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“The French are pessimist by nature,” said Antoine Chiquet, whose family has been producing Champagne for three generations and wine for eight. “We had a difficult election, we’re in an economy where Europe’s foundations are being questioned.”

Nonetheless, the country managed to drink 175.7 million bottles of Champagne from Nov. 1, 2011, to Oct. 31, according to CIVC — enough for nearly 3 bottles a year for every man, woman and child but about 10 million bottles fewer than the previous year.

In contrast, the U.S. consumed enough sparkling wine for about 1.5 bottles per person in 2010, the latest figures available from the California-based Wine Institute.

But while the news out of France and Europe is bad, CIVC figures show export sales were up 3 percent in the first three quarters of the year. Top markets included the U.S., Japan and, to a lesser extent, China.

A total of 19.4 million bottles of Champagne went to the United States and 7.9 million went to Japan — the only two countries outside Europe in the top seven export markets.

From wire dispatches and staff reports