PARIS: Brexit and France's "yellow vest" protest movement pushed the number of bottles of French champagne sold last year to its lowest since 2004, trade group data showed on Sunday.
The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) said the number of bottles sold fell 1.8 percent to 302 million in 2018, though total revenue edged up 0.3 percent to a record 4.9 billion euros (US$5.6 billion) as prices rose.
"The fall in volume is becoming a bit worrying, with the slowdown in France and Britain not compensated by higher sales outside the European Union," CIVC co-president Jean-Marie Barillere told Reuters.
French and UK sales together account for about 60 percent of total sales by volume. French sales fell 4.2 percent to 147 million bottles, with more bottles sold abroad than in France for the first time in 100 years, as a slow economy and the yellow vest anti-government protest movement weighed on sales.
Barillere said the protests had hit Paris tourist arrivals and French household confidence, hurting demand.
Total export sales edged up 0.6 percent to nearly 155 million bottles, but total export revenue rose 1.8 percent to 2.9 billion euros as the focus on value of big houses, such as LVMH's Moët & Chandon and Pernod Ricard's Mumm, the world's best-selling champagne, paid off.
In Britain, sales fell for the third year in a row, due in part to uncertainty sparked by the country's planned departure from the European Union. Volumes dropped 3.6 percent to 26.8 million bottles for total revenue of 406 million euros. Volumes had already fallen 11 percent in 2017 and 9 percent in 2016.
CIVC said champagne was feeling strong competition from Italian prosecco, which is three to four times cheaper.
Sales to the United States increased 2.7 percent to 23.7 million bottles for revenue of 577 million euros.
Sales to Japan were up 5.5 percent to 13.6 million bottles, while sales to Hong Kong and China - each accounting for more than 2 million bottles - were up 12 and 10.1 percent respectively.
The biggest sales increase was seen in South Africa, where volume was up more than 38 percent to 1.1 million bottles.
(Reporting by Pascale Denis; Writing by Geert De Clercq and Mark Potter)