Wines of Portugal said it has increased exports to the UK by 23% in the past year after targeting independent wine merchants.

Having analysed HM Revenue & Customs figures it also revealed that volumes for still wine – excluding port – increased 10% in 2014 compared to the previous year.

The generic body’s new boss, Jorge Monteiro, told OLN: “Sales were in decline over here until 2010, but since then they have increased every year.

“The UK is a very important market to us. British consumers are important and the impact the UK has on other countries is huge.

“We are looking mostly to specialist retailers, independents and online. We are not looking to the big chains.

“We are working closely with retailers, where they can hold a tasting for their favourite customers and we will provide the wine. It helps retailers to sell wine and engage with customers better. Portugal is all about hand selling.”

Portugal lies just outside the top 10 countries of origin in the UK wine market, according to Nielsen, but Monteiro believes this highlights a flaw in Nielsen’s methods.

“We would probably be in the top 10 countries of origin overall in the off-trade, but not through Nielsen because it misses small independents,” he said.

A challenge for retailers is explaining the multitude of rare and difficult to pronounce grape varieties Portugal uses.

But Monteiro said: “Gewürztraminer is not easy to spell or pronounce but consumers can do that. We have dozens and dozens of grapes but we are just championing 10 to make it easier.

“Portugal cannot compete with Spain, France and Italy on some grapes, we can’t produce wine better or cheaper, so we take stock of local varieties.”

He added: “Vinho Verde, Dao and Douro are becoming quite well known. You can’t communicate them all at once, but one by one they are getting there.”

While there may be surging sales of non-fortified wines, Monteiro admits that port is struggling.

“All the fortified wines have problems, not just port,” he said. “Younger consumers prefer other drinks that are easier to understand. With port you need a good background on the origin and how it is made.

“Young consumers don’t want that. They want an easy-to-drink wine. There are other wines, easier to understand, with bigger marketing campaigns to back them, that people are drinking instead. Sherry has lost 25% of volume. Port we are now talking about 20% lost.

“The five big producers of port are losing sales. Port needs to find a new market. In the future the grapes that produce port must produce [non- fortified] still wine.”