He concluded: "Importers of Burgundy wines are this year living on their stocks and waiting patiently for the market to improve so that they can build them up again. For all that, the economic situation in the US and Japan appears to be improving which is an encouraging sign for us."