The French wine group Castel is close to buying the UK wine retailer Unwins for around £50m, according to a report in the Times over the weekend.

Castel already owns the UK rival retailer Oddbins, as well as the Nicolas chains.

It is thought a deal will be sealed by Christmas. Castel is believed to have beaten off competition from rivals such as Maryland Securities, the owner of Wine Cellar, and Thresher, the off-licence group.

The report said that Castel is expected to keep two thirds of Unwins' 387 outlets and rebrand them as Oddbins, which has 226 stores. Castel will aim to sell the remaining Unwins outlets, which overlap with its existing chain or are in unsuitable locations.