According to the Coldiretti Farmers’ Confederation, exports of the sparkling Italian wine were up a record 24 percent in the first eight months of 2011.
The group claimed that “over 200 million bottles will have been consumed abroad in 2011, out of a total production of roughly 400 million,” reported the AGI news agency.
This would beat the confederation’s estimate of 192 million bottles of champagne sold overseas.
The strong performance of Italian sparkling wine is led by Prosecco, which represents over half of all sparkling wine produced in Italy.
Major growth markets were Russia, with a 46 percent rise in imports, the US (31 percent), UK (21 percent). Germany is the leading importer of Italian sparkling wine.
French champagne producers appeared unmoved by the news.
“We are comparing wines that are absolutely not comparable,” sniffed Thibaut Le Mailloux of the CIVC champagne committee.
“Spumante is an obscure appellation of several sparkling wines while champagne is an appellation d’origine contrôlée, with one single method of production and a strict rule book,” he told the Aujourd’hui newspaper.
Le Mailloux added that around half of champagne sales are made in the last four months of the year and 30 percent are in November and December, in the run up to Christmas and New Year.
“Even if we don’t beat the 2007 record of 339 million bottles, we expect to sell 327 to 330 million bottles this year,” he added.