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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 02:38 GMT 03:38 UK
More fizz for UK champagne sales
Champagne glasses, photo by Phil Coomes
Champagne is no longer the preserve of the high flyers
Champagne sales in Britain are higher than ever, making it the world's biggest export market for France's famous beverage.

Consumption has risen by almost 25% in the last two years, according to market analysts Mintel who say that Britain's fizz boom is due to a strong economy.

Recently sales in France have been flat, whereas in Britain more than 26m litres of bubbly are sold each year.

With champagne prices falling, Britons spent 870m on the drink in 2003.

Millions of bottles

Drinkers in Britain are consuming more than double the volume of champagne that they were six years ago.

Around 34.5 million bottles were imported last year.

The USA imported just over half this number, 18.9 million, followed by Germany where the figure was 12 million.

But the number of bottles of bubbly sold in Britain is still way behind France.

The world's biggest seller of champagne managed to get through 125 million litres of champagne in 2003.

Reasonable prices

Other countries in the European Union have refrained from drinking so much champagne.

Champagne drinkers, photo by Phil Coomes
Drinkers don't wait for a special occasion to pop open a bottle of fizz

With Spanish cava, Italian Spumanti and German Seckt, these countries prefer to stick to their own alternatives.

Quentin Rappoport, director of the Wine and Spirit Association, said the cost of a bottle of champagne in the UK was becoming more reasonable: "There are some very good offers that have attracted consumers."

He noted that in the last two budgets champagne and sparkling wines enjoyed a tax freeze, whereas taxes rose on still wines.

Mintel has said that by 2007 demand will have increased to almost 40 million litres.

The BBC's Hugh Pym
"The UK's sparkling wine producers are hoping to cash in on the boom"

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