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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

Matthew Clark has secured exclusive distribution of all Southcorp wines into the UK on-trade. With Australia likely to overtake France as the UK's most popular wine-producing country in the off-trade, the strategic alliance signals the beginning of a major Antipodean assault through brands such as Lindemans, Rosemount, Penfolds, Wynns, Seaview, Seppelt and James Herrick. The casualties in the deal are the existing Australian wines in Matthew Clark and Grants of St James's Wines' (GSJW) portfolio: Oxford Landing; Parsons Brook and Essington Estate; and Greg Norman Estates . Australia is currently the third most popular country in the on-trade, with 12.6% by value, behind Italy (13.8%) and France (41.5%), according to AC Nielsen. Australia is showing 20.3% volume growth year-on-year, while France has 6.9% growth. Approximately 95% of Australian wines are sold through the off-trade, but the on-trade rate of sale is poor, according to a recent Wine Market Report. Mario Micheli, president of Southcorp Wines Europe, told Harpers: "The UK on-premise sector has been a mass market Australia has not been able to exploit, and the on-trade is a shop window' for our consumers. Consumers want more and more brands." Of Southcorp's annual 4.8 million cases sold in the UK, a paltry 180,000 go through the on-trade. For Micheli, the deal means working with one customer rather than approximately 360 on-trade wholesalers and distributors. And instead of two people working on the sector, Southcorp will have the whole of Matthew Clark Wholesale's sales force on the job, selling to 17,000 customers a week. Richard Peters, md of Matthew Clark Wholesale, claims that it has 20% of the UK on-trade business. He said: "It is a logical step and we have the scale to cope with what is a world-beating range of wines." Matthew Clark, the UK's number one wine importer, is part of Constellation Brands, the second largest wine producer in the world and tenth largest drinks company. GSJW has the UK's number one on-trade brand, Stowells of Chelsea, which, according to John Mills, GSJW's md, out-performs the number two on-trade brand, Blossom Hill, seven times over.