Barton, who was third in OLN’s Most Influential Wine Suppliers 2013, will try to crack the lucrative US market but decided he had to be out there permanently to do so.
Greg Wilkins, recently made managing director at Brand Phoenix, will oversee UK operations, assisted by co-founder Steve Rosser.
Wilkins said: “The US does look to present the best opportunity for a stable export market. Consumption is going up nice and steadily and the economy is coming back. But you need to be out there on the ground.
“But we are as committed as ever to this market. Brand Phoenix has always been a UK-centric business and always will be.
“Three of us started the company and two of us are staying. If it was the other way round and two were going you could question us.”
Demand is increasing in emerging markets for a global pool of wine that is not growing at the same rate, leading some suppliers to move away from the tight margins on offer in the UK in search of more profitable markets.
But Wilkins said: “There is a risk in future that rising duty and slim margins will make other markets look more attractive and some suppliers may look elsewhere.
“But our company was set up to serve the UK market and everything we do is focused on the UK. It’s about adapting and working with those slim margins. “The UK market has gone through cycles since we started Brand Phoenix in 2001, with good times and tough times, but what doesn’t change is that brands remain strong for the UK consumer. “What has changed is that you have to give UK retailers more and more of what they want as they trade with fewer suppliers.
“Retailers are looking for more one-stop-shop opportunities. Buyers have less time now and they are looking for suppliers who have a clear idea of who their consumers are.”
Wilkins believes the best thing for the future health of the UK market would be the introduction of longer trading agreements.
He said: “I think five-year trading agreements and three-year trading agreements benefit both sides.
“Wine is an agricultural product affected by weather, harvest and foreign exchange, so annual agreements are effectively hard to implement for both sides. If the agreements are longer you have surety on both sides, making trading easier.”