by Hervé Lalau
Exports of French sparkling wines to Belgium have been increasing steadily for the last five years. In 2001, a total of 124,000 hectolitres of French
bubbly was sold on the Belgian market for a total value of 99.4 million Euros. In 2005, the figures were respectively 141,600 hl and 144.3m , up 14% in volume but 45% in value. Champagne represents roughly half of those sales in volume, but almost 90% in value. Crémant d Alsace (7,193 hl, 3.28m ), Crémant de Loire (6,493 hl, 3.22m ), Crémant de Bourgogne (4,814 hl, 1.587m , up 14%) and Saumur (4,995 hl, 1.86m , down 8%) follow. At the lower end of the market, cheap non-appellation sparkling wines now represent 24,500 hl and 3.89m , up 16%, more than the other three together.
Although Champagne is still a seasonal product, with December accounting for 40% of the volume, sales of other sparkling wines are more evenly spread over the year. French sparkling wine dominates the market with 85% share, but their competitors are more and more numerous. Luxembourg mousseux, like those Bernard Massard, Italian Asti and Spanish Cava - gaining momentum with the strength of brands like Freixenet and Codorniu - have been around for a while; but now a new generation of products has come to commercial life: Californian sparklers like Tott s, Australian «méthode traditionnelle» like Jacob s Creek, or even unexpected products like Czech sekt or Chilean vino de fresa.