New Zealand has claimed wine exports remain on course to hit NZD1bn by 2010, after reporting record sales for the last year.

Australia edged past the UK to become New Zealand's largest wine export market, as global export sales rose 14% to almost NZD800m (US$568m) for the 12 months to the end of June.

New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW), which announced the figures today (20 August), said the increase kept the country on-track to meet its 2010 export target of NZD1bn.

Higher price points boosted New Zealand in the UK, where export sales rose by 8% year-on-year to NZD240.7m. "The focus on premium quality is clear, with the average bottle of New Zealand wine sold in the UK now GBP6.47," said NZW chair Stuart Smith.

Neighbouring Australia provided the bulk of the growth, however, as sales jumped by 37% to NZD247m during the year.

A tough economic climate and a bumper 2008 vintage were now the major challenges for the industry, according to Smith. Growth on the domestic market has also proved tougher to achieve. Combined domestic and export sales saw total wine sales reach NZD1.25bn in the last year.