The French wines that once ruled the world have been conquered by the New World. A league table of the top 10 most popular wines in the UK no longer includes a single French or European label.
The list, compiled by Marketing magazine, is dominated by wines from Australia, South Africa and California, with brands such as Blossom Hill and Jacob's Creek replacing the old favourites Piat d'Or and Germany's Blue Nun.
But this latest table reflects a deeper malaise in the French wine industry. Red tape, unhelpful labelling and historically high prices have all conspired against French wine producers and helped to open the market to the opposition.
Bordeaux has been one of the worst hit, with exports for all but its prestige wines dropping nearly 12 per cent so far. Champagne apart, the region's wine exports are down 9 per cent this year.
Quentin Rappoport, director of the Wine and Spirit Association, suggests that "consistent reliability and modest prices" of wines from Australia, America and South Africa is one reason for their inexorable rise. "These New World wines are reliable year after year," he said. "You get some wonderful French wines but the consumer has to know a lot about them. For example, within the Bordeaux classification the wines are very different from each other."
Ten years ago, the wine world began to change when the Australians used strong marketing, based on grape varieties, such as chardonnay or merlot, not confusing geographical regions, Mr Rappoport said.
The New World producers also targeted the younger drinker with strong campaigns that included sponsorship deals with popular shows, including Friends. Britain is doing well, too. Sales of domestic wine rose by 17 per cent last year.
Best-selling brands, 2004
- Blossom Hill California
- Jacob's Creek Australia
- Ernest & Julio Gallo California
- Stowells of Chelsea Various
- Hardy's Banrock Station Australia
- Lindemans Australia
- Kumala South Africa
- Hardy's Stamp Australia
- Namaqua South Africa
- Hardy's Varietal Australia
- Le Piat d'Or France
- Lutomer Laski Riesling Yugoslavia
- Stowells wine box Various
- Blue Nun Germany
- Don Cortez Spain
- Piemontello Italy
- Colmans range Various, mainly Europe
- Matheus Rosé Portugal
- Corrida Spain
- San Savino Italy