PARIS (Reuters) – Champagne sales and exports are expected to fall this year, pressured by inflation and a return to a more normal rhythm after record sales in the past two years due to the lifting of pandemic-related curbs, producers said on Wednesday.

Sales are expected to reach around 314 million bottles in 2023, French industry group Comite Champagne (Champagne Committee) said in a statement. That compared with 326 million sold in 2022.

In the first half of the year shipments represented 125.8 million bottles, down 4.7% from the same period of 2022, it said. Exports stood at 77.7 million bottles, down 3.7%, while France recorded a drop of 6.3% with 48.1 million bottles.

“The fall in shipments, for France, is attributed to inflation,” a Comite Champagne spokesperson told Reuters.

“For export, it is difficult to say because the comparisons are for the year 2022, which was a year when exports were very high in the first half. We rather think that after the post-COVID ‘party’, the situation becomes more normal,” she added.

Champagne producers expect sales to remain around the same level in the next three years, at an average 315 million bottles, she said.

The 2023 harvest in Champagne was on a good track with little frost and hail damage, contained mildew and well-formed bunches but soil water recharge could be of concern.

Harvesting was expected to begin in the first 10 days of September.

The Comite Champagne set a maximum yield of grapes that can be harvested on the total 33,700 hectares (83,275 acres) devoted to Champagne wine at 11,400 kg per hectare, down from 12,000 kg/ha in 2022.

The output cap is meant to limit the volume of Champagne put on the market.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Jonathan Oatis)