Constellation Europe has lost out on its bid to win a lucrative contract at UK pub group JD Wetherspoon.

The contract to become the exclusive supplier of house wine to the pub chain was awarded to Fetzer Vineyards, owned by US wine and spirits group Brown-Forman.

The decision is a blow to Constellation, which in July was forced to deny that senior management at its UK distribution arm Matthew Clark had tried to artificially boost pub sales in Wetherspoon pubs to win the contract.

Reports then claimed that Steve Thompson, the managing director at Matthew Clark, had e-mailed staff asking them to buy eight bottles each of Constellation-owned wine during a trial in Wetherspoon pubs to boost sales.

Constellation maintained the e-mail was part of "mystery shopper type exercise" designed to help it "gain greater insight into the on-trade wine category".

A spokesman for JD Wetherspoon, which owns 650 pubs around the UK, said the decision to award the contract to Fetzer was not related to Constellation's alleged attempt to artificially boost sales.

"The final decision was purely about the quality of wine and came after feedback from customers," he told just-drinks today (23 October).

While the spokesman refused to be drawn on whether the furore surrounding the leaked e-mail from Matthew Clark had affected Wetherspoon's decision, it is understood that the publicity did little to help Constellation's bid to secure the contract.

The spokesman also declined to put a value on the contract but said wine was becoming "increasingly popular" at Wetherspoon pubs throughout the country.

Officials at Constellation could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.