Other European newcomers are advancing on the UK

Central and eastern European countries are targeting UK wine drinkers - and with their diverse range of climates, terroirs and indigenous and international grapes they could see a sales boost as the pound weakens against the euro, making traditional European wines more expensive.

Georgia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Moldova are just some of the countries hoping to gain a foothold here, while Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece have already made their marks as the 12th to 15th biggest wine-producing countries in the UK off-trade, according to Nielsen.

Sainsbury's buyer Daniel Bracegirdle has this month added a Hungarian Pinot Grigio under the supermarket's own-label range and a Bulgarian Merlot, and says the region is in a great position because it is able to keep prices low as consumers feel the effects of the credit crunch.

"Our real success has been in Pinot Grigio. We sell quite a lot of Hungarian Pinot Grigio and it is fantastic quality - for the price it is actually better quality than Italian. It is an exciting time and we are seeing some great wine coming out of eastern Europe, and the price to us in sterling helps with the strengthening of the euro. The wines have stayed sub-£3 which has become increasingly rare on the wine shelves," he says.

Waitrose buyer Ken Mackay MW says: "Given the current euro exchange rate

and the squeeze on household budgets, the relatively low production costs of many producers in eastern Europe could well open the door wider for their wines."