Sales of Fairtrade wine in the UK rose in double digits last year, according to preliminary figures, as the Fairtrade concept continues to gain awareness among wine drinkers.

Adedoyin Olusina, manager of the food and drink division of the UK Fairtrade Foundation, told just-drinks that initial estimates showed Fairtrade wine sales up by 27% in 2008.

The figure broadly tallies with that of the UK Co-operative Group, the country's biggest Fairtrade wine retailer, which told just-drinks that year-on-year sales at its stores were up 20.5%.

Fairtrade wine sales still only account for around 1% of the UK wine market, but Olusina said that current growth rates suggest that this could rise to 3% by 2012.

He said that the main reasons for growth were an increase in the quality of Fairtrade wines, which can come from certified producers in South Africa, Chile and Argentina, as well as a growing awareness of the Fairtrade concept among consumers.

A survey released by UK-based research group Wine Intelligence this week said that "awareness" of Fairtrade wines had risen from 65% of consumers questioned in April 2007 to 71% of those asked the same question this month.

Wine Intelligence interviewed around 1,000 consumers who drink wine at least once per month.

However, the survey highlighted concern about the effects of the economic downturn on ethical shopping choices.

Out of those aware of Fairtrade wines, Wine Intelligence said that 6% reported that they were buying less than they used to because of the economic downturn.