Customers look to Australia and South America for quality wine

Customers of independent wine merchants are increasingly looking to buy premium wines from outside France.

According to merchants surveyed by OLN, customers are buying more top-end Australian wine and are also looking at spending more money on quality wines from Chile, Argentina and South Africa

than those from top French regions such as Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Ian Gribbin, of Abbey Wines in Melrose, Roxburghshire, said: "People are trading up on quality Australian wines. Our top-price bottle for Australia is £50-£60, which is not an average spend, but people are certainly paying more for Australian wine."

Tony McGurran, of The Vineyard in Belfast, said although the greatest volume of premium wine he sells at his shop is French, quality Australian wine was becoming a strong contender for the top spot.

He said: "We have always sold a bit of Penfolds Grange and now we are seeing more and more people ask for high-quality Australian wine. It can range anywhere in price from £30-£100 a bottle."

Australian wine is also a top seller at Stanpit Wine Merchants in Christchurch, Dorset. "Although Chilean is certainly catching it up," said manager Sam Atkins.

At Portal, Dingwall & Norris, in Emsworth, Hampshire, customers are increasingly spending more than £8 on wine from Argentina.

Owner Philip Portal said he thinks premium Argentinian wine is exceptional and has convinced his customers to try more of it. "They seem to be listening to me," he said.

Quality Australian wine is also becoming more popular with judges of wine competitions.

At this year's International Wine Challenge, judges gave 20 trophies to wines from Australia, compared with 18 for those from France,

knocking France from its previous top spot.

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