Ooh la la! US eclipses France

Success of California wine gives United States a winning sales edge

US wine sales have overtaken France in the off-trade for the first time.

American sales, driven by California wines, grew 5% to £781 million in the year to November, while French sales slumped 3% to £780 million.

US volumes have also overtaken France, growing 3% to 15.6 million 9-litre cases while France's slipped 7% to 14.5 million.

Nielsen analyst Stewart Blunt said France had been victim to a sudden drop in bottom-end wine sales. "France has traditionally had a lot in the under-£3 sector, with vins de pays and cheapest-on-display Bordeaux. That chunk of the market has lost quite heavily over the past six months," he said.

"The US is making progress, but France has been sliding back a bit too, making the overtaking a tad easier ."


- a real strength for the US, which saw

its pink sales soar 17% in the year to Oct 4 - has done particularly badly in France. Volume sales slipped 9% and value 5% in the year to November.

John McLaren, UK director of the California Wine Institute, said California's consumer-friendly and market-driven approach helped it finally overtake its arch-rival.

" The Californians do very well what the French don't do very well, which is to find out what the customer wants

- that is what everybody should do," he said. "We shouldn't in these competitive times be making the same old wine .

"California has grown up a lot, but there is no doubting that some of the finest wines on earth are made in France - but also, some of the finest wines in the world are now made in California," he added.

See feature, pages 22-23.