McGuigan Simeon Wines is close to securing fresh UK distribution after the end of the Australian wine group's 14-year relationship with Vinoceros.

Paul Schaafsma, McGuigan's UK and European director, told just-drinks today (19 December) that a deal would be finalised "within the next few days".

Schaafsma was quick to praise the contribution Vinoceros had made in building the McGuigan Black Label brand to over 300,000 nine-litre cases in the UK. However, he said McGuigan wanted to build a more national presence in the UK. The company has enjoyed a rise in exports to the UK, which is helping to ease domestic problems brought on by Australia's wine glut.

Last month, McGuigan warned that first-half profits will be less than half of its earnings in the corresponding period last year. The company said that its figures would be hammered by the glut.

"We needed a partner in Great Britain that had the clout, the distribution and the people to take our brands to the next level," Schaafsma said. "In the on-trade and independent off-trade, our sales had stagnated at around 300,000 cases. We weren't available everywhere."

He said a deal was imminent and declined to name McGuigan's prospective partner, although he added that they are "one of the strongest players in the GB market".

Schaafsma said: "We needed someone to cover all aspects of the business, national pub and national restaurant groups. We want to take our business to the next level. We're Australia's second-largest vineyard owner and Black Label is the number three brand in Australia, so we know we can do it with the right distribution mechanism."

Vinoceros managing director Nick Richards said the decision to end the relationship with McGuigan was "mutual and amicable".

Richards said Vinoceros wanted to develop the presence of its own brands in the UK. He said the company also planned to boost awareness of Australian wines owned by GRN Corporation, which bought a 39% stake in Vinoceros in March.

"GRN owns two wineries in Australia - Arrowfield Estate and Redhill Estate - so we'll be distributing those brands," Richards said.