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France is set to regain top status: Harpers' Podcast

Published:  23 July, 2008

France has the potential to overtake Australia as the top-selling wine producer in the UK after a "tragic" fall, according to leading members of the UK wine industry.

At a seminar at the annual France Under One Roof tasting, Matthew Dickinson, commercial director at agent and importer Thierry's, said: "Over the next five-to-ten years, France will become the number-one supplier to the UK market. French wines are the best in the world."

Observer columnist Tim Atkin MW admitted at times he felt "baffled and ashamed" by the country, but there were signs the French wine industry was getting its act together.

"If I want quality wine, I go French. I think that France is going to increase its market share, especially above 5. I'm more optimistic about France now than I've ever been," he said.

Wine Intelligence research has shown that UK wine consumers believe that French wine is "the epitome of classic wine when it comes to special occasions," according to Emma Davies, senior project manager at Wine Intelligence.

While Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, manager of wine buying at Waitrose, was "upbeat" about French wine's prospects he believed it was "tragic" its UK market share had slipped to 16%.

According to Howard-Sneyd, the fall had been mainly due to consumers switching from own-label products from regions such as Muscadet and Corbires into New World brands.

Howard-Sneyd also pinpointed France's poor record on wine tourism, but claimed it was "set to explode" over the next decade.

Atkin added: "France is realising that the best way to compete is to blend across regions."

While the AOC system was "a fantastic thing" when it was created 75 years ago, according to Atkin, "too many awful wines have been given AOC status" and it had now become an "excuse for mediocrity".

Click here to listen to the podcast.