Experts predict top UK slot for France

04 April, 2008

France has the potential to overtake Australia as the top-selling wine producer in the UK, according to leading industry figures.

Speakers at the France Under One Roof Thierry's breakfast debate pointed to the country's 17% market share as evidence of France's fight back for the top spot.

Consumers' desire to trade up, an "encouraging" number of brands and healthy competition with New World wines were said to be behind the improving position.

Matthew Dickinson, commercial director at Thierry's, said: "Over the next five to 10 years, France will become the number one supplier to the UK market."

Mont Tauch sales & marketing director Katie Jones said the success of countries such as Australia had forced France to combine its expertise in the vineyard and cellar with a more modern approach to labelling, marketing and selling its wines.

"As a producer Australia has made us look at the quality of what we are producing - to cut out the bottom segment and to concentrate on structuring the range and the offering," she said.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, manager of wine buying at Waitrose, warned France not to become obsessive about the number one supplier spot. "I don't know if France will regain the number one position, but I also don't think it needs to do so." He added that "healthy growth at healthy price levels" was more important.

To boost consumer loyalty for French wines, producers must follow the lead of New World countries by attracting tourists to their wineries, according to Howard-Sneyd, who believes that France has "scandalously failed" in the past to capitalise on the heritage of its wine-producing regions.

He said: "If you go to South Africa, Australia, or California you have this wonderful arrangement of wine routes and the cellar door experience. When people visit wineries they become loyal advocates. To my mind France is only beginning to show signs of getting to grips with this."

Staff and students at Plumpton College

welcomed the Princess Royal as their special guest last month.

The Princess visited the college

winery,

equine unit and

riding for the disabled centre before

opening the new children's rural education centre.

The college, in East Sussex, offers a range of wine-related courses, including degree courses in viticulture and oenology and wine business.

An open day will be held on May 10 giving visitors the chance to find out more about courses. For more information visit plumpton.ac.uk.

News in brief

Pol Roger has added a sans dosage Champagne to its range. Pol Roger Pure Brut will be sold exclusively in Harvey Nichols for £32.99 until the end of May and will then be made available in limited quantities to specialist wine merchants.

Laithwaites will be showing off 200 wines from 90 producers at the the Sunday Times wine club Vintage Festival on April 18 and 19. This year's festival, at the Lawrence Hall, Greycoat Street in London, will feature a Portuguese area sponsored by Vini Portugal and a fine wine room.

Jacob's Creek has been awarded Most Successful Winery at the 2008 Sydney International Wine show. A judging panel comprising Masters of Wine, wine writers and sommeliers tasted

2,000 entries from 457

wineries before choosing Jacob's Creek as the winner.

United Wine Merchants has been appointed distributor of all Australian Vintage brands in Northern Ireland. The agreement makes UWM sole distributor of the McGuigan, Nepenthe and Tempus Two brands.

Stellenbosch-based wine producer Spier has passed quality tests set by the South African Bureau of Standards. The audit was conducted against standards set by the International Organisation for Standardisation and the British Retail Consortium and is used to certify high standards of production.

More than 35 organic and biodynamic growers from Italy, France and the New World will be presenting their wines and discussing their winemaking philosophies at Les Caves de Pyrène's Real Wine Tasting on April 14 and 15. The tasting will take place at Il Bottaccio, Grosvenor Place, London, from 10.30am to 6pm. To attend email Amy Morgan at pr.events@lescaves.co.uk.

Wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd has officially launched a new version of its website, bbr.com. The updated site features an advanced search facility for the retailer's 3,000 wines and an improved vintage chart, as well as giving visitors the chance to create wish lists and match wine to food. There are also plans to add extra content in the future, including interactive maps of wine regions.




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