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FRANCE: Champagne sees return to steadier times

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France's Champagne makers are expecting sales to rise between 6% and 8% this year, indicating that the region is at last getting itself in order after the after the sharp downturn following the millennium.

The CIVC, the Champagne industry body, said yesterday that close to 280m to 285m bottles of bubbly will have been sold by the end of this year, compared to the 263m in 2001.

With exports up as well 14%, these levels bring the industry back to the volumes last seen in 1998, before the artificial hike and slump seen before and after millennium celebrations.

However there are concerns that consumption is not keeping pace. CIVC Managing Director Andre Enders said: "There is a tendency to deliver more than is being consumed, which is just over 5%," he said. A war with Iraq he went on may cause another period of oversupply, with the travel retial and airline trade being hurt.

The CIVC also used the news of the figures to reiterate its concerns about what it sees as "false Champagne", or sparkling wine labelled Champagne but produced outside the region.

Bruno Paillard, the CIVC's communications director, estimated that three to four times as much "false Champagne" as the real product was sold in the US, depriving France's Champagne area of up to $200 million to $300 million in revenues a year and the equivalent of 2,000 jobs.


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