New Zealand saw the fastest growth in UK off-trade wine sales last year, according to figures from ACNielsen.

Figures for 2005 showed that the value of New Zealand wine sales leapt 44% last year to GBP102.2m (US$178m). The increase outstripped the growth of UK sales of Australian wine, which were up 9%.

The US was the second-fastest growing category in the UK off-trade, with sales up 15%.

The New Zealand category also maintained the highest average price point at GBP5.97 a bottle, compared with the average retail price of GBP3.79.

Officials at New Zealand Winegrowers declined to comment on the figures when contacted by just-drinks today (20 February).

In December, Warren Adamson, director for the UK and Europe at New Zealand Winegrowers told just-drinks that the country's performance in all four of its key export markets - the UK, the US, Australia and Canada - was ahead of sales forecasts.

"There are lot of fantastic products from New Zealand and we're buying into a kind of lifestyle; we are the premium New World category," he said. "Need has always outstripped supply and that still remains the case."

Adamson said that New Zealand wines have managed to maintain their relative price premiums despite recent big vintages in 2002 and 2004.

"We have been able to sustain our sales growth. There were big increases in supply in 2002 and 2004 but each time we took it and absorbed it like a wonderful sponge. There was a little bit of softening on price in line with everyone else once the 2004 vintage came on stream (but) we've never seen the kind of elasticity in demand that can happen in the UK market."