New World wine's grip on UK sales tightens as France slips

French wine: The British don't like it anymore, preferring wines from the New World.

THE New World continues to dominate UK consumers' wine purchases from shops and supermarkets, the latest figures show, with US makers closing the gap on French rivals in their bid to take second place in the market.

Sales of wine from the US rose 15 per cent in the year to December 2005 to £648 million.

France held on to second place in the UK's top ten, despite a 3 per cent dip pushing sales down to £761 million, while Australia comfortably held on to the number one spot for wine bought in UK shops, supermarkets and off-licences last year with a 9 per cent increase putting sales for 2005 at £1,008 million.

The data from market analysts AC Nielsen shows the gap between France and the US narrowed to £112.7 million last year from £221.5 million in 2004.

Wines from Down Under now command a 24.3 per cent slice of the UK's off-trade market, which does not include bottles consumed on licensed premises.

US wine producers have set themselves the goal of overtaking France by 2007 to gain second place in the UK wine market, according to The Grocer.

The trade magazine says Californian brands such as Blossom Hill and Ernest & Julio Gallo are driving US wine growth.

AC Nielsen wine market expert Stewart Blunt said US producers had benefited from the increased popularity of rosť wine.

German wine saw the biggest drop of all the top ten players, with sales down 7 per cent on the previous year, while New Zealand enjoyed the largest rise, with sales up 44 per cent to £102 million.

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