PARIS (Reuters) - French champagne sales managed to weather the economic crisis in 2011, expecting to show 3.5 percent growth thanks to exports to the United States and emerging countries, but a slowdown is in sight, the champagne trade association said on Monday.
The Comite Interprofessionel des Vins de Champagne estimated that about 330 million bottles of the fizzy drink were dispatched in 2011 when prices were up 3 to 5 percent on average. That would take sales close to the record year of 2007 when 339 million bottles were sold and revenues reached 4.5 billion euros.
"The year 2011 was a good year, which continues the catching-up that happened in 2010 after two years of strong decline ...," said CIVC spokesman Thibaut Le Mailloux.
Champagne sales in 2010 rose nearly 9 percent, recovering from a drop of 5 percent in 2008 and of 9 percent in 2009.
The CIVC, which should publish final figures in the next weeks, expects sales to grow 2 percent a year in the next three years as Europe's economic crisis weighs on consumer spending.
The trade association expects sales in France, which harbours the most avid drinker of champagne with 55 percent of total volumes last year, to remain stable this year. In Britain, champagne's biggest export market, demand should slump with household budgets tight due to the government's austerity measures.
Still, buoyant demand in the United States, champagne's second export market, as well as in emerging countries such as China and Brazil, should help offset overall sluggishness in Europe.
The champagne market is dominated by luxury group LVMH (LVMH.PA), which owns the Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart and Krug brands. Specialist champagne makers include Lanson-BCC (LAN.PA), Vranken (VRKP.PA) or Laurent Perrier (LPER.PA) as well as drinks group Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA) with its Mumm and Perrier-Jouet brands.
Reporting by Pascale Denis; Editing by Marguerita Choy