Wine has winning ways

Wine sales in supermarkets and off-licences are up a healthy 5%, according to the latest data, with sparkling wine growth leading the way.

Although the figure is not quite as impressive as the 6% recorded by Nielsen in the 2007 calendar year, it compares very favourably with the modest 1% sales increase achieved by wine in the on-trade.

The news offers hope to the industry amid fears of falling consumer confidence, brought on by the UK's economic slowdown.

The latest data, for the 12 months to April 19, shows sparkling wine - excluding Champagne - up by 10%. Champagne itself was up 5% in the off-trade, in line with the overall wine market.

According to Waitrose, many cash-strapped consumers are switching to less expensive fizz such as Prosecco,

sales of which are up 56% in the supermarket.

Wine buyer Dee Blackstock MW said: "Despite the credit crunch, British consumers still want to retain some sparkle in their lives and they are clearly entertaining at home or picnicking with friends and family."

Overall, it has been a tough 12 months for drinks sales, with the market down 1%, but the on-trade has seen the worst of it. It witnesses a 4% fall in beer

and a 1% decline in spirits, while the off-trade saw beer sales fall by 2% and spirits rise by 5%.