(AGI) Bologna, Dec 23 - Exports of Italian sparkling wines are expected to hit the record figure of 1.2 billion euros by year-end. Though the gap with French competitors in 2016 is still wide (about 1.5 billion euros), Italian spumante wines had a 25 percent increase, while French champagne suffered a slight decline (- 1 percent). As customary, Wine Monitor, Nomisma's wine market intelligence tool, has published its annual report on Italian spumante wines sales abroad during the festive period. Prosecco is leading and going full steam thus pulling forward the whole sector, unlike French sparkling wines which are expected to confirm the same export figures they recorded last year, down by 1 percent approx., or like the Spanish Cava which is supposed to shed a few percentage points (- 3 percent). "On some of the major world markets," explained Denis Pantini, head of Nomisma's Wine Monitor, "Italian sparkling wines registered a rise while some of their major competitors experienced a drop. It suffices to consider the United Kingdom, where imports from Italy were up 38 percent from a year earlier in the same January- October period. France recorded a 4 percent decrease while Spain suffered a decline of 13 percent." But Great Britain is not the only case in point. Italian sparkling wines performed better than any other competitor in the United States - the country with the highest consumption of sparkling wines. Exports recorded an overall rise by 11 percent during the first ten months of 2016, but Italy's exports topped the 30 percent ceiling. According to Nomisma, the same performance was recorded in Canada (+9 percent of total imports, +20 percent of imports from Italy), in Switzerland and in Germany. Going the opposite way, the market share of Spanish sparkling wines shrunk (calculated on the imports of the same sector) to 5.3 percent down from 6.2 percent in the United Kingdom. In Germany Spanish sparkling wines dropped to 15.5 percent down from 19.2. It is not only a matter that sales of Italian sparkling wines are growing faster than those of French wines, but the interesting data is that spumante wines are being purchased in large quantities by French consumers.. .