The total number of bottles consumed worldwide fell 4 per cent to 308 million, from 323 million in 2011
In Britain, the world's biggest importer of champagne, sales dropped by 6 per cent to 32 million bottles, and even in France, the home of champagne, there was a 6 per cent fall in sales to 171 million.
Despite the fall in British imports by volume, sales by value rose 0.5 per cent, mainly due to tax, according to Andrew Hawes of the Champagne Agents' Association. The fall in volume was a delayed correction, he said at a lunch last week, after a very quick quick post-recessionary recovery.
Outside Europe, sales were looking robust: China's imports grew by half (from a low base) to 2 million; India's rose by 20 per cent (from a very low base) to 350,000; and those of Japan, the biggest non-European importer, rose 14 per cent to 9 million.
Japan's champagne imports rose unexpectedly in 2011 even though it was a year filled with natural disasters.