The United States and China helped pushed export revenues for French wines and spirits up to 12.91 billion euros last year, a rise of 8.5% according to figures published on Wednesday by the French Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS).
In the United States, the growth can mainly be ascribed to Cognac which accounted for 40% of exports by value. Sales rose by 9.5% and crossed the 3 billion euro mark for the first time ever. In China, the growth of the upper middle classes led to a 24.5% increase in luxury goods sales, with shipments surging by 24.5% to 1.2 billion euros, mainly fuelled by Cognac and Bordeaux wines. It would seem that Chinese consumers are better acquainted with products now and consume higher-end wines and spirits.
After years of sluggishness since the Chinese government introduced anti-corruption measures, the major French wine and spirits groups (LVMH, Pernod Ricard and Rémy Cointreau in particular) are finally seeing the pace of their Cognac sales accelerate in China. In total, Cognac exports rose by 10.8% to 3.07 billion euros in 2017 and wine exports by 9.6% to 8.67 billion euros, including a 7.4% increase to 2.82 billion euros for Champagne.
The United Kingdom, which is still the second largest market for French wines and spirits, also deserves a mention. Sales grew by 2.7% to 1.33 billion, despite a drop of around 4% to 5% for Champagne, which suffered the brunt of the declining pound in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Exports in 2017 thus strengthened the position of wines and spirits as the second largest surplus in France's trade balance, traditionally behind the aeronautics industry and ahead of perfumes and cosmetics.
By Sylvain Patard