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World Wine Sales Brisk, but French Producers Hungover

If visitor numbers to trade shows are an indicator of an industry's health, then the turnout for this year's Vinexpo, the world's biggest wine and spirits fair, confirms the sector is doing nicely, if not booming.

Organisers estimate more than 50,000 people attended this year's show, a two-yearly event in Bordeaux, a three percent rise on 2005.

And a recent study conducted for Vinexpo by the London-based International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR) showed global consumption up by 4.15 percent between 2001 and 2005, with a forecast further increase of 4.8 percent between 2005 and 2010.

But ironically the world's top producer, France, remains the only country, "not invited to the banquet," as Vinexpo chairman Jean-Marie Chadronnier put it at the close of the show Thursday.

"This years Vinexpo has been a confirmation of the vitality of the sector," Chadronnier said. "Now we have to re-conquer the French market and give our producers back their pride."

In France, wine consumption has almost halved since the 1950s, badly hitting the industry, and winegrowers in the southern Languedoc area recently threatened the new French government to raise the price of wine "or blood will flow."

Only 12 percent of French people over the age of 14 drink wine daily against almost 51 percent in 1980. And while annual consumption per person was 100 litres in the early 1960s, the most recent figures available show a fall to 56 litres in 2002.

But French producers are doing better on the foreign sales front, with exports last year rising almost 13 per cent to reach nearly nine (8.74) billion euros and showing good progress particularly in the US and Asian markets.

At Vinexpo, CEO Robert Beynat said international visitors -- read potential buyers -- rose two percent from 2005.

Of those, 2,000 were from Asia -- 400 from China, three times the number in 2005, and 150 from Ho
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