The UK wine market continued the steady growth of recent years with sales increasing by 5% in 2002. The growth was driven by New World wines in the UK light wine market, with imports from Australia, the USA and South Africa all having flourished at the expense of the long-term market leader, France, according to a report out today.

Statistics from the industry analyst Canadean show that light wine increased by a little under 5%, a trend that looks like being repeated in the immediate future. This success has been fuelled by the continuous promotional activity employed by major retailers, resulting in the average bottle price changing little over the last five years. "New World" wines are gaining a stranglehold on the light wine market and now boast 38 of the best selling 50 brands.

Strong Australian tipped to become the No.1 Australian light wine has benefited most, growing by a superb 134% since 1998. Sales of Australian light wine were only 3% behind their French competitors in 2002 and Australia now looks set to assume the mantle of market leader in 2003. Although some French brands have performed well, this has not been enough to arrest the slide in total sales. Despite having only two brands in the top 50, Italy has retained third place and is still comfortably ahead of the US in fourth position.

Light wine from the US grew by a solid 6% but the effect of the grapes surplus on short to medium term pricing and profitability is a possible cause for concern. Helped by affordable prices, the popularity of South African Wine rose sharply, with sales increasing by no less than 30% in the last year. Germany, once the second biggest exporter to the UK, stood still in fifth place but the revival in Reisling could provide the country with some encouragement in its battle to recapture former glories.

Sparkling Wine celebrates after knock-out year Sparkling wine expanded by 13%. This was driven mainly by Champagne, imports of which rose by a stunning 26% on the back of strong discounting by the major brands and the greater availability of their less expensive counterparts. Cava dominated non-Champagne sparkling wine, growing sales and its share of the sub category.

Fortified wine rose more modestly. This was helped by Sherry, which has struggled for a number of years but posted a 4% increase in 2002. Canadean believes that imports of inexpensive wine will continue to grow in the short to medium term and predict that the total UK market will advance by around 5% per year for the foreseeable future.