The Wine & Spirit Association reported the preliminary findings of its joint investigation into the level of mustiness in wines on sale in the UK today, saying that only 0.6% of wines sampled showed musty defects.

Presenting the report, Martin Hall of Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association said that of 5735 samples tested 55 (1%) showed signs of being oxidised, 32 showed signs of mustiness (0.6%) and six were volatile.

But despite assurances to a packed conference that these were only preliminary results, the findings met with disbelief and indeed open hostility by some members of the industry.

The results fly in the face of current beliefs that taint in wine could be as high as 10% of all bottles on sale in the UK. Industry leaders, such as Mike Paul, formerly of Southcorp said they couldn't believe the figures.

Paul said: "We were saying it was nearer 4% and that anything under 1% wasn't a big issue, so where do we go from here. I have to say I find these figures hard to believe."

Another attendee from a large Australian wine firm said he found the findings "absurd".

The main worries seemed to stem from the way the research had been carried out. Delegates were particularly concerned by the large number of wines sent in from participating companies, such as off-licence chain Oddbins, that were suspected of taint but which were subsequently rejected as having no detectable mustiness.

Of the 5735 tested 102 were sent for verification with suspected mustiness but only 32 were verified as musty.

However Chairman of the discussion Dr Barry Sutton said: "These figures are still preliminary. It looks like we are talking about a 0.6% problem, but it may not be 0.6% by the end, we need to go deeper into certain issues."

The panel also contested the feeling that 0.6% amounted to no problem for the trade. Richard Gibson, part of the investigation and technical director of Southcorp said that even at 0.6% someone somewhere in the world was opening a faulty bottle of Southcorp wine every 25 seconds.