Sparkling Champagne sales ease gloom over ravaged vineyard

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Workers collect grapes in a Taittinger vineyard during the traditional Champagne wine harvest in Pierry, near Epernay, France, September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

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PARIS, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Champagne sales are set to reach a four-year high this year, driven by strong exports to the United States and Australia, champagne wine growers lobby SGV said on Thursday, adding that Brexit and a row with Russia had not hit volumes.

The forecast should cheer wine producers that face their worst output in 40 years in 2021 after vineyards were ravaged by frosts and mildew fungus attacks.

The industry also suffered from the closure of bars and restaurants during the pandemic.

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But in 2021, the progressive reopening of markets and an economic upturn will likely allow sales to rebound to 305 million bottles of 75 centilitres. That compares with 297 million in 2019, before COVID-19 and a year taken as a benchmark by SGV.

"In winemakers' memory we never had such a complicated year in terms of harvest but things are much better on the trade front," SGV Chairman Maxime Toubart told reporters.

The recovery was led by exports with sales between January and August jumping 11.9% compared to the same period in 2019 while they fell 2.4% within France.

Champagne is typically made from a combination of wines produced the previous year and earlier.

The estimates are a total from wine growers and large champagne houses such as family-run Taittinger, LVMH's (LVMH.PA) Moet & Chandon and Pernod Ricard's (PERP.PA) Mumm.

Britain's exit from the European Union in 2020 led to more paperwork but did not affect champagne sales, the SGV said.

Neither did a Russian law forcing foreign champagne producers to add a "sparkling wine" reference to the back of their bottles. read more

The champagne industry group CIVC had asked its producers to boycott Russia following the introduction of the law in July but producers agreed to resume exports last month. read more

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Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Barbara Lewis

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