Wine merchants and retailers in the UK have been boosted by new research predicting that the country is set to be the world's biggest wine importer by 2012.

Wine imports to the UK are set grow by 6% between 2008 and 2012, enough to see the country overtake Germany to claim number one spot in the world wine import league, according to figures released by Vinexpo today (14 January).

The world wine study, compiled using IWSR statistics, offers a ray of optimism to UK wine merchants and retailers currently struggling to absorb last year's duty tax rises and steer through a deepening recession.

Vinexpo chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre told just-drinks today: "The UK will continue to be the target export market of the wine world. I don't know any single producer who is not looking at the UK."

Despite this, consumption growth in the country is set to slow considerably over the next four years. Wine consumption rose by more than 10% between 2003 and 2007, but will only increase by around 4% up to 2012, according to the Vinexpo report.

There will be higher growth for certain categories, however, such as rose wine and also more expensive wines.

De Eizaguirre said that it was too early to predict the effects that recession might have on the market, but said there would "certainly be an impact" in 2009.